Why Singer Halsey’s Hair Crusade Against Hotels Is Valid
Singer Halsey who has a White mother and an African-American father with some Irish blood — recently vented about fancy hotels who stock their bathrooms with hair products that only cater to White guests.
After her tweet went viral — she further explained her frustation:
“I’ve been traveling for years now and it’s been so frustrating that the hotel toiletry industry entirely alienates people of color. I can’t use this perfumed watered down white people shampoo. Neither can 50% of ur customers. Annoying.”
A lot of women agreed with the Jersey-born songwriter who interestingly got her stage name from the Halsey Street station on the Brooklyn line of the New York City Subway. And others were annoyed at the fact that someone with her “hair type” would even care to go there.
Attacks always get brutally personal when it comes to women going against each other about the validity of toiletries and how it applies in the realm of acceptance and rejection.
Yes — Halsey’s hair woes can’t compare to someone with my hair type since she’s mixed race — which means her texture is a lot closer to the “ideal.” However that doesn’t discount her argument about how Black hair products never seem to make the cut in high-end hotels and gyms.
My former 9 to 5 job allowed me the privilege of a yearly gym membership at the posh and exclusive Equinox — and one morning I noticed the array of products from Kiehls that littered the shower area — and out of curiosity — I checked out the cute little bottles — and as always I concluded that the only thing I could use was the lotion — and maybe the shower gel.
The shampoo was off limits for obvious reasons — and this standardized exclusion is a reality that many women like me have to contend with — without fail.
Hair is the accessory we’re born with — that can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how high the stakes are and whether or not we’re equipped for the challenge.
When I returned to Nigeria at the age of eight after my parents were ready to make their American education count for something — I got a rude awakening when my introduction to the harshness of hairstyling didn’t prove to be a seamless transition. I had a lot of hair and not only was it exquisitely long and full — it was also thick as fuck.
This meant more time between the thighs of my mother or the women that were paid to comb and carve out my tresses into the traditional maps of our culture. The Yoruba women were the worst when it came to exacting punishment on my scalp — which caused me to squirm at the roughness that was casually displayed — as if I were a rag doll with no feelings.
I had to wait until I was seventeen to get my first relaxer and even that was no walk in the park. The concoction that was dumped on my head and spread all over my scalp was a burning flesh eater — that caused unbearable pain that I bore with the promise that the end result would be worth it.
Almost two hours later — I was granted my wish and there was no better feeling than walking out with a fresh perm that had been blown out and curled to perfection. I still remember the wind blowing through my hair and how it moved with each step.
It made me feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.
Fast forward to the present and I’m older and wiser and like most — I’ve definitely been to hell and back with my hair — but the one constant is the fact that I’ve always preferred to keep it natural.
The relaxers provided the option to conform to a particular look that Black women feel pressured into adopting in order to fit in or to lessen the risk of standing out in a corporate setting. But — as I experimented with my tresses as a young adult with a job that paid modestly — I had to be flexible enough to shift from relaxers to braids.
The natural hair movement is all the rage at the moment — but back in 2000 — I was clearly ahead of my time — and the reception to my futuristic disposition wasn't graceful — as family members and friends expressed their disapproval with my decision to downplay my beauty with an “unkempt” presentation.
I was empathetic to their reasoning because I knew that as Black people — we were trained by White people to perfect the art of self-hatred. The long-lasting effects of slavery still cripple our self-esteem — and the evidence is active in the billion dollar skin bleaching industry.
But — when it comes to hair — Black women have a right to be anxious about their texture and how it measures up to their non-Black counterparts — because of the shit we get for having coils instead of naturally smooth waves and curls.
There’s also the messaging from major cosmetic companies that systematically leave out Black women with a certain hair type that doesn’t satisfy the requirements for global appeal or viability.
“Nappy” hair is essentially tightly curled or kinky hair and it’s exactly how I wold describe my texture. I’m not exotically mixed with anything — I’m an African girl with features that match my heritage — and despite the fact that women like me tend not to rate very high — due to our dark skin and “bad hair” — I’m still unwilling to succumb to such a dire forecast.
However — there are many Black women who prefer to work hard at compensating for their shortcomings by relying on weaves — wigs — or chemical treatments as a way to solidify their attractivness. There’s no sin in wanting to feel pretty — and since our hair plays a vital role in that endeavor — it’s sensible to make necessary investments.
But — as Halsey points out — there is a blatant ignorance by luxury brands when it comes to servicing Black women who sport a specific grade of hair — that never gets spotlighted in the hair commercials that clog TV stations during the daytime run. The models have shiny teeth and glossy hair that bounces up and down and playfully curls around painted finger tips.
My own hair can’t do that — which means I’m assed out.
It’s easy to disregard us because we just don’t fit the criteria for “effortlessly sexy manes” that can handle a spontaneous swim in the hotel pool before a quick shower — using lather from the bottled brands that line up the corners of the tub. The “air dry” method with a slather of gel does the trick — and enhances the cascading curls that are courtesy of the American Indian side of the family.
Okay — my hair can sorta do that — but it would take a shit load of time and effort and I would have to use my own products — and not some random sweet smelling solution that will leave my hair denser than a brillo pad.
The truth is that Halsey’s hair crusade against hotels and the whole bloody establishment is absolutely valid.
It’s abhorrently inexcusable that Black women with hair textures that aren’t celebrated or glamorized have to be forced to anticipate their exclusion from the packaged options — that provide a better welcome for White patrons — while leaving us to fend for ourselves.
It may appear to be “much ado about nothing” for those of you who don’t ever have to fathom the devastating effects of constantly being remined that your features aren’t quite “civilized” enough — to warrant the extra mile it would take to make us feel valued — in ways that our non-Black counterparts enjoy without limits.
The outright dismissiveness and callous neglect for the grooming practices of Black women who share my predicament (because not all of us do) is symbolic of how White supremacy uses the stench of normalcy as an assault weapon — that does enough damage to egos and hair emergencies that require a specific ointment for healing.
Of course it’s a smart idea to be equipped with your own shit so you don’t have to give a fuck about the items that weren’t made for your consumption — and I’m sure most women regardless of race — strive to ensure that they’re always prepared.
But — the difference is that when those occasions arise — and you need a quick solution that will suffice — Black women are royally screwed — while the lucky ones can indulge with the slab of privilege.
That’s why the complexity of texures and how it dictates who wins or loses is worth dissecting — because you always have to give props to the little things in order to make sense of the bigger stuff.
It’s a “hairy issue” — and so many of us get caught up in it — but that’s just how we roll. Unfortunately.