Why Tessica Brown’s Viral Hair Woes Isn’t a Smooth Finish

The two-week ordeal of the Louisiana woman, who became a viral sensation after sharing video clips of her harrowing ordeal, involving a scary introduction to a powerful adhesive known as Gorilla Glue, which she hoped would provide a temporary fix for unruly strands, thankfully ended with a miraculous save by Beverly Hill-based plastic surgeon — Dr. Michael Obeng.

It was a long time holding breaths and watching from a distance with prayers for a stranger, who became a familiar face with an agonized look of terror, that matched how we felt as we tried to imagine the horrors of being stuck with permanent glue seeping into our scalps, that terrifyingly turns shampoo into a shiny polish.

The initial online reaction to Tessica’s hair woes expectedly echoed sentiments of how her level of stupidity failed to save her from herself, and ultimately resulted in an embarrassing mishap, that’s worthy of unrelenting roasting on platforms that are built for such events.

But once it became clear that this was more than just an extreme case of a bad hair day, and was in fact a health hazard that could potentially cause the victim long-term damage, some commenters acknowledged the growing hysteria centered around a Black woman in dire need of a rescue, who could possibly pay dearly for her misguided grooming choices.

But there were and still are a lot of folks who don’t have much empathy for Tessica’s plight, and they include some of my friends who swore that she purposely glued her hair to her scalp, utilizing a dangerous chemical solution all in an effort to assuage her impulses as a rabid attention-seeker who will do anything to go viral.

Social media is a basin of dysfunctional fodder that creates the obsession to retain relevancy at all costs, and so it makes sense to conclude that users would push the limits of reason by endangering their lives for the expensive thrill of being famous long enough to be replaced with an even more daring contender.

Thankfully, this captivating saga that could’ve summoned an awful outcome, was abated by the genius of a Black doctor of Ghanaian descent, who was generous with his heroism to the point that he offered to separate his desperate patient from her sticky handicap without charging the more than $12K fee that she would ordinarily be billed.

This isn’t the kind of shit we see everyday.

This was an extraordinary circumstance that even medical staff at the local hospital couldn’t efficiently resolve. And the makers of Gorilla Glue, most certainly didn’t expect to be recipients of a marketing ploy that demonstrates what happens when you dangerously test out the durable attributes of a product that works too well.

Yet, the unforgettable tale of Tessica Brown isn’t quite finished, and never will be, regardless of how she successfully underwent the surgery that saved her scalp, and most importantly her life.

Obviously it’s advisable for her to get blood work done and also visit a recommended dermatologist as a follow-up, since she did have Gorilla Glue on her head for a little over a month. But for the most part, it’s easy to be optimistic about her future, and the belief that she has learned a hard lesson — figuratively and literally.

The trials and tribulations of managing hair textures that are demonized within our communities, which naturally emboldens the scorn of outside forces, when it comes to shaming the audacity of ethnic hairstyles and tough textures, is an ongoing conversation that has broadened to inspire legislation to prevent institutions from getting away with exacting illegalities mired in racism.

Tessica Brown’s unfortunate entanglement with a potent chemical that she assumed would do the job of smoothing out kinks for the interim, without the permanent bonding that hampered her ability to wash it out, is a symptom of the lengths that some will go to in order to attain the results that are considered widely admissible.

Yes, this is an over-the-top example that most dismiss as a possible mental deficiency, but for me, I truly don’t think the subject realized the high risk venture she was embarking on, when she settled for the option within reach.

Watching her being labeled “Gorilla Glue Girl” felt uncomfortable, as I immediately recalled the countless times I was in a major jam with my unpredictable mass of nappiness on Monday mornings, after the two-strand twists from the night before dissolve into a messy, wiry crown of disarray.

The rushed panic of having to contemplate your next move, while avoiding being late for work, is the stuff that makes you almost crazy enough to resort to anything to relieve that pressure.

This isn’t to say that I would’ve blindly slathered my strands with whatever I could get my hands on, to smoothen out my withering kinks, but I can attest to the numerous times when I was literally out of mind with frustration and helplessness, due to the beastly temperament of my natural hair.

When you’ve been warned by temp agencies to “tame your hair” before attending job interviews, and have continuously digested the messaging of how “defined curls” and gelled down baby hairs is the non-negotiable for hairstyles that meet passable requirements, the arduous journey of defining your personal regimen becomes a psychological battle.

For me, it’s the scarring from boarding school in Lagos, Nigeria, where students were forbidden from relaxing their hair, and if they were caught breaking those rules, teachers used scissors to mercilessly massacre their braided styles, forcing their victims to shave their heads as punishment.

It takes a really long time, with many life lessons under our belt, for some of us to finally embrace the uniqueness of our needy textures with the defiance that’s necessary to simplify our approach to hair maintenance that no longer demands spending a shit load of money on brand name products that can’t “define our curls.”

The lifelong assault on the Black woman’s aesthetic runs deep and can be a bitter pill to swallow when you consider how white women are able to freely hijack gems from Black originators and amass praises and profitability for their shameless poaching.

Tessica Brown represents much more than her ill-fated decision to be forever known as “Gorilla Glue Girl” because as inconceivable as her actions are to the judging crowd, her motives replicate the painful sessions of scalp burns from my early days as a subscriber to chemical perms that contained “lye.”

It’s also the harshness of Keratin treatments that straightened my hair beyond belief with a shiny glow, but smelled like death during application that burned my eyes. Those high-risk sessions could very well be the cause of my demise in the not-so-distant future, since I’ve been updated about the main ingredient of formaldehyde, a chemical that’s used to preserve dead bodies.

I guess I’m the “Formaldehyde Girl!”

It’s never a smooth finish for Black women with hair textures that challenge our ability to love ourselves better. We have to arrive at the place where we are spiritually fulfilled with who, and what we are, before we can allow the privilege of living healthier, longer lives.

And for us, it’s mandated that we do it out loud, and that’s the test that keeps testing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store