by Dr. Boyce Watkins
Like the rest of America, I was overwhelmed with excitement about the achievements of the great Gabby Douglas. Douglas has set the world on fire, and broken records in the process. I was especially inspired after finding out about the sacrifices Gabby’s mother made in order for her to be successful. As the first black woman to secure the all-around gold medal in Olympic gymnastics, she has inspired people around the world for generations to come.
That’s when the small-minded haters come in.
The latest conversation tearing up the Twitterverse is the talk about Gabby’s hair. Some women are taking issue with Gabby’s pony tail, pins and gel needed to hold her hair together during stressful performances. I guess being the greatest gymnast on earth doesn’t mean anything if “yo weave ain’t tight” in the process.
Allison Samuels at The Daily Beast discusses the issue in detail.
“I love how she’s doing her thing and winning,’’ says 22-year-old Latisha Jenkins of Detroit told The Daily Beast. “But I just hate the way her hair looks with all those pins and gel. I wish someone could have helped her make it look better since she’s being seen all over the world. She representing for black women everywhere.’’
Also, celebrity hairstylist Larry Simms also chimed in on the conversation.
“It’s taboo culturally to be seen in public with a kinky hairline and your ponytail is straight,” he said. “The textures don’t match her own hair and the added-on hair and that’s a problem. I think black girls in particular view her as a representation of themselves for the world to see. She just needs some Smooth and Shine gel and she’d be OK.’’
First off, we must make it clear that most of us are not so ignorant as to reduce one of the greatest performances in the history of sport down to how well the performer is “styling and profiling” on the sidelines. Most African Americans were inspired by Gabby’s performance, and not in the least bit distracted over non-sense about her hair.
Secondly, for those who are tempted to erode the self-confidence of a shining superstar who has overcome the odds, I only say shame-on-you. We apologize if Gabby was too busy training to spend her Saturdays with you sitting all day at the beauty shop.
Also, the black obesity/diabetes/heart disease problem can be directly traced to millions of women who won’t go to the gym because they are afraid of sweating out their hair. Sacrificing your health in order to keep your hair together only makes you look that much prettier at your funeral.
This sad and pathetic focus on style over substance certainly defines the weak, superficial value systems that have been adopted by too many of us today. The girl with the cute hair and Gucchi shoes often thinks that she’s better off than the little girl who knows how to work hard to make something out of herself. I argue that we should we all do what we can to put an end to such nonsense and squash these sad and worthless conversations before they even begin.
Gabby (who I refer to as “The Flying Princess,” since I hate the name “Flying Squirrel”) is nothing short of an American hero and she’s every bit as beautiful as the little girl who missed gymnastics class last Saturday because she spent the entire day at the salon “getting her hurr did.” Beauty is more than scalp deep, and our kids need to understand this message clearly.