I know I’m gonna catch shade for this…BUT, Hushpuppy disappointed me.

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a hot minute, but after the whole Gabby Douglas fall out, I’ve been nervous.

However, I’ve decided to say f%^& it and hit publish. This still makes me upset.

The issue at hand here is the delightfully adorable young actress name Quvenzhané Wallis, best known for her role as Hushpuppy in ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’.

Now although I thought the film was just AIGHT (a whole other story), personally I was in love with the fact that she was rocking her natural hair throughout the film. It always makes me smile to see a little one with her natural curls. And on the big screen? Even better.

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So, people loved the film. So much so that the Academy even loved the film and now Beasts is getting a whole lot of critical acclaim for its amateur actors and first-time directing. Awesome.

NOW HERE IS WHERE MY PROBLEM BEGINS.

Once all of the premiers and accolades and debuts started, Lil Miss Quvenzhané started showing up on the red carpet with the straightest of straight hair. Yes, she is the youngest person to ever be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. Yes this is a massive deal, just like Gabby Douglas winning Gold. BUT I honestly take great issue with the mentality that in order for a girl to look “presentable”, “formal”, and “award-winning” she has to straighten her hair.

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It’s the same thing that happens with girls who have dance recitals, walk as flower girls in weddings, go to Easter service: the common tendency is to straighten their hair.

The message this sends is “for something special, your natural hair is not good enough. Straight hair is better.” It’s a lifelong lesson that sticks.

I know because I’ve been there.

For so many of my formal events, I wanted—expected—to have long, flowing hair because that’s what I learned and thought was glamourous and beautiful. The one time I went with curls, my junior year prom, I cried because I felt so un-glamourous.

I simply wish that Miss Wallis and her family/agents had thought about the message that her hair straightening may have sent to the young black girls of the world who are watching history happen.

Was it to separate her from the image of a “Beast of the Southern Wild” or to create an image of a polished young actress on the cusp? Either way, it doesn’t put natural hair in a positive and affirmative light. It would have been great to have her strut the red carpet with a bounce in her step and curl in her hair. Or with a flat-twist updo. Or a braid out. Or to choose some sort of natural style to send a message to our YOUNG girls, just like Viola Davis did last year, that natural hair is beautiful, glam, and Oscar-worthy.

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For the record, I did think her acting was phenomenal considering it was her first time on screen and her nomination is very much deserved. It’s truly an impressive accomplishment and to that I say congratulations.

The point is: moms, grandmother’s, aunties, cousins, please think about this and resist the temptation to straighten a young girl’s hair for a special occasion. There are so many beautiful natural styles that are formal and beyond!

What do you think about Quvenzhané’s transformation from the big screen to the red carpet?

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30 Comments

  1. I was very very disappointed! I thought to myself why??? We have a long way to go on this whole hair thing I guess. Baby steps……

    • I was looking for a job in 2000 when my Godmother came by and saw my ‘fro. She said, “How do you you’re think going to find a job looking like that.” I was not self-assured enough to tell her no when she insisted on giving money for a perm. However it is ironic that I didn’t find a job until much later when I had braided extenstions. Eventually I went totally natural. But the experience made me super-sensative to wearing natural permenantly. So I know exactly what you mean about disappointment about Quvenzhane’s hair.

  2. I wasn’t disappointed. Some people don’t wear their natural hair all the time. Maybe she wanted it straightend. My daughter is four and she loves her curls, but she also likes to wear it straight some times. I loved her look and I think people are reading too much into it.

  3. I agree with what you wrote, but my question is did she wear her natural hair out in it’s natural curly state or straight before and/or after she was in the movie?

    • Thank you! Just because she wore an afro in the movie doesn’t mean she always wears it like that. People need to get up out of other people’s hair.

  4. I am very saddened by this!! It sends the wrong message to little girls that in order to be considered pretty or acceptable in this society you have to conform. She was absolutely beautiful without the straightened hair!

  5. I was at the image awards and saw her – she’s a well mannered girl. I get what you’re saying, but overall its just hair. Hair is part of who we are, not the be all and end all. Hopefully the day will come when the world will realize that natural doesn’t just mean curly, it can be molded into a variety of styles without harsh chemicals. Until that day, I don’t have an issue.

  6. While I understand where you are coming from, I feel as if we need to stop looking to celebs to dictate what we do with our hair or how we feel encouraged. Personally, I have worn my hair both curly and straight to special events – it just depends on how I feel like wearing it. Unfortunately, natural hair is still seen as something so “rebellious” that we often make assumptions if someone is not wearing their natural hair – sometimes, it’s just not that deep. I try to have one-on-one discussions with people before I assume their reasoning.

  7. Loved this post Cass. I don’t know anythings about hair straitening except what I learned from you and that Chris Rock movie, but isnt she also a little young to be getting her hair straightened?

  8. I can understand your disappointment. But you know the usual is to get dressed up, we fix our hair, usually straight, put on our best dress and roll to whatever event we’re going to. That is just how it is for some people, and little girls are no different. I saw her in all those pictures at the major events and thought she looked so cute, well-dressed and she is so well-mannered. I think that is more important. At her age right now, she probably doesn’t care about stuff like that, and just opted for getting her hair “done”! My two girls have naturally curly hair, and opts for straight hair almost every time!

  9. Combine the fact that this was her first time acting with the fact that she was only five at the time she was cast and six years old at the time of the filming she is phenominal and deserves rverything that is coming to her. Tell the natural hair police to leave her alone. Yes, it would be nice if she wore natural hair all the time, but at 9 she isn’t there yet….give her a break!!!!

  10. this is true, but how do you know her natural hair in the film is her preferred state of wearing her hair? straightened could be her preference, and while we do have a painful history of hiding our natural texture, a 10 year old girl has the right to come into that understanding of how her hair should look on her own – i don’t want to assume either that every elder around her is pushing processed hair on her, it could be her choice. i too experineced the whole hotcomb on the stove process for extra special occasions growing up, and my evolution to wholly embracing my natural hair was my own. her nomination and poise on the red carpet at such a young age are enough to celebrate; disappointment over her choice of hairstyle seems like an unfair distraction because she is not the face of a movement and is inspirational to young black girls for so many other reasons. let’s also keep in mind the likes of willow smith, who provides all kinds of inspiration on wearing your way however you like.

  11. I think she looks beautiful both with curly and with straight hair! More important than what hair style she chose is the fact that she is an intelligent, well-mannered, talented little girl who is an Oscar nominee.

  12. I read your blog and found it to be quite judgmental. First Gabby Douglas now this CHILD being judged because of HAIR!! I mean really does it matter, straight, permed, weaved, natural!!! Why can’t we focus on the accomplishments. She’s not representing you, she’s an individual. If you don’t like her appearance you’re entitled to that thought, but I just don’t understand why women feel that hair matters more than the individuals accomplishments. Be happy for a sista and keep it moving. Focus on what she’s done… even when one of us does something positive in life — it’s one or a lot of us that got to find something negative in the situation. Why now that natural hair is in, that perming, straightening is so taboo? You probably did it yourself one time but now that the eyes have been open to the trending moment do we cast stones. She’s 10…let her find her way.

  13. In anything this young lady has appeared in her hair has been straight. Its not like she was rocking natural hair as a style choice as the character Hushpuppy…her hair wasnt done at ALL. She rarely wore pants let alone had a hair care regimen. Now if little miss Wallace was coming AS her character then she probably would have had her fro out. Having said that, i think it sends a wrong message period when we make each other, especially children, wrong for however they choose to wear their hair. We are making huge assumptions when we speak about the motives for why her hair was straight in the first place. She looks like a cute young lady and I hope she does well in whatever she applies herself to.

    • CJ, you reflect my sentiments exactly. Hushpuppy is a character in a work of art. If I’m correct in my interpretation of the movie, she was “rockin’ a natural do” because her dad didn’t do her hair at all. That was his choice & his right. But given that, how many stars run around in character after a movie? This whole premise is absurd — that she should wear her hair like the character in the movie.

      Quvenzhané is a real person who has the right to wear her hair however she or more likely her parents want her to in a society that is just beginning to embrace this “wash & go” look for natural hair.

      There is so much focus on hair in our community. It’s exhausting.

      When we can truly let people do what they want with their hair, we will take a bold step toward freedom from this “hair bondage”.

  14. I’ve had natural hair for as long as I can remember and there were days before the huge utube and blog natural hair movement that I would get some many awkward comments from people — mostly other black people…

    My point is, it shouldn’t matter how you chose to wear your hair. We should all be able to respect one another despite whether or not someone decided to flat iron, blow-out, weave, braid or wear their hair naturally.

    I mean, just because someone decided a year ago to not relax their hair doesn’t mean that a little girl who played an amazing role be a disappointment…

    Let’s congratulate!

    All love here,
    Someone

    • I agree with you…I dislike the hair policing, the need for everyone to wear unstraightened hair at all times, and all of the speculation/assumption about how what people think or how they feel about their hair because of it.

      I think we can elevate all forms of black beauty and all hair styles.

  15. In reality, it is the ADULTS around this little girl who are to blame for her appearance. It’s apparent they are uncomfortable with the image of a natural haired girl on the red carpet. What are you gonna do? Whatever you do, you can’t blame the child. Let’s face it. Adults are disappointed on all kinds of levels.

  16. technical note – somehow the icons next to commenter are chopping off the left side of the comments…its hard to read. (feel free to delete this comment)

  17. I think she was an actress, playing the part of a little girl with a dying father in the backwoods. She was acting. It was a role.

  18. Well, clearly, it’s a free country, and I don’t think it matters that she had her hair straightened on the red carpet. I mean, everyone would be upset if she had a relaxer b/c she was so little. And she didn’t. We don’t know how she wore her hair before the movie, and she’s old enough to request that her hair be done the way she likes during her big nights.
    As someone who did have natural hair until young adulthood (and not have it again), while my hair wasn’t straightened often, It was always in pigtails when I was her age. And that might be how she looks everyday. I just don’t think you have enough information here to judge her or her parents ,and there is a lot of projecting going on about what her straightened hair means, and I think natural-haired women need to stop that. Own your choice, don’t judge others, and don’t assume you know what their motives are for their hairstyle. B/c you certainly don’t know anything about me b/c of mine.

    I just don’t think people need to get so upset about this. They do the same thing with the Obama girls, who thanks to their high profile as the most famous little black girls probably on the planet, we have seen in both natural and straightened styles, and which people similarly feel the need to comment on.

    I’m not a fan of permanent relaxers on young girls, but I certainly don’t take issue with them getting their hair straightened for special occasions, and as far as we know, this is how she wants it. I think the messaging is what is key, and we aren’t privy to what her parents say, and it’s presumptuous to assume.

    I don’t know, depending on your age, you saw natural hair on TV b/c little black girls wore pigtails, if you look at the 70′s, people were wearing afros and afro puffs, and none of it made me question how my hair looked even at a young age.

    If a young girl wears her hair in a loose afro, she has a lot of examples just like in the 70′s, but I personally think there is more of a mentality that loose hair is for adults and only worn by young girls on special occasions more so that straight hair is more appropriate. Little black girls in the 70′s wore puffs, not loose afros. I don’t think my mom was selling out b/c she combed and styled my hair and put barrettes on it.

    And ultimately this is likely a hair style choice she wanted. Why does that bother people so much? Does every black woman and girl everywhere have to wear her hair both natural and out/obvious at all times or risk getting policed and told she’s selling out? What is the line here? Why don’t women with natural hair have to respect the boundaries they claim are violated against them?

    Personally, I’m bothered by the rampant curl obsession that women who lack them have b/c it’s just a substitute or the straight hair they once wouldn’t be caught dead without.

    • Oh, I meant I NOW have natural hair again.
      And I think it’s bad I feel obliged to say that b/c again, my choices are my own, and not up for discussion.

      I don’t think 100% of the black girls and women in America (whether they are public or private figures) need to be natural for people to feel comfortable if they choose to be.

  19. I agree with other comments, she never signed up as the face of the natural-hair movement, and in the film, her character didn’t have access to clean clothes or a bath, much less expensive hair products from Medusa. I’m the dad of an 8-year old, and while I’ve been following your blog for a couple years…I’d love to see a community for kids. After 3 years in London, we’re returning to SF in July. My girl is so aware of hair, and we’d love to find hair support, natural or extended…I mostly want her to know her hair is beautiful and she has access to styles and a community of like-minded curly-haired girls.

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