A photo of Michelle Obama rockin’ her hair natural popped up on Twitter this week, unleashing lots of applause — and shrugs from people who don’t understand why anyone wants to talk about her hair.
The chatter started with this tweet.
“That picture is recent!” Obama’s hair stylist, Johnny Wright, confirms to Refinery 29’s Khalea Underwood.
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“She just got back from vacation, I think, on Friday. I’m not sure if it was her going to the airport or coming back. But that is her, and it is recent.”
Wright, who did not join FLOTUS on her getaway, said her hair was blown straight before she left.
“I guess she got in the water or something, and she didn’t feel like straightening it herself,” he said. “People want a more sexy answer, but that’s really what it is. I’m not with her.”
The photo was breaking news in style circles. People couldn’t easily recall the last time they saw Obama wearing her hair natural — or whether she ever had while she was in the White House.
Many wished they had seen it that way more often.
“Throughout the eight years of her husband’s presidency, Michelle Obama wore her hair relaxed, straightened and blown out as First Lady,” Elle magazine pointed out.
“We’ve seen her sport the pin-straight lob, the pulled-back updos and wavy tresses, but we’ve never seen her hair in its natural state.”
Seeing her hair natural, Underwood argues, is important at a time when workplaces ban dreadlocks and black women are often mocked for their hair. She and others responded to the photo with discussions, many based on personal experiences, about why black women often feel they have to wear their hair a certain way to be respected.
Others, though, are angry that this conversation is even happening at all.
After that photo surfaced, Danielle DeCourcey, a staff writer at ATTN:, did a Google image search of “unprofessional hair,” and most of the photos that popped up were of black women with natural hairstyles.
When she Googled “professional hairstyles,” the overwhelming results were photos of white women with straight hair.
“I do think that a woman of her complexion, with her figure and her hair texture, has given a whole lot of other women a chance to look in the mirror and say ‘I am beautiful, too’ because I have somebody representing me,” Wright said.
“Her husband was the leader of the free world. She represented this country very well, and her platform was pure and from the heart. Having this conversation about her hair texture is totally justifiable.”
Wright said Obama’s hair has been natural the last seven years — “I stopped doing her relaxer the first year of the administration” — and she’s always embraced it.
She simply preferred wearing it straight, he said, and that had nothing to do with her trying to avoid the curls, or criticism.