The latest issue of Teen Vogue features an article online by Elaine Welteroth, the magazine’s beauty and health director, where she?talks about getting her hair done in Rwanda.
The response she received when she returned to New York was amazing to say the least. Her story described, almost play by play, the process of getting Senegalese twists done by the skilled female artisans at Salon De Tresse Chez Yvette. No biggie. Infact, viewing her experience made you want to hop on the next flight to Rwanda, bags of hair in tow, to get your hair braided.
And then the print version came out.
Model Philllipa Steele was featured rocking the semblance of the hair style that originated in West Africa, but has been popular in the black community around the world. A long standing cultural symbol of identity became a high fashion trend overnight,?but the reaction did not reach such heights. Twitter user Jojothajawn, was one of the first people to respond to the pictures that accompanied the article.
?Seriously not buying @TeenVogue again. I?m so insulted by this! You interview a White girl about African hairstyles!!? Jojothajawn wrote. ?It?s bad enough that your cheap ass mag barely has any BW but the ONE time you should, you don?t deliver. @TeenVogue?, she continued.
Jojothajawn?s tweets went viral and were joined by other twitter rants, criticizing the exclusion of any form of ?authenticity? by portraying lighter skinned or mixed race individuals rocking ethnic hairstyles.
But why does it matter so much?
The reaction to the Teen Vogue print feature is a reminder that there isn?t a palpable representation of people of color in the fashion industry, and because of this, it becomes disheartening to see elements of black culture, history and identity being portrayed by non-blacks. To add fuel to this fire, many even suggest that certain elements that are largely criticized by society are suddenly embraced by popular culture when they are portrayed by non-blacks.
But at the same time, should the focus have been on the hairstyle itself and not who was wearing it?
Welteroth, who it turns out, is half black, addressed the controversy ?It is told from my personal perspective as a mixed-race girl who travels to Rwanda to embrace an Afro-centric hairstyle. I describe feeling a sense of beauty, strength, and pride in connecting with my heritage in this way,? she wrote about the article.
She also defended the choice of model. “How do you define black? Just curious. Is it about skin colour? Eye colour? Hair texture? I ask because this mixed-race model is as black as I am. Also, how do you define cultural appropriation? I ask only because I want to better understand your point of view.”
Jojothajawn later took to Twitter and apologized to anyone she might have offended. But the issue of the overall exclusion of darker-skinned black women still remains. We wonder what the women at Salon De Tresse Chez Yvette would think of all this?
The Voix?is a creative platform that empowers the voices of global storytellers. For more information, visit: Thevoix.com.