In Summary
  • For black people, the legacy of all these has been debilitating. For example, women across all races, for sure, wear extensions, but a Caucasian woman will wear wavy extensions that make her already longish wavy hair look longer, not different.
  • To many “black and proud” activists, it is self-loathing that forces black women to seek these alterations. I understand braids, and have seen many that are beautiful and tasteful. Beyond that, I am hopelessly lost.
  • Someone like Lupita, or South Sudan born supermodel Alek Wek, who strut their black without coating, however, don’t compromise. They force the world to come to them on their terms — especially if they are also thin. It would not have worked if they were typically big-hipped East African women.

Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o has been collecting many gongs for her role in the Hollywood film, 12 Years A Slave.

Last Sunday, she created a big buzz at the Golden Globes Awards ceremony.

The Golden Globes are bestowed by members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for excellence in film and television.

Though 12 Years A Slave won the Best Drama Film award, Lupita didn’t win a personal prize for her part. What she did win, no matter which website, newspaper, or TV channel you turned to, was the best-dressed actress of the night.

A tweep, Lola Ogunnaike, gushed about how “Lupita shut it down in red Ralph Lauren. She looks like a sartorial superhero in that exquisite red cape!”

But it was Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina who took to Twitter and really had a good ball with the impression Lupita made, not with her dress, but her natural hair.

“Dear African women and your daughters, LOOK! No weave on Lupita’s head”, Binyavanga wrote. A few minutes later, he was back: “African women in spotlight today forgot chemical burns, fake hair”.

As the discussion got lively, he sent off another volley: “Millions of African women today pulled weaves out with bare hands.”

Then he stuck the knife to Africa women who do false hair, writing that Lupita’s look said: “Look! No dead camels, and poor women from India on my head!”

But Binyavanga is not one to just wax about Lupita and her hair. So what else might he have been saying? Hardly anyone had the courage to say that Lupita also flaunted her dark skin unapologetically.

So both Lupita’s hair and skin inevitably threw up the question of what “blackness” means in this digital and globalised age.

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