A group of 20 nine and 10-year-old African-American girls at Chicago’s Dewey Elementary Academy of Fine Arts agreed that a woman with short, kinky hair wasn’t beautiful – until Ladon Brumfield, the director of a project empowering young girls, passed around a photo of Lupita Nyong’o.
The girls fell silent. And then again, their answer was unanimous but completely different from their original response: Nyong’o is beautiful.
“It’s like they had to make a mental readjustment,” says Brumfield, founder of Girls Rule! “This was in conflict with the overwhelming imagery they receive from the media about having to have long hair.”
But perhaps media can help shape the image that short hair is beautiful, too.
Dawn Turner Trice, reporter for the Chicago Tribune, writes:
But now, thanks in part to Nyong’o, it’s the TWA, or teenie-weenie Afro, that’s getting a second look and expanding notions of beauty into territory where it really hasn’t taken root before – the larger culture.
But can we give all due credit to Nyong’o?
Turner Trice does recognize that celebs like Viola Davis, Danai Gurira, Alek Wek, and Grace Jones have worn super-short naturals. But she explains that Nyong’o is a special case because she’s accepted as “both media darling and graceful beauty” outside the black community. A prime example is her new contract with Lancome.
Co-founder of the Kiss My Curls blog, Candace Peterson, hopes Nyong’o will inspire girls to love their hair length and texture and carry themselves with poise.
“Lupita’s look is something I’d never seen before [as a standard of beauty] in Hollywood,” Peterson says. “Maybe I’m an optimist, but I hope she represents a shift. You never know what will make a difference in a child’s life. Maybe by seeing someone who looks like her, she can feel more self-assured and brave.”
Clutchettes, do you think Lupita can shift society’s view of beauty?