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Gabby Gets the Gold, and we Focus on her Hair?

Re-examining the concept of 'beauty'

Beauty is a fluid concept, a subjective idea, a perspective, an expression of… life! And beauty can come from many places—from what the eye beholds; from how a person expresses him or herself creatively, from a person’s character. Or even the degree to which a person moves you emotionally.

This is why I was very sad and disappointed to hear the conversations swirling around all of the social media networks regarding Gabby Douglas— a 16-year-old Black girl from Virginia that achieved Olympic Gold and inspired millions of other young girls around the world—and the problem some in the African-American community had with... her hair.

Thankfully, most of the conversations were positive-- about what an inspiring role model she was. But what disturbed me was the small yet relentless handfull of tweeters who could do nothing but complain about her “un-combed and nappy hair.”

Rather than celebrating this very talented and limber gymnast for her huge accomplishments, her hair overshadowed history-in-the-making.

My question is, Why is this a topic of discussion?

Have we become so engulfed in external imagery that we have lost focus on what is most important, which is hard work, discipline and achievement? Or better yet, why is natural or kinky hair still such a shock to some people? For her to be successful, must she buy into changing her look just to be accepted by society?

My answer is absolutely not.

Once again, the idea of “not accepting yourself as you are” is being reinforced to our young, African-American women. The media does a good enough job at these depictions. But must other African-American women add fuel to the fire?

I read one post where a thirty-something African-American woman stated that first impressions were important and that Gabby did not represent us well.

..So reality shows with African-American women fighting and swearing on national television is a quintessential example of who we are?

Young Gabby is an athlete, not a supermodel. She has to run, jump and flip all over the place. With that comes sweat. I am sure the last thing she is thinking about is keeping her hair in tact. And if anyone expects her to be picture-perfect just to appease him or her, get over it.

Whether a person’s hair is kinky, straight, or curly, what we should want for everyone is to see them succeed and grow into the best person possible: That’s the true origin of beauty.

So regardless of what you or anyone may think about little Miss Gabby Douglas, she is developing an Olympic-sized character that makes her beautiful beyond measure. And even better, like her hair, that character (and beauty) is still growing!

Jane Powell August 05, 2012 at 07:43 PM
If we cannot uplift, the least we can do is not tear down.
richard August 05, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Our priotities need not be so focused on outward appearance but more with personal accomplishments and communal contributions...For that is what in the end makes us beautiful..
MissPriss August 05, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Jessica, you win the gold with this article. We must learn to be more accepting of each other, allow for differences, respect one another.
Patrick Murphy August 06, 2012 at 10:40 AM
This is the dumbest conversation of all time. Patch should be a shame of itself for publishing trash.If a person of color wrote this article they should re-examine their culture. This is why Americans don't trust the media! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evCvHSZEz0o
Cher Curiel August 06, 2012 at 01:16 PM
We all must stop being so petty and ridiculous talking about hair! There are bigger issues in the world than hair.
C. Zawadi Morris August 06, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Yes, the fact this Olympian's hair was even a conversation is pretty unfortunate, which is precisely what the author is pointing out. And there are certainly bigger issues in the world. But this is a beauty column. Skin care, makeup, diet, hair care all fall into the category of beauty, not world news.
Shaun August 06, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Large numbers of Africa American women have been taught to hate their natural hair, and in some cases their skin tone. This is just more evidence.
Cher Curiel August 08, 2012 at 04:05 PM
Obviously, we will not find world news in a beauty column, however, the way a person styles their hair should not be something that is discussed, to me, that would be like someone discussing my choice in lipstick. It is my choice! Kudos to Gabby for not feeling like she has to buy some hair to compete in a sporting event.

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