Most People Want Michelle Obama’s Hair Straight? (Slideshow)

56% of Americans want the First Lady to have straight hair? Say no to “Afro”?

Well, it’s a web poll, but it has struck a nerve for a number of black women and, of course little “Lamestream Media” coverage except by the sole black women professor actually on it — Melissa Harris-Perry. She devoted four segments of her past Sunday show to the untrivial subject of black women’s hair.

The poll wasn’t the sole reason for the focus; it was mainly prompted by the fact that her own hair (braided) regularly features in how she is judged. Yes, judged. She gets letters, some of which are so nice they make her tear up.

Harris-Perry points out that black women’s hair has always had its politics. Even the fact that Obama’s daughter Malia has braids is making a silent statement. As Nikita Stewart puts it of Malia on The Root:

When I looked at her, I felt as if she was proclaiming, I am confident and comfortable. This is my hair.

This is like the now famous picture of five-year-old Jakob Philadelphia, who wanted to touch the President’s hair and the simple statement that made, but unlike the 1960s “Black Power” movement — think Angela Davis’ huge and defiant Afro, referenced of course in the infamous 2008 New Yorker cover (pictured) of Michelle Obama with an Afro. Today it is instead more, writes Cassandra Jackson for HuffPost, about “self-acceptance, freedom, health, and spiritual growth.”

Jackson writes that we are definitely seeing a “movement” — sales of black women’s hair products like relaxer are on the decline, and sales of “natural” hair products are on the rise — and a good one that Jackson endorses, even if it does mean a decline for the empowerment that comes from the women’s space that is the beauty shop.

It’s also a health issue. Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin said last year that black women were using their hair as an excuse not to do any exercise.

Harris-Perry spoke with four women — all with “natural styles,” as 36% of black women have — Broadway actress Nicole Ari Parker, Curly Nikki blogger Nikki Walton, University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler, and cultural critic Joan Morgan.

First, Harris-Perry explains black women’s hair for the rest of us, like the other meaning of “the kitchen,” plus in which direction you should rub the head of a black man with a “fade”:

Then we get into the “obvious” politics, “transitioning” and the meaning of that New Yorker drawing of Michelle Obama and why black women’s hair choices aren’t political but more about going to the beach:

In this fascinating (for me, white gay man here!) discussion I learned a lot, like a new word — “textured” — and who gets buy-in from saying that (shock!) black women are “vain” and why people are robbing stores for extension hair.

Finally they talk “Great Moments in Black Hair” and the meaning of another photo, that of a white father braiding his black daughter’s hair:

Is the MHP Show discussing this subject with and about black women a hit? Well, here’s Treva R. Martin-Scott writing on

Somewhere there is a little black girl swinging a towel on her head trying to pretend that she is white because she does not like her hair. Or a high school student who wants to know if she can wear her natural hair to a college interview. Or a college student who wants to know if she can wear her dreads to her first job interview. Or that brother who is looking for that extra bit of confidence in the corporate arena and needs to know that he is not alone in wearing his lockes.

So yes, we do need to talk, and talk, and talk, and keep talking about this because, no, we have not moved on just yet. But it’s OK that you have. You blaze that trail for the rest of us and we will look to you. We need more trailblazers. You go girls!

Oh, and here are those sweet photos of Emory professor Clifton Green braiding his adopted daughter’s hair.

Click through for more “Great Moments in Black Hair” >>

Possibly the most famous black women’s hair is Angela Davis’ Afro, seen here in a painting by Shephard Fairey, who created the most iconic poster of Barack Obama, which is ironic given that Davis herself has said:

It is both humiliating and humbling to discover that a single generation after the events that constructed me as a public personality, I am remembered as a hairdo.

Picture by takomabibelot

Diana Ross is well known for her fabulous hair; so well known that this is how little girls see her (and looking for a photo to share with you I came across lots of little girls showing off their class project on her). She’s also done the Afro in the 1960s.

On a website dedicated to “transitioning,” Sharlyn Pierre explains why Ross is her heroine:

With a simple hair flip, you knew she was shaking off naysayers. Before a boss was a “bawse,” there was Ms. Diana Ross.

Picture by Roberta W.B.

The hair of Beyonce’s sister Solange is the subject of fierce debate. After “transitioning,” she now has an “Afro,” which critics have called “unkempt” and “dry as heck.”

One person posted:

Sure, it’s ‘natural’, but when homeless becomes a look, I don’t want nuttin ta do wit it!

Solange said that she decided to stop straightening in a bid to discourage her two children Ripley and Nico from feeling insecure about their natural curls. She said:

I didn’t want my daughters to judge their beautiful curls.

Picture: Youtube screengrab

America’s favorite black lesbian comedian, Wanda Sykes, says:

Just prior to “Wanda Does It” … I decided I was done with perms. They control your life, and honestly, especially when you’re with somebody, you just don’t feel sexy- you have to go to bed with your hair all wrapped up, and you’re all crinkly in the shower with your plastic cap on. You go on vacation and people are like ‘hey, let’s jump in the pool’…nope, can’t jump in the pool. It was just so controlling and one of the main reasons I cut it short and went natural.

I’m not going back to relaxers. Straight one day, curly the next. Especially now with the kids and my wife. She’s white and the three of them just jump in the pool without a second thought … so now I jump my ass in the pool too! No worries! It’s cool- I love the freedom. We recently went on a trip to Brazil. My wife was like, ‘let’s get in the water … let’s go on a hike… hey there’s a water fall, let’s walk underneath it’. I was game! When I was relaxed I couldn’t do those things. I have friends who are relaxed, I’m talking die hards, and they’ve actually canceled dinner on me a couple of times because it was drizzling outside. Seriously. But we’ve all been there.

Picture by Fritz Liess

Related stories:

The Boy Who Felt Obama’s Hair (Video)

Michelle Obama Announces Plan To Get 1.7 Million Kids Active!

Dispatches From The War On Women: The American Taliban Is Real


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mamabear c.
3 years ago

i must say I was shocked by this question. I reLLY DO THINK if your hair is or not have or not should be the way we judge a person. It has been over 100 of yrs we have judged a person by the color of your skin. i say no more And to start by judging by hair is a step backward. And it just plain silly.

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Past Member, most of us as kids envied somebody who was different than we were, I think. I grew up taller than I thought was "ideal", I was thin, blonde and blue-eyed. I was also very "flat chested". I envied the short, big-busted brunettes that were my classmates and the most popular girl in our class was about 5'1" and dark haired, brown eyes. I felt "unfeminine" next to her. Now, I am shorter because of age, wish I was still "flat chested" and while I'm still blonde and blue-eyed, I am also still alive and have hair, period, LOL! The girl I envied died of breast cancer two years ago. My point is, we're never happy with what we have and want to change it. I was born with very straight, very FINE blonde hair. I tried perms and dying my hair darker. Now, I'm happy that I still have it and at my age, still no grey.

If Michelle Obama wants straight hair, that's her right. Maybe next year she'll want another style. I saw the track and field in the Olympics and thought Sarah Richards-Ross was gorgeous and I love her hair! It obviously wasn't natural (as for color) but who cares?

Past Member
Past Member 3 years ago

I am Chinese, and everyone knows almost every Chinese person has STRAIGHT hair! For the longest time, especially as a kid, I longed to have curly hair. I would be so envious of anything even with the slightest hint of a curl. Eventually, I was allowed to have a perm, and at one time, even sported an AFRO!..It took a long time to come to terms with my straight hair, but I did. I haven't had a perm for more than 30 years, and am happy with my hair which is now greying. I do not colour it either.
I love black peoples' hair; it's beautiful, and I can't understand why anyone would want to straighten it. Natural is beautiful, braided is beautiful, corn rows are beautiful. I wish more black people would be proud of their natural hair. God got it right giving us different races, the hair we have!

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Mary, my comments were to a "Sandy E." Why are you responding? It was Sandy E. who posted TWICE, ALL in caps and said she wants "her out of the White House" and to stop spending HER money. There were two comments made by Sandy E., both said to be at 3:23 P.M. on Aug. 8th........."I WANT HER OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE AND I WANT HER TO STOP SPENDING MY MONEY!

Maybe you are confused here?

Mary Hale
Mary Hale3 years ago

Diane, Number1 I happen to like Mrs. Obama and the President. I happen to blog for them both often, and think they are doing a great job. #3 All I said was I don't care how she wears her hair, to me it is her choice..#3 I didn't say she was spending my tax money, you need to read that again. # 4. My hands shack and left little finger is twisted and bent so I do hit the caps and didn't know it was yelling. #4 I am 83 years old and live on a small S>S. check and send in 40.00 each month when I get it for his capaign

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Sandy, I take it you don't like Michelle Obama.........that's obvious. You don't need to post entirely in all caps, that's considered YELLING, nor to repeat it...........we "get it". Just a little FYI, Michelle wasn't elected to office, her husband was. How about if I said that I wanted YOU out of Care.2?

So, tell us all, Sandy, just HOW is Michelle Obama spending YOUR money? I guess before Obama was elected, GWB's "better" half didn't spend a cent of taxpayer money, nor did Barbara before her?

Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson3 years ago


Sandy Erickson
Sandy Erickson3 years ago


Deborah Wasko
Deborah W.3 years ago

This kind of media fodder certainly "stimulates" (as intended) doesn't it? TYPICAL.

Who gives a shit one way or the other ... free choice and personal unless taken over by presumed "political correctness" to gain points.

Either way, who gives a shit?

William and Kat Dresbach
Katie D.3 years ago