While new movies such as “Precious” and “The Princess and the Frog” are stirring intense debate among African Americans, no recent movie or documentary has hair stylist Bo Bogard more riled than “Good Hair.” To Bogard, the owner of Bo26, an upscale salon in northwest Washington, D.C., there is nothing good about “Good Hair.”
He asked, rhetorically: “What was the point?” And then he lists the major points that made him hotter than a hot comb poised for action. Bogard was most perturbed by the scenes showing how sodium hydroxide, a chemical used in hair relaxers, can eat through the skin of chickens and dissolve aluminum cans.
“When Chris Rock presented sodium hydroxide in the movie, he was showing it in its purest form,” explained Bogard. “When you show almost anything in its purest form, it can be dangerous. However, when sodium hydroxide is in a relaxer, it has been diluted with all of the other elements in the relaxer. So, it pissed me off when he was showing the cans inside the cylinders being dissolved.” Bogard was further irked after a White friend who had seen the movie asked: “Why would Black women subject themselves to that?”
That’s a question many viewers asked after seeing the documentary that was inspired when one of Chris Rock’s daughters asked him why she doesn’t have good hair. For Americans bombarded with images of Europeans as the standard of beauty, straight hair was widely viewed as being “good hair.”
Bogard argues that is only one reason Black women straighten their hair.
“There was a time in history when Black women felt they needed to straighten their hair in order to fit in,” he stated. “I will acknowledge that. Today, in 2009, I think if a woman chooses to straighten her hair with a relaxer, I don’t think it’s just to fit into society or to be like their White counterparts.
They’re doing it now because of style – it’s a look.”
For some, straight hair is not enough – it must also be long. Chris Rock made a big deal of Black women purchasing fake hair – sometimes at a cost of $1,000 to $3,500 – and having it woven into their heads. One salon owner featured in the movie offered a layaway plan.
Although Bogard said he has had less than five women come to him for weaves over a 17-year-career – each time he referred them to someone else – the typical African-American customer has no interest in weaves.
“I wish he had balanced that with Black women who are very proud of who they are and they don’t need to wear weaves in order to fit into society,” Bogard said. He conceded the movie featured women with natural hair and even one interior decorator who is bald. But he said those examples were easily overshadowed by the overemphasis on weaves, something that did not go unnoticed by moviegoers. “I have a client, a very beautiful lady, who is an attorney,” Bogard recounted. “After the movie came out, she went to work and a Caucasian coworker said, ‘Girl, I didn’t know you had a weave.’ She said, ‘I don’t have a weave. Why would you assume I have a weave?” The woman said, ‘Chris Rock said when you see Black women with long hair, they have a weave.’ This opens up another door. If you’re a Black woman and your hair is long, it must be a weave.”
The movie noted that in India, 10 million people have all of their hair cut each year as an offering to the Hindu gods. With Koreans and Chinese merchants functioning as middle men, much of that hair ends up on the heads of African American women.
“Another thing that annoyed me was the economic aspect of the business,” Bogard stated. “They were saying this is a $9 billion industry and we don’t have anything to show for it. Well, how many movie studios are owned by Blacks? How many car companies are owned by Blacks? Is that something we should strive for? Sure. But don’t pretend that this is the only industry like that.
“Living in America, unfortunately, we don’t own a lot. On another level, there are a lot of Black-owned salons, which brings me to my next point. It seemed like he picked all the mom-and-pop salons he could find. There are a lot of Black-owned salons that are upscale that don’t put weaves on layaway. Their clients can afford them.”
After combing through most of the flaws the “Good Hair,” Bogard found another one—the definition of good hair.
“Chris Rock made it seem like if hair is straight, it’s good hair,” Bogard said. “One of the things we teach in our salon is that if the hair is not healthy, it isn’t good hair. Good hair is healthy hair, whether it’s straight, kinky, curly or wavy.”
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a key note speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.