Why Black Women Forced Gabby Douglas & Michelle Obama To Get A Makeover

Gabby Douglas got a fantastic hair makeover this week from celebrity stylist Ted Gibson, who tamed her tresses with a middle-part and soft curls. Gabby tweeted her happiness with the transformation, and though, we’ve all agreed nothing is “wrong” with her hair, we’ll all be watching with glee as she continues her media appearances, likely looking increasingly more polished with each one. This is what happens when the unknown become known, we’ve seen it time and time again.

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I’ve mostly wanted to abstain from the great Gabby Douglas hair debate, firstly, because it’s stupid, and secondly, because I try not to write about things that everyone on the web is writing about unless I have a unique vantage point.  When it came to Gabby’s fly-aways, there just wasn’t much I felt I could add to the conversation–and then it hit me.

I’m from Chicago, born and raised. It’s a city that many fabulous, fantastic Black female icons call home, and we’re pretty intense about our hair. Conversations like, “When Andre started doing Oprah, he stopped doing my hair,” and “I go to Charles, you know he does Juanita Jordan?,” happen all the time. “Where does Desiree Rodgers go? Have you been to Van Cleef?” In Chicago, powerful women create powerful hair stylists, who attract more powerful women, and these become the masters of our manes. Why does this matter? Well because of one very famous Chicagoan who has become the most recognized and widely accepted cultural icon of Black womanhood today–Michelle Obama.

I know you may all want to forget this, but back in the days pre-White House, Michelle had a hair “issue” so to speak. That is to say, the beautiful, glossy, perfectly placed hair she sports regularly these days was not happening in her pre-FLOTUS days. In 2007 as Michell O. began to campaign more visibly alongside her husband, Black women of Chicago whispered, “who’s doing her hair?” And they weren’t saying that in a, “Because I want to go there too,” kind of way.