Black women, shaved heads and the beauty standard

The Elegance Standard has arrive a very long way for Black women of all ages in my life time. When I was a lady, the epitome of Attractiveness was Princess Diana: blonde and blue-eyed. I experienced an Afro, so I believed I would never ever snatch the Crown, bag the prince and live the fortunately-at any time-following everyday living we all assumed she was obtaining.

Nobody in New Zealand had noticed a authentic-lifetime afro in 3D. In simple fact, we were the only Black people today most persons experienced witnessed. It was so scarce to see somebody that looked like you, that whenever we noticed a Black man or woman we would operate at them, pretty much bowling them around, like an All Black Scrum. Mum would then address them as “Brother” or “Sister”. To this working day I declare all Black people today as mine. My white friends discover it odd how we all say good day to every other on the avenue. It is solidarity, it is “I see you,” due to the fact typically we don’t see individuals like us, we feel invisible.

But I was fortunate in many techniques, staying invisible and remaining so much absent from The united states. I was not a target, but on the flipside I felt so isolated and by yourself. All I dreamed of was operating absent to Harlem, New York the place lovely Black persons have been in Abundance. Most of all, to go to the Apollo Theatre Novice Night time and see my Brothers and Sisters sing on phase. The same phase where by all the greats were learned: Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill.

There ended up a lot of privileges I experienced staying just one of the only Black folks – it was uncomplicated to get on Television shows and in movies, even to do some modelling. On the other hand, my agent who “discovered” me advised me I would have to drop bodyweight to do runway as I was a measurement 8 at 15. I explained to her in no unsure phrases: Bye Felicia.

I was forged as Melina, the warring Amazon, taking pictures bows and arrows and pushing the Amazon Queen to go to war towards adult males in Young Hercules starring Ryan Gosling. No person in New Zealand realized who he was again then, for the reason that there was no Google.

When I was at college, I shaved it all off. I was exhausted of my Afro. It wasn’t the truth that persons as opposed it to Sheeps Wool, or repulsed when I had Locs, it was the simple fact that it took so considerably time every day. Ain’t nobody received time for that. Existence is large servicing sufficient.

The day I shaved it, I felt so absolutely free – and is not Flexibility what we all want in the end? It was my supreme. I have stored it short at any time considering that, and men and women nevertheless ask me why. When the attractiveness suitable is to have very long flowing hair, Black girls in mainstream media generally never show their All-natural Hair. It is a wig, a weave or extensions. If it is their actual hair it has been chemically straightened, or fried with a scorching comb. Gurl, no, I shave it. But I never decide them for their possibilities. How would it have been if Michelle Obama experienced rocked her pure hair at the White Residence? Or Oprah? Or Beyonce? The reality is their existence would have been made more challenging a single way or another. It is about their freedom to pick.

Just one of the best positive aspects of my shaved head, has been safety. It has saved so many gentlemen away. Not all guys, but most uncovered it unattractive, and that suited me fine. I did not match the fantasy profile. I was GI two. No person needed to mess with the shaved head Black woman.

Of program, Grace Jones shaved her head extended right before I did, and I thank her for that. I caught glimpses of her rising up, and I saw what my mom experienced told me all alongside: Black is lovely. But it made her transcend her Blackness and just develop into timeless, ageless, futuristic. It also generates androgyny, which is as tough as it is iconic. When I achieved her, I observed an individual so comfortable in her skin, it designed every person else glance uncomfortable.

When I worked in Shanghai as a singer, I would overhear persons say: “她是男人还是女人?” to which I would react with “Wo Shi naren” (I am female.) They ended up totally baffled as to why a female would opt for to cut her hair off. They would say things like “Your eyes so wonderful, but your hair – so unpleasant!” At the very least they had been straight up about it.
When I eventually visited New York for my 25th Birthday, I was satisfied with a equivalent bewilderment when I went to the barbershop and asked for a Fade. This was a male area.

But matters are bit by bit modifying, Alek Wek, Lupita Nyong’o, and of training course Wakanda For good, had been all moments that I ultimately felt witnessed. Now it is mainstream to a position. Even prior to BLM, the pure Hair motion which was birthed in the 60’s was getting traction globally. In early 2019, the CROWN Act was handed in the States. It stands for Making a Respectful and Open Entire world for Organic Hair Act. Indeed Queen. Since Black hair is even now greatly misunderstood and discriminated versus in its normal point out.

The magnificence suitable is shifting, making a full new established of unobtainable ideals for one more demographic. Now my hair is trendy, as are Black individuals. We are in every Higher Fashion marketing campaign, each advertisement. My new agent is frequently getting castings for me. We are warm property write-up-BLM as the corporate device strives for wokity-woke optics to improve their brand. Just like Mardi Gras. But shell out me your variety pounds, if it can make you feel far better. No really, I want to help, it’s fantastic. Due to the fact who is aware of if the pendulum will swing the other way, and the operate dries up, and we are sitting down on the sidelines yet again.

For a large amount of my shows I rock Wigs, like most feminine entertainers do: like fellow Caribbean queen Rihanna does, Cardi B or even the goddess Dolly P. When somebody questioned Dolly Parton how long it will take to do her hair she answered: “I really do not know, it’s not mine.” Wigs are great, I implore you – form reader who has someway made it to the finish of my consider piece – to include some to your autumn wardrobe. Swap it up. Be playful. Get out of your comfort and ease zone. I dare you, Sis.

I have even produced a overall performance art piece about my hair. The very first time I performed it at the Imperial Erskineville was during the hole in Covid lockdown when AussieWood was blowing up. I sing Liza Minelli’s song Mein Herr from Cabaret (Moira from Schitts Creek sung it as an ingenue) and at the same time, I shave an individual from the audience’s hair. I was halfway through when I looked up and saw Tessa Thompson and Rita Ora’s faces. They appeared horrified. Taika understands me from Wellington times, so he obtained it and was acquiring a laugh. By the close of the act, I normally toss off the wig I am carrying as a finale, and I constantly come to feel a perception of freedom as the great air hits by head.

But what really is freedom? Flexibility, in the terms of Nina Simone, is no anxiety. And I have constantly experienced that privilege of living with no fear, as a Black Woman in the Antipodes. I am not a BlaK woman, AKA Indigenous to this land, and for that reason I really do not have the relentless prejudice those people Sisters have on their backs. And I didn’t develop up in the States with guns or police brutality. I did not even have to be concerned about snakes and Australia’s frightening wildlife, or the panic that my young children experience of Local weather Change. I just felt free.


Sheba Williams is an Afro-Caribbean New Zealander dependent in Sydney. She is a singer, MC and the creator of Soul Activations and is the mother of twins. You can observe her on Instagram @shebaswho.

Imagery: Portraits shot by Amelia Handscomb in Wellington and performance illustrations or photos taken at the Oxford Lodge in Sydney.

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