Wednesday, August 8, 2012


There’s been a lot of talk about our golden girl, Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast, Gabby Douglas, who, at just 16 years old, not only led the U.S. women to Olympic gold in gymnastics but she has also landed magazine and cereal box covers. So why are people – black people, mainly – talking about Gabby’s unkempt hair instead of her achievements? Some would argue that ‘that’s our problem now’, we are always focused on the ‘wrong’ things. We would rather talk about hair and other superficial matters than important stuff like, a young black girl accomplishing her dream of becoming an Olympian instead of somebody’s baby momma or the fact that dedication and hard work paid off in Olympian gold for Gabby not celebrity-inspired gold bought by a drug-dealing boyfriend or the fact that Gabby is more concerned with keeping her body fit and healthy in order to perfect her gymnastic moves and not ‘drop, stop and poppin’ moves. While I agree that sometimes, we (black people) do get caught up in appearances, material things and glitz & glamour, we're not the only ones (hey, fellow Americans!) and I think there’s another perspective to this hairstory.
First of all, we are taught, from an early age, that one must put forth their best appearance as first impressions are critical and appearance does matter. A person who is neatly dressed and coiffed will have the edge over someone who isn’t. A person who is fashionably dressed is received better than, say, a plain jane. Not that any of that has a darn thing to do with the skill it takes to become an Olympian, but I’m just saying (our obsession with appearance didn't just come out of nowhere). Secondly, I am a woman and mother of a daughter. Throughout my life, if ever I had some place to go (or not), my mother kept my hair done. If there was a special occasion or an extra-special destination I was going to (say, London for the Olympics as an Olympian), my hair would be extra-tight. Not extra tight in a painful way but extra tight in a way that every hair would be perfectly in place and shining like the sun. I was taught that you should always try to put your best face forward and when out in public, you are representing not only yourself but your family, too. So, when people started saying, ‘Why wasn’t Gabby’s hair done?!’ I thought it came more from a familial, loving and protective place than a place of misplaced focus, unordered priorities or hateration.

I’m not gonna lie. When I saw her on the Olympic floor, I said, ‘Now why is her hair like that?!’ This was while beaming with pride from seeing a black teenaged girl doing her thing on the Olympic floor, instead of somebody’s club floor. I know nothing about the Olympics, their schedule, if/who was responsible for getting Gabby’s hair done – maybe she missed her appointment, maybe the stylist didn’t show up – but what I do know is that, in her most glorious moment, she should’ve been coiffed to perfection – just like all the other girls were. Well, I guess I shouldn’t say ‘all’ because I haven’t actually seen them all but all the ones I did see had their damn hair done. I’m not suggesting she should’ve had a long, wavy weave, 40 inch ponytail or bone straight tresses blowing in the wind. But I do know that the ‘do she was sporting could’ve been done much better than it was. A little bit of gel and a few – okay, maybe more than a few – jewel-adorned bobby pins could’ve turned that ‘who didn’t do it’ into a pretty, perfectly pinned pony. Hopefully, instead of taking the complaints as just a bunch of grumbling black folk, Gabby and her parents/team will take something positive from the backlash and put more effort into the golden girl’s future appearances. In the meantime, we are proud of you, you done great and we look forward to you doing, being and looking even greater. Keep going for the gold GABBY! We do love you!