More Than Just Hair Talk: The Kinks, Curls AND Dueling Feminisms in YouTube’s Natural Hair Community

Open Access
Author:
Brown, Brittany Nicole
Graduate Program:
Media Studies
Degree:
Master of Arts
Document Type:
Master Thesis
Date of Defense:
March 18, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Michelle Rodino Colocino, Thesis Advisor
Keywords:
  • natural hair
  • YouTube
  • Black hair
  • Black feminism
  • postfeminism
  • natural hair community
  • YouTube community
Abstract:
Naptural85, BeautfulBrwnBabyDol, MyNaturalSistas, MahoganyCurls, HairCrush; these are five of just a few of the thousands of Black natural hair channels on YouTube. Self-professed natural hair gurus, these curly-haired experts have impressive Black female fan bases that range from 10,000 to 400,000 subscribers. With tag lines like, “Natural hair with flair,” “Simple. Natural. Hair care,” and “Natural Hair, Health, Beauty, and Fashion Tutorials with a Sprinkle of Love here and there,” vlog channels like these have created spaces for millions of Black women to discuss views and tips about the grooming practice of natural hair. By examining how the meaning of wearing natural hair is represented in YouTube’s natural hair community, this research identifies ways that Black women’s self-value and its connection to ideas of hair have evolved. I argue that the current natural hair movement as it is represented in YouTube’s natural hair community sits at the intersection of Black feminism and postfeminism. These coinciding feminisms create discourses in the community that are highly contradictory. Values continuously teeter between acceptance verses judgment, loving one’s authentic Black hair versus having hair envy and empowerment versus disempowerment. The complex inconsistencies and surprising collaborations of Black feminist and postfeminist discourses in YouTube’s natural hair community help shape the kinks and curls of how African American women grapple with ideas of Black beauty and its connection to hair aesthetics.