Shea Failure

Unless you’ve been living cozily under a rock for the past 24 to 36 hours, you have probably heard about the recent backlash against the hair and beauty brand Shea Moisture. Shea Moisture, after years of being built up and propped up by the hard earned dollars of black women looking for products made to suit our specific hair care needs, decided it was time to start expanding it’s consumer base by reaching out to non-black women. Is there anything inherently wrong with that? Of course not. Shea Moisture, like any other company has every right to pursue a greater stacking of their paper. I, and so many other black women greeted their growth with open arms, and even after their product formulas changed, continued to shell out the coin (And I mean coin. These products don’t run cheap) to buy them.

But, it looks like they got too big for their britches, and with their latest advertising attempt lost their whole entire minds. These latest ad campaigns boasted a surprising dearth of the kinds of women who predominantly  buy Shea Moisture products. In their place, were several non-black women instead. One commercial even featured predominantly white women, to which I have to say a hearty “Are You Fucking Kidding Me?”  To top it all off they had the nerve to brand this as an attempt to be more inclusive and to push back against “hair hate”. Even typing that just now pissed me off.

You see, as a result of racism and the centuries long campaign of colonialism and white supremacy that took place across the globe, hair has been and remains a very sensitive subject for black people, black women in particular. The recent natural hair movement isn’t just a fad. It is an active pushback against the Eurocentric beauty standards most of us have been inundated with since birth. It is about our community finally coming to embrace one of the most easily identifiable physical features associated with blackness. There is real pain and psychological hurt many of us had to overcome to finally get to a place where we didn’t find what grows out of our skulls au naturale to be repulsive.

I am not even trying to brag when I say I have been rocking my natural hair all my life as a result of my mother’s refusal to chemically relax it. Being natural before it was considered cool was not easy. I have a very early memory of being in the first grade and becoming intrigued by the phrase “born again”. I remember telling my mother that if I could be born again I would come back with different hair. Sometimes I think about that and wonder how much it hurt her to see her baby express such open hatred towards the body she arrived here with. But that hatred didn’t come from nowhere. There were no images of black women with natural hair being broadcasted to me. Women with hair that looked like mine were never love interests, or the objects of anyone’s desire. They certainly never occupied any real positions of power. Even the few black Barbie’s I owned had back length silky tresses. There were certainly no commercials for beauty products that seemed to give a fuck about what I looked like.

This is why Shea Moisture’s recent gaffe was so hurtful. A little under a decade ago, more and more women started going for the big chop, and the natural hair industry suddenly became a very profitable corner of the market. With the entrance of YouTube came the onslaught of tutorials which you could follow along with in your kitchen, concocting personal potions of your own. On shelves across the country more and more brands were appearing that catered to our needs, and I for the first time in my life felt seen. Shea Moisture was one of those brands, and as I said earlier on, black women built that company with our money. Their success and current ability to push further into mainstream markets is due almost entirely to us. So you would think, if anyone in their boardrooms had a lick of sense, they would put some respect on our names and not phase us of out of their ads as if we are not their entire customer base. Black women’s hair struggle is a product of specifically anti-black racism and white supremacy, so I never want to hear from a white woman about how hard it was growing up with red hair in a conversation about embracing natural hair and banishing “hair hate”. How dare Shea Moisture try to make that equivalency?

This is not to say they can’t feature women of other races in their advertisements. If they want to become more inclusive, fine. But my question is why the inclusion of other races of women has to mean the almost total exclusion of black women, who I cannot state enough, are the reason they exist in the first place? So for those who are still confused about the forcefulness of the kickback, long story short, we are very tired of being ignored. And we certainly won’t stand for it in brands that are supposed to be for us, by us. Personally, I have a small fortunes worth of their products that I have to get through before I decide where next to put my dollars and cents. But what Shea Moisture should know, is that the beauty of 2017 is that I’ve got options. So, don’t fuck with me.

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