Posts Tagged ‘black hair’

Nomalanga: Gabby and Serena, You Are Not Your Hair

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

There has been so much talk about Gabby Douglas, the Olympics super star who has won Gold more than once at the tender age of 16. Unfortunately, while most of us celebrate and applaud her, there have inevitably been a few who have attempted to cast a dark cloud over Gabby’s bright shining star by talking negatively about her hair.

Serena Williams, who has had her share of criticism about her hair, spoke up for Gabby saying that talking about the teenage super star’s hair was “ridiculous”.

It seems obvious to most of us that the skills and talent that both Douglas and Williams bring to the bar and the court, respectively, have nothing to do with their hair, but yet we have seen more headlines, in the past week, about Douglas’ hair than we have seen about her skills and talent.

So, why the obsession with her hair? Well, I’ll be honest; when the Williams sisters first became tennis stars, I did notice that their hair was a little “unkempt”, if you will, but it was usually a passing thought. My primary focus, if I said anything about them, was usually an expression of extreme admiration for their superior tennis skills and the grace and dignity with which they carried themselves. The difference, I believe, between me and those that talk about Serena or Gabby’s hair is that I am able to shift my focus to what matters and dismiss what doesn’t and they apparently are not able to.

After years of watching them, I became vocal about how I loved that the Williams sisters were purposefully “different”. They would wear outfits and jewelery on the court that many uptight and narrow minded tennis enthusiast frowned upon and even ridiculed under their collective breath. No one can forget the tight, black Puma one-piece Serena wore years ago that stirred up the tennis world. I was one of the people who applauded Serena for daring to be bold and audacious and I still stand by her in her choice of outfits and even her sometimes bold jewelery choices.

Serena basically says, without saying it, “I’m ME-deal with it!” I love that about her.

Gabby on the other hand, is still young and may not have found her own unique voice but I hope that with time, she will learn to say “NO” when they ask her to try and style her hair in a hair style that was clearly agreed as the “official” hair style for gymnasts when there were few or no black women on the gymnastics team or in gymnastics overall.

As black women, we are only “our hair” to the extent that we agree we are. I’m not saying that we should all be walking around with various degrees of curly hair Afros, in an effort to show the world that we love ourselves. We don’t have anything to prove with our hair. Personally, as a Black woman, I love rocking all kinds of styles from the more natural ones to the super straight wigs and weaves; like I said, we have nothing to prove with our hair.

I wish people would not focus on our hair, but they do and that may never change. Our success as individuals comes from not letting that misdirected focus take over our emotions and actions. To Gabby and Serena, I say: YOU ARE NOT YOUR HAIR. None of us are.

Nomalanga helps Black Women thrive in their lives and careers. She is a Social Commentator, an Editor at Your Black World , Assistant Professor of Professional Studies and the reigning Mrs Botswana. Visit Nomalanga’s blog at

Originally posted at Your Black World.