I am not a woman of many words. It’s not often that I blog (I need to do way better), but when I do, I definitely have something to say.
For those of you who missed the huge debacle, earlier this week, Shea Moisture released a few tone-deaf ads and the natural hair community and Black twitter responded with outrage within seconds. Watch here. It’s these moments that make you love and hate the internet at the same time. Lol. Hours later, Shea Moisture responded and released what was in my opinion a respectable apology, followed by “lessons learned,” however for me, this apology was not enough. You don’t regain trust and support based on an apology alone. Yes, it starts the healing process, but acceptance certainly takes time and a change in behavior.
Many women responded with my favorite phrase of the year, saying, “SheaMoisture is cancelled” and vowed to stop purchasing their products. I fully support this move because as consumers with so much spending power, our money talks. Sadly, it’s one of the few ways we can force corporations to listen to our voices and value our needs – by putting our money where our mouth is. I won’t be purchasing their products any more or supporting their brand. Not just because of their ads, but because I know that a product that works well for straight, silky hair, won’t work well for my hair texture. I don’t want hair products branded as “for everyone.” I want hair products created with my hair texture in mind. Instead, I will turn to other natural hair care brands and I encourage you all to do the same. Take this opportunity to learn about Black-owned natural hair companies on the rise. The natural hair industry is fragmented but vast, so you should be able to find a plethora of hair products and companies that can fulfill your needs! Click here for a short list floating around the Internet.
The Black hair care experience is something that is both sensitive and unique to Black women. [insert Rachel Dolezal meme here]
Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that can be very difficult to understand and relate to if you haven’t experienced it.
- Do you know what it feels like to live 18 years of your life not knowing what your real hair feels like, looks like, and how it grows out of your head naturally?
- Do you know what it feels like to have someone at work ask you if you wore your natural hair out in an afro for “shits and giggles“?
- Do you know what it feels like to wear your hair a certain way to an interview because you’re afraid you’ll be judged by your hairstyle instead of your qualifications even though you went to an Ivy League school or have multiple degrees and are more than qualified?
- Do you know what it feels like to spend thousands of dollars on weaves, extensions and styling products every year because your real hair is impossible to manage on its own?
- Do you know what it feels like to spend 8+ hours in a hair salon getting braids only to be told by your manager that it looks like there’s a beehive/ basket sitting on your head?
- Do you know what it feels like to not go to the gym or exercise because sweating will mess up your hair?
- Do you know what it feels like to make mindless everyday decisions that should be made exclusive from hair based on your hair?
- Do you know what it feels like to teach a young Black girl to love her natural hair, to see herself as beautiful, to understand self love?
These questions and experiences are not only ridiculous, but also real. They are not made up. And you wouldn’t know this unless you experienced it or spent time learning about it, speaking with women who have experienced it at depth. Reading Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s book Americanah (though it’s a great book), is not enough either. I cannot tell you how many times someone has tried to relate to my hair experience by referencing that book. It’s a good start, but the conversation about Black hair shouldn’t stop there. I encourage you to continually engage others who may be uninformed in the dialogue about Black hair, because it’s important.
From a business perspective, I’m still trying to make sense of this act. I read a few articles with excerpts from Sundial Brands’ (SheaMoisture’s parent company) CEO Richelieu Dennis basically citing inclusion and “broadening the audience” as the ads main purpose. Honestly, I’m not sure why SheaMoisture is trying to include everyone. Scratch that. I know why SheaMoisture is trying to include everyone… for fatter profits. However I don’t believe it is critical for them to include everyone. There’s nothing wrong with manufacturing and selling a product for a specific, niche consumer group and demographic. Trust me. The challenges Black women face when it comes to their hair are so large, so complex and they have not all been solved. There’s so much more work to do with this consumer group in this space, so I’m surprised by the direction SheaMoisture chose to expand. Alienating your core customers to acquire a few dozen others doesn’t make long term financial sense. To me, it seems like a very shortsighted path to growth.
Whenever blunders like these occur, they always make me wonder if senior leaders and executives who have decision making power at these companies have the expertise and knowledge to do so. Assuming that they don’t know better, their consumers certainly know better. [We] need to do a better job putting the consumer at the center, getting to know their habits, their challenges, their needs. A company that I admire because they do this so well is Amazon. I was recently reading CEO Jeff Bezos’s letter in Amazon’s 2016 annual report released a few weeks ago. In that letter, he reiterated why it will always be “Day 1” at Amazon and why it is so important to stay focused on your customers. I think many companies and leaders can learn a few things from Amazon – you can read highlights of the letter (here). I have no idea what my future holds, but one day, I may be an entrepreneur. And when that day comes (quote me), I hope that no level of investment or influence pulls me away from my core.
Moments like these serve as reminders that we need to continue to fight for greater representation of Black women in various leadership positions – our opinions, voices and diverse perspectives matter.
Thank you SheaMoisture for reinvigorating my passion to fight when I thought I was ready to quit. It’s not over.
Thanks for reading!
Miss Ijeoma A.