Have you noticed lately that whenever you see a TV commercial or magazine ad with a black woman, she is rocking some gorgeous “texture?” It’s like these companies came right over to a NY Essence natural hair shoot, and said “can we borrow that model to make our commercial pop, because we need some of that texture swag!”
Whether it’s a national ad to influence people to grab a bite of a McDonald’s “Quick Pick 2”, test drive a Ford Fusion, or ask Flo for a better car insurance rate with Progressive – many billion dollar brands are tapping into the natural hair movement imagery of texture. Corporate America marketing execs are going crazy over securing that “natural hair girl with that natural hair curl.” The big question is why?
THE TEXTURE SAUCE EFFECT
Successful brands must stay hot and relevant, and few movements represent these qualities more than the natural hair movement. Natural texture for black women was just a fro back in the day, but we literally invented a new styling of texture through a regimen of creating variations of coils and spirals that are truly groundbreaking. All the curling and twisting, combined with the putty and moisture to create these patterns is a phenomenon in of itself.
The Texture crush is hot and everywhere! So to keep up, these brands must “keep texture” in their imaging. For one of the first times in our society, there’s a distinct natural texture look on black women that seems attractive to all races. The loose curl on a naturalista makes the black man and Italian man want to holla! The silkiness and sauce of this texture and unique curl pattern has placed us on an even higher aesthetic pedestal for exotic beauty on the world stage.
BIGGER IS BETTER
Texture styling is also a new expression of long hair. Most women in mainstream ads have long hair, because we’ve been programmed since the beginning of time to associate a woman’s beauty with her hair length. The traditional image and messaging has always been “bigger hair is better hair.” The silkiness and fullness achieved with our new natural texturelooks have become their own form of programmed fascination. This distinct voluminous look is what mainstream brands are using to create captivating visuals of beauty that connect.
MONEY IN THE MIDDLE
Just like Monie Love’s throwback 90s hit “Monie in the Middle,” there is “money in the middle.” We’re seeing a distinctly loose and curly texture style that’s in high demand. This style achieves a “sweet spot” look for a successful execution of imaging and messaging via this “middle of the road” texture. Its mainstream appealing, drives big sales, and delivers a symbolic message of diversity. The messaging for these billion dollar brands is “hey we’re inclusive to all…and definitely not racist.”
Since these brands aren’t ready to go all the way to the motherland with our most ethnic beloved hairstyles worn in our community, they’ve embraced this new middle of the road texture look. You see it everywhere. That distinct loopy curly girl “Traci Ellis Ross” look. It’s working and making a lot of money!
BROWNING OF AMERICA & “THE NEW CURL NORMAL”
This newfound texture crave and greater prominence of refined curls in mainstream ads is also due to the “Browning of America.” There is a growing demographic trend of mixed couples and families. According to a study by the PEW Research Center, in 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority. So the “mixed chicks” texture curl pattern will eventually become the new curl normal. At some point, it’s going to be weird to see someone with straight hair, because it’s so much mixing of ethnicities going on. Marketers tap into this “new curl normal” to cover broader grounds, in projecting the most identifiable images to connect to.
THE RIGHT & WRONG WAYS FOR BRANDS TO USE TEXTURE
Since mainstream America has bought into a certain type of texture curl look, which to be honest is more texturized and less course, there are some Do’s & Don’ts for these brands to follow in giving us the proper #respek.
Invest in Black Female Beauty Professionals: Recognize our texture is different, and make sure someone has that expertise to style texture hair right. Invest in those within our culture – that understand our culture, our hair, and how to style it to execute an authentic and dope style that also meets the expectations of the brand.
Understand the 360 degree range of Black Texture & Beauty: There’s still beauty in a black woman’s “own natural hair texture,” that doesn’t quite naturally curl like the texture styles fully embraced. Thus, make a conscious effort to not contribute to the “good hair vs bad hair” stereotype.
Miscommunicate & Lie:
Magazines like Grazia UK can’t crop out the ponytail Lupita wore during the shoot, and put an altered version of her intended texture style on their cover. They changed her entire hairstyle, not with a natural hairstylist, but with a graphic designer using Photoshop – after the shoot.
This lack of transparency showed they were too intimidated to tell her they wanted a different “distinct ethnic look” that matched her traditional image. This is unacceptable!
When I styled Issa Rae for Vogue, she came on the set with braids she had in for 3 days. It was requested that she give the look her fan base most connected to on Insecure. When I professionally communicated this to Issa, she totally understood and we were all “Hella Good!”
Transparency in communication is everything, and to operate deviously without it is #disrespek.
Disconnect the Texture: You can’t do any and everything with texture. One ad I saw had a black natural lady looking like she rolled right out of the bed. Her hair was way off in comparison to the other ladies of different ethnicities in the ad. You must always achieve a polished look with a continuity of style. Don’t have natural hair on top and then loose hair extensions (which should’ve been addressed initially with Lupita, because her ponytail did not provide the right continuity either).
If the goal is to deliver a truly inclusive advertisement, brands must ensure they reflect a diversity of refinement & beauty with an ad using texture to achieve a great look. Brands must also be conscious of our tendency to idealize certain textures, and continue to explore the various styles of natural hair that are still beautiful and connect with us all.