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So, all of this hoopla over the hairdo of 16 year-old Olympic gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas this past week was pretty pathetic.


All this hoopla about Gabby’s hair instead of her incredible and historic gymnastic accomplishments on the world stage…pathetic.


That said, there were some interesting threads (no pun intended) that came out of  “Hair-Gate 2012” like how some black folks took it as an opportunity for a more productive discussion on the impact our hairdos have on our health.


In particular, sports reporter Jason Whitlock and former Olympic gymnast Dominique Dawes talked about how some black women’s obsession with hair plays a significant role in making us unhealthy and obese.


Dawes, who went natural last year, spoke to how many sisters forego healthy routines like exercise and swimming over concerns of ‘messin’ up our hair…’ especially after paying to get it lookin’ right… (I can just hear the Amen chorus from the sisters right about now.)


In fact, there were a couple of surveys done, one by Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in N.C., reporting that a third of African-American women studied admitted they exercise less because of the potential harm to their hairstyles.


Let me put this another way. 33 percent of the women asked said they are more concerned about the harm that could come to their hairdo from working out than they are about the harm that can come to their health from not working out.

So we may die from a stroke or complications from diabetes but, man, our ‘do is sure gonna look tight at the wake. Folks are gonna be talkin’ about it for days after we’re six feet under, calling our survivors to ask who our stylist was.


Hopefully, you get the point. We have to recognize the difference between vanity and insanity and not keeping ourselves healthy because of a hairstyle is, yes, insane.


Not to mention that when you exercise, you look and feel better.


And it’s not just about us. We have families who love us, depend on us, and want us here living a functional, productive and healthy life.


So no matter how you style your hair, commit yourself to staying healthy. For those looking for tips on maintaining a healthy lifestyle and hairstyle, Harvard University actually produced a pamphlet called "Hair Care Tips for Sisters on the Move."


You can get it at my Facebook page.


I’ll leave you with this from blogger and running coach, Monisha Randolph: “Some of us are sitting up right now with our hair done but suffering from high blood pressure, borderline diabetes, obesity, and a lack of energy. I don’t know Gabby Douglas personally. However, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that she considers her health and fitness level to be a little more important than her hair staying in place.”


Until next time, this is Stephanie in love and hope.


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4 thoughts on “Hairy Health?

  1. Farrah Gafford on said:

    I think this is an important discussion in our community. We are in trouble when it comes to health. However, I think we should be very very careful (in light of all the stereotypes that are out there ) not to boil this down to HAIR!!! Access is an issue. I am fortunate and blessed enough to pay for a gym membership. A working mother of three might not have the same luxury. Also, I want to remind everyone that hair is not just an issue of vanity. When we go into our workplaces we are judged (often unfairly) on our appearance. I wish I had a dollar for every time a white person asked me a question about my hair or about black hair. It is difficult for me to leave the gym and stand in front of 40 students (who are looking for a role model) and wear a slicked back ponytail but ….I have to do what I have to do!!! But it took me a long time to get to this point. Black women do not want to be perceived as “ghetto” or “lacking class” and that is why appearance has become so important.

    My final point again…let’s be careful and widen this discussion to address “structural” barriers to good health for ALL (not just black women). I promise you this is not just a hair issue. It’s bigger than that.


  2. I remember my grandparents always saying oh, she’s such a pretty baby she has that good straight hair she must have some indian in her so pretty. Genesis of the mess.

  3. grayd0307 on said:

    Well said Stephanie. I also read Monisha’s column and found it to be very inspirational. As for me, I’m a career woman with a husband and daughter, who finds time (in early mornings) to exercise for 35-45 minutes at least 4 times a week. I’ll also note that I have 14 – 22 inch long natural locs, & it takes me about 15 seconds to pull my hair up, back & out of the way while I workout. Later, after my shower & all, I take it down, spray on a quick moisturizer, then a sheen spray, quickly style it & go; – all of about FIVE minutes. No hassle at all!

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