One of the country’s favorite liberal news websites has wasted little time jumping on the Natural Hair bandwagon. It was only a matter of time, considering the fact that they recently introduced a “Black Voices” section. This section includes all of the usual predictable banter – HIV rates, gay black men, and now, hair care (yawn).
A recent article, entitled YouTube’s Top 5 Natural Hair Care Vlogs, showcases 5 black women who have channels focused on natural (relaxer-free) hair care for black women. Like any and everything related to natural hair, this article has been emailed around and praised by many black women. While I was happy to see these women getting positive attention, which will inevitably increase the value of their individual brands, I get the sinking feeling that this is one more step towards the commercialization and, to some extent, exploitation, of the natural hair movement.
I won’t get into a detailed discussion of the individual women who were profiled. I have watched videos by all of them, and I am probably subscribed to all of them. I am curious about how they chose these particular women, considering the fact that there are other natural hair vloggers with more subscribers and page views, but nevertheless, these ladies were chosen. They all make pretty good videos and, if you’re interested, you should check them out.
I’ve been watching hair care videos on YouTube since 2008. I’ve seen at least several hundred of them. I’ve learned a thing or two here and there, but what I have found is that the way YouTube works, there is a continual need to provide new content in order to make money (yes, YouTube partners make money). At some point, there is only so much that one can say about hair. What happens is that, once a hair vlogger has covered her basic hair routine, along with a few hair tutorials, she has to look elsewhere to provide new content. She also usually begins receiving product endorsement deals. She will either endorse those products or start pushing her own product lines, neither of which actually contributed to her hair’s health and/or growth. Now, I’m not knocking capitalism. I’m just explaining how it works and why I’m careful about doting too much praise on hair vloggers. Many of the ones that are most highly praised are making a lot of money. Some who just as or more dedicated to healthy hair practices and not so into making money and “branding” themselves, get little to no credit for their contributions.
I would love to see the day when “natural hair” or “black hair” is not really a topic that needs to be discussed. I would love to see “black beauty” simply labeled “beauty.” It would be great if women didn’t get pushed into buying hair products they don’t need in order to support a YouTuber’s part time income. In the meantime, these ladies are helping (some) women gain insight on how to achieve healthy hair. I just hope that viewers don’t get too caught up in buying what these ladies are selling.