I can’t wait to see how you curly girls weigh in on this one!
M. Samples writes:
I know you sometimes ask for topics for discussion and I had one that just came to mind while watching TV and doing some reading for a graduate class:
It seems to me, that a lot of TV ads that feature black people use black models/actors with natural hair. I think it’s overwhelmingly so to the point where I was surprised to see a black woman with permed hair in a Special K commercial. Why do you (and fellow readers) think that is? I’m wondering who does the casting and how they pick these black models/actors? Also, who decides that they represent the beauty ideal that the rest of us (and even the permies) will identify with?
Keep in mind that I’m very happy to see natural hair represented in these commercials. Was just wondering whether anyone else has noticed this trend too…
Thought provoking, huh?! What do you think?
As an african-american actress with permed hair, I was constantly told that I wasn't "urban enough" to represent in commercials. So first I rocked a curly hair wig for my headshots and started getting auditions like crazy. Now I'm fully natural, but everyonce in a while depending on the part I straighten my hair out…actually I rock a straight hair wig now.
The commercials feature models with natural hair because it's pretty!
This is really funny to me. Because I agree with the fact that white people are fascinated by our natural hair. I get sooo many compliments. In fact my boyfriend is a white male and when I told him I wanted to bc he practically jumped for joy which is a very different response that was given to me from black male friends of mine, who thought it would be a disaster…. HMMMMM
I am also a late comer to this topic but here it goes. I have noticed natural hair textured men, women, and children more and more in todays tv ads. My mother and I have mixed views about it. She loves it, especially when there is a darker skinned AA in the ad with a natural and I could care less about the complexion thing, but here is what ticks me off. I don't recall the product for the commercial but the AA guy who was cast for the commercial had an afro that looked like he just got out of bed, I mean his afro didn't even look styled at all and it looked all dried out & was smushed to one side giving the appearance of someone who just rolled out of bed or just didn't feel the need to style his hair. Come on! And this isn't the first time I have seen a natural haired AA hair styled just totally jacked. I saw another ad with a cute AA girl and her afro was dried out with no style to it, no barretts, bows or anything in it and meanwhile the white girls in the commercial with her had on pretty headbands and barretts, like the little AA girl's hair couldn't be bothered with pretty girly accessories. It seems to me that the ads I see which show AA with natural hair, purposely shows their hair with seemly no style at all to it, giving them the appearance of sloppiness or someone just waking up and not caring enough to comb their hair. I'm all for natural styles and afros (And I'm not saying the AA cast in ads need to wear a perfect afro or blowout, no I'm not saying that) but the entire ad set up, from the stylists to the producers of the commercial can do better than that. And its always the AA person wearing the afro hairstyle thats just unbelievably jacked up like AA natural people don't comb or finger style their afros. I agree with the person who commented and said that the ad people cast the AA natural so that there will be an obvious difference between blacks and whites! I'm not saying that they should have cast a relaxed hair AA but it just seems to me they went out of their way to accentuate the so called negative aspects of our hair as viewed by society.
I'm pretty late to this conversation, but I just had to add my two cents about some of the comments. I'm getting a little irked by us constantly separating ourselves based on our skin tone. The common excuse is that "white america" does it, but I'm not seeing it as much in that demographic as much as our own. If anything, I'm seeing darker skinned ppl being embraced more heavily than ever (which is excellent) but yet, no one seems to be acknowledging this trend. Just remember, whether or not a person accepts your look, to most people black is black…and for those who are biased, the one drop rule will always apply.
I'm glad you revisited this topic. I've noticed all of the above and in addition my black or brown co-workers will wear weaves to simulate natural hair but say things like my head is too big to go natural or i wish i had the face for natural hair when it comes to actually taking the journey.
I would hate to sound like the bad person on here but the main models used with natural hair have the FINER and LOOSER CURL pattern hair. What makes natural hair unique is that it varies in textures and curl patterns. Unfortunately the representation is lacking. Most AA do not have finer hair which is probably why most feel as if going natural is too hard to manage since they cannot achieve a sleek mound of curls that "pop". I want to see a better representation of all kinds of natural hair.
i'm sure in all the comments, someone has already said what i'm about to say, but i've noticed that for years. the black models/actresses that get the parts are 9 times out of 10, naturals. the average white media director is not going to pick a "video chic" to star in their commercial, show, etc. because the whole point of chosing a black female is because you want your audience to recognize this very visible difference from the norm. they do not want a black woman with features/hair indistinguishable from a white women, because if they wanted a white woman, they'd just get a white woman. as golden ma'at on youtube said, "a black woman is never going to be a better white woman, than a WHITE woman." i'm actually excited about that, though i do thing it's sometimes a tactic to "appeal" to a certain audience…then again, all media is.
I wear my 4a/4b hair natural, and I also have been working as a film/video editor cutting commercials for the past 11 years. I've worked on everything from L'Oreal to JCPenney, and I think have aunique perspective on this. First off, most of the "natural" hair you see in mainstream advertising is NOT natural, it's a natural STYLE. Meaning most of the women are sporting curly weaves, pieces, or silkeners and believe it or not wigs! Because our natural hair is so varied, stylists just don't have the time to experiment with the hair on the set. Second, the ones that are sporting their own natural hair are mixed. That's because it's cheaper for an advertiser to cast someone who looks black-white-hispanic-asian, because then their product will reach across more markets. Also, Obama has now made it REALLY popular to be mixed, especially the european/african combination. The "natural" look is also associated with being "green" as well as youthful (those are the college kids that voted for him). I have cut mainstream commercials where if someone has to get cut out,(for any number of reasons) it's the darker sister who is unmistakably black that will be "left on the cutting room floor". The more "real" looking sistahs are in "target-market" commercials usually targeted to a black audience, but the above comments are correct, usually it's the sexy diva, or video vixen that has the long flaxen weave. The only real exceptions to the previous rules are really Ikea and Target (and Beyonce canbasically do whatever she wants). I used to wear my hair in a very short, easy to manage "Caesar" (a la Zhane). And as creative as my job is, (I can basically go to work looking like a cast member of "Rent"), I still get more compliments when I wear a twistout or a twist 'n curl(thank you Nikki!) or afro, than when I wear a braided/cornrowed/flat twisted style. I have DEFINITELY caught more flack from black folks than from other races. Me and my husband's family are BOTH from the islands, and I've caught more flack from THEM and other black folks than anyone else.
@strandz o fab, i completely agree with your comment. showing Black women with natural hair is another way to express we are not society's ideal. in a society that praises long straight hair, our naps are outside the norm. the twist was they(advertisers)found a way to make us the other, and we took it and found it affirming.
I have always had natural hair…it suits me just fine. Over the years people have come up to me and told me that I have bad hair, I have been talked about because of my natural hair. But it has never fazed me. I think that my natural hair is me, it just gives me my look. I see the commercials these days with the natural hair and whether it's to give the appearance of 'differentness' or not. It's just really good to see me on tv for a change. But funnily enough, I really don't care who says what, my natural hair stays all others who think it needs to be str8 must leave. (wink)
I have to agree with those who say that while there may be more naturals in the media, most of them are lighter-skinned and/or have loosely-textured hair. And in that respect things haven't changed at all because when Madison Avenue looks for black, it has always preferred "black but not too black."
Sorry, but that's the truth…and anyone offended by that should examine how white privilege benefits THEM…because you don't have to be completely white to benefit from white privilege.
I am thankful that I've reached an age where I can really love myself for me because if I were 18 today and seeing how dark-skinned nappy-headed black women were basically being left out in the cold (largely by THEIR OWN PEOPLE) I'd really have issues with my self-esteem. Fortunately, again, I'm at a point where I don't need the media to validate me or my choices…especially a media that's ALWAYS been anti-black.
I am wondering if this trend isn't only about following the street…
More and more black girls are going natural… I can see them at the mall, at the square, evreywhere I look… So maybe it's just reflecting a change in the society (I hope so…)
most of these women also have 3a/3b hair. or that "texturized" look. im not sure what this means, but i think it has something to do with looking "fresh" and natural while still being acceptable to a white audience. a permie may suggest that the woman fusses over her appearance. where in mcdonalds ads, for example, they want you to believe theyre making your life easier.
Wow! Lots of good comments here. I've noticed the uptick too in naturals on TV commericals before I went natural myself. However, I just had to comment on MzBush's quote, "This natural girl was reciting some spoken word about chicken nuggets or some crap. (sorry, I'm tired of us performing for chicken)" ROTFLMAO at that one- She is telling the truth, indeed!
I so noticed this too before going natural and it was such an interesting disconnect for me. Going to an HBCU and living in a large major city that had a majority AA population all I saw was permies. I thought, "Where are all this curly girls on TV coming from". I've read all the comments and I can't say what I think the real explanation is for it.
It was enlightening when afrikurl said the agency asked for it, why, who knows?
I also too think its interesting when some AA ppl get upset or make comments about why mainstream commercials only have naturals or CG's but at the same time I'm over opening up every magazine directed at AA women seeing nothing but permie/weave dominance. Diversity please!
It's crazy but I've immersed myself so much in the natural community over the last two years that this weekend when I watched the BET awards (for the 1st time in a long time) I was like wow- I was amazed by my new feelings of "wow, women still wear their hair like that?" meaning permed/straight/weaved.
Image is powerful and somewhere there is a disconnect.
The statement I most agree with in the above comments is we need to get rid of those Dr. Miracle commercials I'm soooo over them.
Love you girls!!
My daughter is a baby model. The agency requested that she wear an afro. All models should have something about them that makes them stand out. Some of the models have wide set eyes or the cutest little poutty mouth. We all know that a wonderful head of natural hair is captivating. That is exactly what clients love even though the Black community overall does not rock that look.
It's because in these commercials it's all about the rainbow.
They want one caucasian girl, one asian man, and one black girl.
It's all so their brand will seem "diverse" and "accessible."
Natural hair better depicts "blackness" than straight hair.
I am a long time lurker of this site & felt compelled to respond to this posting. I am a "permie" but admire & love natural hair. I too have noticed this trend. Overwhelmingly, the women with natural hair featured in TV & print ads fall in the lighter end of the brown spectrum. No matter the choice of hairstyle, I would like to see more shades of the spectrum represented.
I think it's awesome that they are doing the natural ladies thing because back in the 80's or whatever, everyone had a fresh perm and they used to advertise (still do) relaxers every second. I've been natural all my life (20) and I've never rocked my hair curly until this year and I'm happy I did b/c I have more freedom to do my hair and not worry about it as much. But I still feel that they cast too many light skinned and mixed girls in these ads, although I'm mixed and light skinned myself, I do not think this is fair and this is just some kinda generalization that light skin is beautiful and that most certainly is NOT TRUE! I would love to see more kinky sistas on TV, dark skin and all and not just one skin tone.
I've noticed too and love it. Even before transitioning or even thinking about it, I loved it. Either those in charge of casting are pleasantly surprised to see naturals b/c too many of "us" are walking around in permed hair and/or weave. Just a simple as that, to me. That, and their sick of it. lol. Or maybe that's just me. Oopz! Seriously though… In addition, Im sure they know and believe that true models and secure women are not afraid to be themselves. "Themselves" being the literal and thorough meaning of the word. It's refreshing to see. Shoot, yall might catch me in a commercial in a minute and I dont even model! hehe. Now, if we can just get rid of those stupid Dr. Miracle ads. ugh!
BTW, the girl in the picture is gorgeous! If I had her hair, I wouldn't know how to act 🙂
Hi, everyone! I've been reading this blog for several months, and this is my first post here.
I think on some level the explanation, at least one explanation, is quite simple. They surf the internet, too. They, like the rest of us, are aware of the mushrooming interest among African-descendent and multiethnic people in wearing our hear the texture God made it. I think it's a reflection of how quickly the trend is growing. In a sense, ads like these help spread the word to people who would not likely read blogs like this. I see it as affirmation.
Someone mentioned differences in the portrayal of sexy white women (blonde, straight hair) and the more approachable, family-oriented white woman (more textured, blunt-cut hair). Although I am African-descendent, I have albinism, so my natural color is a golden-blonde that tried to be strawberry until I helped it get there and beyond with regular applications of henna. Since then, I've also noticed that more of the white people in ads have red hair instead of blond. I love red hair, so I'm pleased, and quite a bit amused.
To me it seems to be a method of making black women, well the black race, overall appear as the OTHER. It is a way of maintaining those differences between black and white people. When a white person sees a black woman with her natural fro, it is a reason to characterize her as something/ someone not acceptable according to Western standards.
The Pine-Sol Lady!
I've noticed the trend for the last year or so, but what I've also noticed is that the casting tends to favor a specific type of natural AA woman. Most of the commercials, and there are exceptions of course, feature light-skinned or "mixed looking" (for lack of a better term) black women with 3 or 4a type curly hair. Less seen are darker or prominently afrocentric featured women or those with kinky/coily hair. Also, as someone above noted, those with relaxed or very kinky hair are sometimes marginalized as the "neck-rolling" type – the Bahamas tourism commercial with the AA young professional woman who had an island fling and her dramatic AA girlfriends, comes to mind.
I was wondering if the trend of naturals in commercial ads has anything to do with the 'going green' movement. We've been on a 'save the Earth' eco-friendly kick for a few years now and that's when you started to see the increase in coils on the screen. The first time I noticed it was a McDonald's commercial a while back. This natural girl was reciting some spoken word about chicken nuggets or some crap. (sorry, I'm tired of us performing for chicken) She was wearing green, the scenery in the commercial was green…and at the end of the commercial, she says 'Green!It's the new black'. Also, a lot of commercials with naturals in them are for products that contain lavender, jasmine…some kind of essential oil or Earthy product.
In the UK, this trend is even more marked than in America it seems. Here despite black people being only 1-2% of the population (about a million or so), about 25% of advertising seems to use black actors/models and these are overwhelming women with natural hair. It's very strange. Even stranger is the fact that we have a south asian population (from India and Pakistan originally) of about 7.5%, so more than 4 times the numbers of black people, who are almost invisible in TV and print advertising.
And don't get me started on the interacial couple themes in advertising over here…
I have noticed a couple of years ago! I do not know who is in charge of casting! but here is my take. I feel white people do not care what texture our hair is. My experience shows that they judge on skin color! I've had a black friend that is very fair skin, red hair, & blue eyes! We were in the bathroom at a very ritzy department store in New York City. I heard her talking to an older white woman while I was in the stall. I don't know how it happened but the older white women had my friend watch her purse while she used the bathroom. Once she came out and saw us interacting, her demeanor changed! (FYI, I am a very dark skin sister) She snatched her purse and bolted out of the bathroom!
The issue with hair texture is within our own race! We must love ourselves the way God made us! Times have changed, straight hair is no longer needed to survive like it did during slavery!
I pray that my comment was enlightening! Be blessed!
I've noticed this for about 5 or 6 yrs now. It's so funny because natural hair is so dominant in ads but it's the minority in real life. It used to seem odd to me back in the day when I relaxed, because most black women don't wear their hair that way.
I find that this happens in a lot of all-American adds that are geared towards whites & blacks & families like Target. I guess it makes black women look more relatable and natural.
I love it and I welcome the change. I also noticed over the last year or so that a lot of ads are featuring women with natural hair. I agree with other commenters that say that ads are using women with big/curl/afro hair because they look different, the look like real women, and they will catch your eye and help you to remember the brand/product.
I noticed this too and brought it up in a Race in America course I was taking last semester. I brought it up as an example of essentialism. Essentialism is the use of things like imagery and/or personality traits that are linked to race. It's used to create polarizing images. Commercials and other forms of media use these tools in ways that can be negative or positive. However, I will add that in America where socialization is everywhere (nothing is arbitrary and race is never not a factor) the popular use of African American women with natural hair styles is used to create a division between black features and white features. White America does not want people of color to imitate any features that could be mistaken for or seen as 'Caucasian' features. This is done to help preserve the idea that white is pure. When I say White America I don't mean all white people, I'm referring to White privilege and its unspoken dominance in America (its more than I can get into here).
I do think that since most people are not aware of this they will look at the very obvious effect this has on improving the acceptance of natural hair. But like many of the comments here, I think it only helps with those outside of the black community. In music videos long, straight hair (weaves) are synonymous with the sexy image they are trying to portray. But even that mindset comes from the socialization in America that long, straight hair (as seen on white women) is the only image that is sexy (a la mainstream magazines, movies, etc.).
Thankfully we have sites like curlynikki.com to help bolster positive self esteem and acceptance of natural features. Hopefully the word will spread and our world will change along with it.
Wow…thinking back to the commercial I have seen on t.v I totally agree with these comments.
OMG, Me and my sis noticed this like 4 months ago, there was a T-mobile, Verizon and another commercial that showed all natural AA women, and my sister was like 'have we caught on to something that most people seem miss.' I am calling her now to tell her we r not alone in our observations. It seems to be a growing trend, lets hope the rest of the folks catch on also.
It's funny because just two days ago my fiance and I was watching TV and a black woman in the commercial came up and she was rocking an afro and he says "how come the only black people in this commercial has an afro, like that's what black people look like". He said it like it was insulting to black women and my response to him was "actually, I get excited when I natural hair women on TV." It's sad that black people see black people with natural hair on tv as negative and I def do get more compliment from my white friends on my hair than my black friend. Very interestin! Rock on NAPPY GALS AND GUYS! :o)
I was surprised by that her message. I have felt that until recently, the models all had permed hair. I was happy to start seeing natural hair on black folks on T.V. I noticed that natural hair still isn't used on beauty & make up add but any exposures make me happy. I think they are just trying to show a different perspective of what black people can look like.
i think its wonderful and i have noticed this trend. i welcome it because it celebrates real black beauty. not that we arent beautiful with a perm or whateer style we choose..but our natural hair is curly, thick n lovely! Its nice to see that represented in the media.
The final say on who gets cast in a commercial goes not to the director, as is usually the case in film, or the show runner, as is the case in television. It's the ad agency working in conjunction with the client–the company selling the product. Often these are not Hollywood folks. They're looking for someone who is accessible. They want natural beauty—someone who says "regular gal". Oftentimes, a commercial casting call will explicitly state that agents need only submit "real women".
Now with theatrical work, ie. film and episodic, all bets are off. With these women, particularly those in leading lady roles (which are few and far between for African-Americans), relaxed hair tends to be the standard, and more often than not, weaves. Think of the black leading ladies (name actresses) who consistently work. Part of this, I believe, has to do with the fact that the people green lighting films and pilots tend to be white men in Hollywood, who, I believe, have a distinct, however flawed, image of what feminine beauty is.
The exception to this rule is with comedic actresses. These actresses, in film and television, are allowed to be natural, because it's not necessary that they fulfill any sexual ideal. Think Whoopie and Wanda Sykes.
I'd love to see the entertainment industry take a cue from the advertising world. Natural hair can be glamorous too.
Ive totally noticed this in the past year or so.
Many commercials/posters in stores show Black people, adults and children, with mainly "big" natural hair.
Im okay with this being the image of Black people today. I see it as making the switch from "Eurocentric America" to an originally unique, united America.
All of these comments are great. I have never thought of it this way but you all make an excellent point. Isn't it funny that we are so afraid of being "political" or "unprofessional" with our naturals to find out it is more acceptable in mainstream America? Go figure.
I've noticed this, but I think it looks like there are A LOT of naturals on commercials because they stand out to us. I love it, and I'm really happy to see this trend and the women with natural hair on the commercials are average women doing average things. They're not "the other" or "exotic." I hope they keep this up 🙂
i have noticed this also the past few years. i love it, i think they use naturals because they want to show that ppl who use the products are healthy in and out, and when u see a black women w/ healthy looking hair, curls, makes the products idk seem better
I agree with Kamika…while permed hair seems to have a stigma of "diva", natural hair has more of a "down to earth" appeal that companies beieve is better when trying to sell to the "average african american household".
It's kinda the same with white people. In videos and magazines they have long straight (mostly blonde) hair, but in TV commercials you get mostly the "mommy bob" or curly layers to appeal to "regular white people" ….hope that makes sense
Honestly, I have only paid attention since I started my journey…7 months or so, except for the long time Yoplait Yogurt commercial. It actually excites me that black women with natural hair are chosen for many commercials. Not sure if it sends subliminal messages to permies and others.
Like the others who commented, I get many compliments from white co-workers and white church members more so than blacks.
ITA with the above when it comes to caucasians even though our hair is different they cannot understand why we perm our hair and not wear it natural.I just had this conversation with my coworker today.I have noticed alot of natural styles on tv but i thought it was because i just noticed it more since i am natural now.Outside of the online community i got the most support from my white coworkers and one special sis who is natural.
I've been noticing this for the last 2 years or so. I too had to take a double-take when I finally saw a permie. I hate to say it but I think the permed black woman has wrongly become stigmatized and synonymous with women in music videos. Maybe it's just my perception but when I do see a permie in a commercial they are presented as somewhat hyper sexual and/or diva-like.
Call me biased but I think natural hair gives a women the look of youthfulness and brightness of face. Makes us look perkier and cute! Maybe that's what casting agents look for.
I've noticed this for years. Even before I became natural, I wondered why all of the black actors in commercials had natural hair. I think mp is correct….its exotic to them. I also have gotten many more compliments on my natural hair from my Caucasian coworkers than from my black ones.
I think the commercials are made to catch the eyes of Caucasians more so then permies. At work I get ALOT more compliments on my natural styles from my white co-workers than my black ones. Something about it intrigues them and they seem to find it exotic or something where most black see it as a hassle that is cute on others but too much work for them to achieve.