Introducing the first guest post ever on Natural Hair in the Media (NHM)!! After connecting with this writer at the Taliah Waajid World Natural Hair, Health, and Beauty Show in Atlanta this past April, I had to take her up on this idea for a guest blog post. Read below to see L. Canaday’s take on the black hair care industry, multicultural marketing/advertising, and economic influence.
The Picks and Pixels Report
By L. Canaday
At 36 years old, I’ve been natural for most of my life and have still managed to be late to the “Natural Hair Movement” party. It wasn’t until after the birth of my son a few years ago that I even cared to know what all the hoopla was about. Due to hormones, the bushels of hair I grew during pregnancy fell out. Call it instinct, but somehow I knew my go-to jar of Sulphur 8 was not a remedy. It was then that I turned to the online community to find out what to do next. After finding so many resources, I felt a twinge of guilt for not checking in sooner. But at least I knew I was in good company. The list of folks also playing catch up include: the black hair care industry, mainstream media, corporations, and old school grease and water miracles just like me.
Since 2007, the multibillion dollar black hair care industry has suffered as demand for relaxers has continued to decrease. Always looking for the next big opportunity, corporations have found a way to capitalize on this “trend” by following the yellow brick road to the source of this phenomenon. They discovered the same thing I did, which is that you, my new school natural friends, are extremely valuable.
Rest assured that all of the kinky coily women you see in commercials from Advil to McDonald’s are no accident. Many businesses are refining their brands and products to appeal to an increasingly multicultural audience. In the case of African-American’s, corporations have finally understood that blacks are not a “one size fits all” community. As consumers, our demographics have been analyzed and segmented so that every time an advertiser pays for airtime, they already know exactly who they are selling to.
According to Nielsen, black buying power will reach 1.1 trillion dollars by the year 2015. And guess who will decide how most of that money gets spent? That’s right, black women. Researchers know that sisters are earning higher salaries and wield the most influence over household purchases, making them the likeliest CFO of the family.
Corporate number crunchers have revealed that despite the recession, quite a bit of this money will continue to be spent on smelling good and looking fabulous. Like the rest of America, young people largely drive new trends and help to determine the next big thing. Luckily for many businesses, almost half of the black population is under the age of 35.
The good news for the natural hair community is that at least for now, afro picks and television pixels are in. My guess is that various corporations are counting on smart young women with natural hair, to buy hair products in droves at big box stores. They’re hoping that while you shop, you might remember the advertisements and buy their goods. Hey, and when this whole” natural thing” blows over, at least they will have cultivated a relationship with you, and perhaps earned your loyalty. I could be wrong, but hell, there are women who have been natural much longer than we have, and you don’t see anybody who looks like Florida Evans in those commercials do you?
Even if you’re an industry veteran trying to repackage Afro Sheen, or a natural newbie, most of us will agree that there is always something to learn about black hair and its value. After three decades as a naturalista, I am learning something new every day. But I have to admit that for many years I washed my hair with every sulfate you could fit in a shampoo bottle, and conditioned with stuff that cost less than 3 bucks. There was no oil rinsing, pre-pooing, co-washing, finger detangling, or blogs. Growing up, the only thing that got baggied besides jheri curls were egg and mayonnaise treatments. Still, I managed to be the little girl with the longest hair in the Easter play, and sported an enviable set of locks started with,(gasp), beeswax in my later years. To this day, my one and only natural hair hero is a 76 year old woman who fried my hair within an inch of its life and told me to never get a perm.
The new and elaborate hair routines online remind me of the biblical Esther who was pampered for an entire 12 months before being presented to the man who would make her queen. Six months of that involved special oils. Excessive? Maybe. Indulgent ? Definitely. But who deserves the royal treatment more than you do? Besides, you never know when you will have to be camera ready.
L. Canaday is a recent graduate of the Master of Professional Studies program at the University of Denver. She lives with her husband and son in Atlanta. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
L. Canaday raises some interesting points, including the representation of natural hair in commercials, the increased buying power of blacks (specifically, women), and the cultivation of relationships between consumers and corporations. Also of interest is her comparison between the pampering of Esher in the Bible and elaborate hair routines (or rituals?).
What’s your take on it?
1. Do DIY natural women and men spend too much time on their hair?
2. Is there such a thing as “too much time”? In responding to this question, ask yourself: how much time do I spend on my natural hair each week?
3. What motivates you to buy a product in the store? How important is a commercial or advertisement?