Let me start off with an announcement. This article is about Gabby Douglas and features a spoiler alert. And I am quite sure you already know the outcome of her gymnastics Olympic quest. This isn’t about if she won the gold; which she did becoming the first African American woman to take home the All Around Women’s Gymnastics Olympic Gold and leading Team USA to Olympic Gold; it’s about bad form.
Gabby’s toes were pointed; she soared on the balance bars, beam, vault and floor exercise with her pencil straight legs. But instead of rooting this teenaged phenomenon on dubbed “The Flying Squirrel” the spoilers were talking about her roots, and her edges and her ponytail. And the much of the talk was in bad form.
Many in the African American community felt her hair wasn’t a good representation for the black community. That her “kinky” hair didn’t look good. But many of these same people didn’t acknowledge the sacrifice, hard work and plain old sweat that it took Gabby to win a spot on the Olympic team. The sweat equity that earned her a right to be called the first African-American woman to win All Around Gymnastics Olympic Gold. A title that she and we will proudly hold dear. That same sweat that causes one’s African-American hair to get kinky.
And if you are one of those kind who are ready to get judgmental on me, I am not on team natural hair versus team relaxed hair, because sometimes it seems that some African Americans want you to pick a side. When it comes to hair, I am pro-choice. Whatever hair style makes you feel and look good embrace it is my mantra.
And I have had my hair moments. Like the time I was in a restaurant with my then two year old daughter and the Caucasian waiter kept admiring my daughter’s ponytails. Before we left he came over to say how much he loved my daughter’s hair. And a nice smile came over my face. Before I could get the words “thank you” out he said he wished that his daughter’s hair was more “nappy” so that she could have those ponytails.
Yeah. My smile turned into my lip hitting the floor as I tried to figure out if this was a Don Imus moment or if it were really a compliment. And when exactly did the “N” word – “nappy” become a bad one?
When exactly did our hair define us? I spoke to Nia Long who is featured in Chris Rock’s movie “Good Hair” which is all about how African-American women view their hair. The NAACP Image Award winner feels that hair and self-esteem sometimes get mixed up. Her thoughts on hair is that it is merely an accessory. That self-esteem comes from self-worth, self-value and self-love.
Is it that we don’t love ourselves enough to embrace every aspect of ourselves kinky hair and all? Is protecting our edges from getting frizzy and kinky because of some sweat enough of a reason to avoid the pool, bike, skates and not even think about the gym? For some, for sure.
But for Gabby Douglas sweating out her hair was just the thing that she needed to do to win a place in history, to achieve her own Olympic dream and to inspire a nation of kinky, straight, dread-locked, short, long, afro, texturized, relaxed, natural, braided, twisted and ponytail wearing girls to pursue their dreams at all costs kinky hair and all.