The 'Natural Hair' movement has been steadily gaining popularity amongst women of color determined to embrace their God-given hair texture, and reject the silky, straight hair ideal that has so-far dominated mainstream culture. The movement has its share of poster girls, most notably (against her will) Solange Knowles, who was recently attacked by other "naturals" for not wearing her hair according to their arbitrary guidelines for what makes a "good" natural 'do.
Now, the natural hair movement has another supporter in Oprah Winfrey. For the first time, the talk show host and media mogul appears on the September cover of O Magazine wearing her natural, curly hair instead of the coifed 'do she normally sports. We think she looks great, but (of course) the cover's already elicited mixed feelings from naturalistas, many of whom question the authenticity of her natural.
People Style Watch was the first to post the image today, and commenter nubienne expressed her suspicions over how natural Oprah's hair really is:
"Is one of Oprah’s parents in possession of non-kinky hair? because that is the only way that is a picture of Oprah’s natural hair… unless we class texturisers or relaxers with a twist out as “natural” now," she opined. "...This is NOT what most black women have on their heads unless they are mixed at some level...There is nothing wrong with mixed people...or with mixed hair, it is just that the glorification of mixed hair as being better than kinky hair gets on my last nerve..."
A commenter on The Fashion Bomb pointed out that Oprah has been known to slightly straighten her hair with a mild relaxer: "Oprah's hair looks great but she is not natural. The last season of the show they went behind the scene and you saw her getting a relaxer touch up."
Commenter Amani simply appreciates the gesture "Whether its her natural or someone elses, lol…This is a great statement. Now if only FLOTUS would follow suit."
We asked some of our natural hair blogger friends what they thought of the cover, and the overall reception was positive. Christina Brown of LoveBrownSugar weighed in: "I think Oprah looks absolutely gorgeous on the cover. As much of an icon as she is, it makes me feel good knowing that young women looking at this magazine cover will be that much more comfortable in their natural curls."
Danielle Gray of The Style and Beauty Doctor appreciated the shot, but wondered if Ms. Winfrey didn't have other motives in shooting this cover: "This cover kind of reads like 'When your network ratings are down, pull out the natural hair,'" she said. "'Those chicks on the internet will talk about you for free for DAYS.' And now I feel like I might get struck down by Oprah's aura for saying that..." We hope not, Danielle!
I'll admit, as a woman with relaxed hair, I, too wondered if Oprah wasn't just rocking a braid-out with her relaxed tresses. But everyone's hair texture is different! My mother has kinky, coily hair and she can straighten hers in a snap with a straightening iron. My naturally kinky hair has a looser s-shaped wave pattern, but I can only straighten my hair with a mild relaxer, or a blow-out by a very zealous Dominican hairdresser. Regardless of whether Oprah's natural curl pattern is as wavy as pictured, or if it's more tightly coiled, the fact remains that this is a great gesture for women of color everywhere when it comes to embracing the beauty of textured hair.
Anyway, what do you think? Do you think Oprah's really rocking a natural? Does it even matter if she is?