Curly Nikki, White Women and the Need for All-Black Spaces

NATURAL HAIR

About two days ago, the Black webosphere was lit ablaze with controversy when popular hair blogging website, Curly Nikki, featured a white woman, Sarah, to discuss her own “hair journey.” In a tale that is becoming as old as time, once again a space that was deemed safe for Black women became infiltrated with a white presence. In a post captioned with “There’s something very freeing about accepting your natural hair” *insert eye roll here*, the blog detailed an interview with Sarah that discussed her hair journey (she didn’t bog chop, she merely started wearing her hair down. *insert second eye roll*) and love of products – just as they have their previous Black subjects.


It seemed that just as the post was published twitter timelines and Facebook newsfeeds began criticizing and holding Curly Nikki accountable for attempting to bring inclusion into a space that didn’t need it. The natural hair movement, as it is called, is solely for Black women. Being that our features, most pronouncedly our hair, have always been ridiculed and deemed the exception rather than the rule when it comes to beauty, it was and still is a powerful thing for a Black woman to proudly wear her tresses as they naturally are and proclaim just as beautiful as what adorns the heads of non-Black women. Within the community the stories of being teased, of feeling ugly and inadequate are unfortunately heard continually. Natural hair blogs and vlogs allowed Black women to unite and network, from one another, heal from past hurts and face present insecurities head on without the prying and judging eyes of the world outside. Well, that is what we thought was happening…

As the story gained momentum, the investigative detectives of the web set out to find more information about what TEXTURE MEDIAwas happening behind the scenes at Curly Nikki. It did not help that little over a year ago, this very same site came under fire for featuring a story on famous naturalista, Tracee Ellis Ross, that came across as more of a plug for the haircare line, Optimum. Long time readers such as I knew that the blog had to have sponsors and advertisements due to it’s growth over the last couple of years, but nothing could prepare us for learning that the website which was initially started and run by Nikki Watson was and still is officially owned by Textured Media.

Textured Media is a conglomerate specializing in “curls”, with sites that include Naturally Curly. Although Naturally Curly features content for women of all races and ethnicities, it’s parent company is ran solely by white women with investors that include brands like Paul Mitchell. So, in a nutshell Nikki Watson is no longer the creative head of the Curly Nikki brand, but more so the face of the site (since 2007).

So, with this information in hand it really can’t be seen as a surprise that Curly Nikki would now incorporate white women into it’s canon of stories of natural hair experiences. The issue that now arises within this revelation is how do we keep Black spaces for Black people. It is paramount as a people to have places offline as well as online that allow us to participate in actions that constitute our humanity without feeling the need to perform for anyone outside of our community. In short, we need spaces that allow us to take our hair down (pun intended). We need to make sure that Black spaces remain operated by and for Black people, especially when the target demographic is Black women.

What happens when white infiltration occurs in these spaces is that Black experiences get pushed into the background while white ones slip easily into the foreground. The “me-too” hymn starts up strongly by the white choir that is now positioned at center-stage as they aim to “assure” us that there is nothing special or unique about our Black narratives as they too have been through something similar. What we know and feel as rightfully ours becomes appropriated and lost to us.

My relationship with the Curly Nikki brand has come to an end. I cannot and will not support a platform that is for Black women solely by appearance. There are those who find nothing wrong with Sarah’s feature, and who will maintain that the natural hair movement cannot be for Black women alone. Obviously, I disagree. A quick google search alone will let any curious mind know that the term has and still refers to a movement of Black women shunning straightening procedures in the majority of their hair regimens. Everyone is entitled to feel as they do regarding this news, and I hope that those who feel as strongly as I will join me in supporting and creating platforms that seek to remain planted firmly in our community of sisterhood.

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Valerie Charles is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She blogs at GirlAboutBk.wordpress.com. You can follow her on twitter @Vivaciously_Val.

24 Comments

  1. “What we know and feel as rightfully ours becomes appropriated and lost to us.” Well stated!

  2. I can’t believe it but then again why should I be surprised?

  3. Brown Sista, thanks for informing me about this information. I recently just started to support Curly Nikki two months ago but now just reading your article it has change my whole prospective about Curly Nikki. Curly Nikki you will longer get my support. I have seen this same situation of other natural hair websites & products that were started by black women and cater too black women now are bringing non black women into the program. I agree with everything you stated “Being that our features, most pronouncedly our hair, have always been ridiculed and deemed the exception rather than the rule when it comes to beauty, it was and still is a powerful thing for a Black woman to proudly wear her tresses as they naturally are and proclaim just as beautiful as what adorns the heads of non-Black women. Within the community the stories of being teased, of feeling ugly and inadequate are unfortunately heard continually. Natural hair blogs and vlogs allowed Black women to unite and network, from one another, heal from past hurts and face present insecurities head on without the prying and judging eyes of the world outside.”
    I’m highly upset over this but I’m about to state my opinions if anyone likes it not. Every time black people try to build anything we sell out to others races by allowing them to come in, once you allow them to come in everything else will fall down hill. You will never see another race cater to other races like we black Africans do. The only time when you do see a non black Africans catering to black Africans is when the color green the color of money is involve. We as black Africans don’t think about race first because we have been condition to long to cater to everyone else but our own. This might offend some people but I don’t care, I don’t want to hear about a non black women discussing about her hair journey especially when it’s a website that is cater to black women which suppose to be run by black women. What would this white women hair journey have to do with anything compare to what black women especially if she’s light or dark skin have gone through for years for not having the right skin color, facial features, or hair texture. What’s even worse all the divide & conquer we put each other through.

    But when we get down to the real root of the problem is White Supremacy because this is what causes all of the self hate black Africans have endure about themselves. Black Africans are physically free but our minds are still mentally in chains. Post traumatic slave syndrome has really effected our people which has been passed on too many generations. Still to this day black Africans around the diaspora haven’t made a full recovery from post traumatic slave syndrome. Sarah can go straight to hell as well as her hair journey because her people ( Europeans) were the main ones doing the help of raping and torturing our black ancestors as well as teaching them to hate one another. Sarah has never endure seeing images of her race made out of racist paraphernalia degrading their color, facial features, hair and etc. like the black Africans around the diaspora has witness on a national level. Sarah has never have to physically change her hair texture from its natural state in order to keep a job or get hire for one are better yet question her skin color.

    Sarah is nothing more then a culture bandit her European race has been know for coming into black African culture and stealing from us. Yes, we as black women started the natural hair movement but when other races can find a way to get in to profit off of it they will. We need to start calling out these black women who are selling out to these other races. We seen what happen to Carol’s Daughter is a prime example.

    P.S. don’t be surprise when you see a non black woman walking around with a AFRO’S getting all types of credit & recognition for it because I see it coming. They have already did it with BRAIDS.

  4. Also just by the company name Textured Media which is cater to curly hair textures is another gateway to letting them in.

  5. Wow, they trying to be slick, eh. Yes, Shanequa they are trying to corrupt the natural hair movement. It is truly the one rare thing started, controlled, and supported by black women. We can’t have that! White women these days think they are the new black women anyway. So, not surprising they trying to run the natural hair movement.

  6. My husband says we always accept them before they accept us. I am not racist, but I get it. When it’s for us, it should be for us I guess.

  7. @ Tania I agree with your statement as well as everyone else. I know so far on twitter black women gave back good responses to that silly Sarah if she hasn’t deleted there tweets yet. On Sarah facebook page white people came to her rescue for her sympathy as a victim. I also heard she deleted black women responses.

  8. I think a lot of people are missing the bigger picture here which is finances. Texture Media, and whites in general, want to take over the black hair care market, which is one of the few markets we still have some control over in our community and are thus able to provide for ourselves and our people by offering jobs. As is, beauty supply stores are now Asian owned and here in New York I haven’t seen a black beauty salon in I don’t know how many years. I see African braid shops, but that is all. Black hair is a booming market and those who hate us and have made our hair a source of ridicule all our lives want to benefit from this and can easily breach the market because they are white and have the finances to bankroll their way to the top. Texture Media sells hair products and they want us to buy them. But natural sistas should know there is no need to buy such overpriced products and definitely not from Texture Media. Keep your money to yourselves and buy black. That is the only way as a people we will survive. Spend money with your own. Don’t let interlopers come in and benefit off of us hating you. Simple Sarah and her boo hoo story can go fuck herself. I bet she has never been to a job and been told she had to straighten her hair or risk being forced or not hired at all. Spread the word, now that we know what Curly Nikki is, abandon the site and for heaven sakes do not give them your money.

  9. Thanks for this article, it put into words all the types of ways I was feeling about that curlynikki feature.

    TO be honest I haven’t been feeling her for awhile now because she seems to focus more on the 3c’s and 4a’s and only feature 4b’s and 4c’s every once in awhile.

    But this was definitely the last straw, and now that I know about this business with TextureMedia I’m definitely going to be taking my support to other places.

  10. I agree with all of these comments and the article. Thanks for the info..
    On a related note, when Bob Johnson sold B.E.T. to Viacom or CBS a.k.a the white man, the network turned to almost garbage. Do you remember when BET was actually good/great. Video Soul with Donnie Simpson and then Sherri Carter, Rap City with Big Lez & Joe Clair, Screen Scene, Ed Gordon, Tavis Smiley before he became a HATER, Comic View, good Christmas specials, journey in black, TEEN SUMMIT (my fav), planet groove, Caribbean Rhythms, Midnight love video’s, etc… Now, I barely watch unless I know some special or tv show is coming on like, bet awards, BLACK GIRLS ROCK. I know they have centric, which is good, but not everyone gets that channel. Now, BET plays the same group of videos from 2008 or 2009 everyday I believe. R&B is dying and foolish rap is created and played to exhaustion. ONE good thing with bet is they now have tv shows, like mary jane, and they do broadcast Lets Stay Together. I like that show, its corny and sweet.

    My point is we build something that is quality and then mainstream gets a hold and we feel we have to be inclusive and hire some white folks and have Latina hosts. It’s fine to be inclusive don’t get me wrong, but sometimes its to our detriment. We can grow, but don’t explode…

    They have these mainstream mags saying the best in braids and show all white women. Some white skinned girls come along with big or medium booty’s and there all the rage. White girl with big lips….aren’t big lips attractive.

    Sometimes black folks need a safe haven, to be comfortable, free and fabulous… Don’t support BLACKFACE, support our own as much as possible.

    btw, I’m sick of all these Asian owned hair shops, but you can’t blame them their capitalists, and they got the hair….. But, I’m natural now, so they can kick rocks….

  11. @sista…Is there a way for you to post some/all the natural black hair products that are black owned?…
    **Plus, I am getting turned off by what Carol’s Daughter did with the whole biracial, multi-hyphened women campaign.. I still support, but…

  12. I can’t believe how ridiculous the reaction has been to curlynikki showcasing a white woman on her blog. This is not the first time she has done this, if you have followed her site longer than just a few months or years, you would know that she has discussed curls of different nationalities way before she partnered with textured media. If black women can’t stand to read one lousy segment on a white woman that has naturally curly hair on a site that features mostly black women, then there’s something really wrong here. Get over yourselves, there are so many more important thins to do than bash curlynikki, who has helped me and so many other women learn to love their natural hair.

  13. @sista…Is there a way for you to post some/all the natural black hair products that are black owned?…

    Thank you for the idea. We’ll post a list soon.

  14. Lynn you are a sell out and need to have a seat over a toilet because you are full of feces! Like so many uninformed stupid black people you fail to understand the power of white people!! This isn’t just ONE white girl feeling this way… She no doubt shares the fear whites in General have about black solidarity…read a history book idiot!

  15. Cheryl you sound real ignorant and immature…..what are you 20? I can guarantee I’ve been living longer than you and know about white people and know my history. Now do you have a job or a college degree? Doesn’t sound like it.

  16. Here is curly nikki’s response

    http://www.curlynikkicom/2014/07/curlynikki-responds-to-ebonycom.html

    I think that at the end of the day the blog is doing what is supposed to do- turn a profit and spread awareness…I personally think it’s cool that a white person submitted a story, eye roll inducing as it may be- there are black sistas with hair texture like that.

    I don’t think including a white person cheapens/lessens the natural hair movement, however I can see the space becoming less safe…but I think that in order to combat that, we need to be able to articulate our history, experiences and struggles effectively, not just say ‘get out’. As long as this is for profit society, there will nothing, NOTHING we do that won’t be co-opted.

    With *that* said, I do believe that the major corporations see the profit to be made, and that we as women need to vote with our dollars and choose to buy black owned.

    I personally try to make my own product for my daughters hair (using coconut oil, olive oil etc) because products are so dang expensive to be trying them on the regular.

    I think that with the black community hair is not just hair- it’s race, culture, feminism , history of oppression etc…I see this is a moving of natural hair towards the main stream, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

    Just my 2 cents.

  17. White people/women are not looking to join the natural hair movement because their natural hair, whether curly or straight has never been vilified. The woman who told her story, and by the way I did not read it, has probably never been denied a job or told to change her hair in order to keep her job. In the 80s her hair was cool because perms were huge. Her woe-is-me story probably isn’t even real, whatever it may be. Whites want to run our movement to be free of them and their required beauty standards for us. Now that many are saying FUCK YOU, I’M GONNA BE ME, they show up to try and financially benefit from it by pretending to be something and someone they are not. Their goal is to sell us shit. Nothing more and nothing less. Indeed this is about money and the dumb bitch above who said we should worry about other shit is blind if she doesn’t see the financial ramifications to our community when everything about us is owned by whites. How many businesses do we have to lose before some of you fools wake up? Whites, with their money can buy their way to the top of industries and do it all while hating the very people whose pockets they are trying to loot. Look at the people who back Curly Nikki now. When have they ever supported black women and our hair? Never. They’ll never get my money. I don’t care if the owner wants to turn a profit, she won’t off of my back head.

  18. I really appreciate and agree COMPLETELY with this article. I haven’t supported Nikki’s blog in a long while because the content has been seriously lacking for quite some time and the posts became too repetitive. If you choose not to support her, please don’t click any links to her site, as I see someone has posted a link in a previous comment. Clicks=cash. Knowledge is power.

  19. Wow, it just seems we are the only minority that needs our ‘own space’ since we don’t have our own SECOND LANGUAGE…

  20. Shame on you Nikki. I wish I never bought your book. I hope you earned enough money.

  21. Second that Dana – it is about many things, but money is one of the biggest. Our community must build financial equity – too many of our families still live on the economic margins in American society. “FUBU” hair care products aligned with the natural hair movement has the potential to significantly shift some of the shortage.

  22. Ladies, of course this is about money! White people have been making money off of us since the ancient days! The saddest part is, up until now, we have rolled over and let them while nobody called them out. Black people can’t have one thing to themselves, even something that is unique to only us! I see the NHM as the beginning of a healing and acceptance process that we as black women must undergo in order to unchained ourselves from the inferiority complex placed on us by our society. We don’t need white people’s help, empathy, or sympathy to find out who we truly are. It’s great that this Sarah person felt free about her hair, but it has nothing to do with the struggle of black women and their hair. She may have been bullied, but she… Including her hair… wasn’t labeled taboo and inherently ugly. There is already enough division between the good hair… bad hair thing without adding non black people (who don’t have our hair type) into the movement.

  23. Hi All-

    In reflecting on the tenor of this recent conversation, we at Crowned (link to page), noticed that much of the feedback is reflective of larger 21st century consumer trends. Black consumers and viewers, like everyone else, are more and more looking for products and experiences that emphasize personalization, feature curated content, and focus on delivering high quality user experiences. Unfortunately, for black women, these spaces are too often few and far between. The genius of the natural hair community is that it has integrated this knowledge into a movement based on two principles, firstly a knowledge and appreciation of the particular needs, features, and history of black hair, and secondly, how to best engage the black women who form its base. The natural hair space reflects a community of providers who have not only figured out the what they have also zeroed in on the who. As a result, black women have developed and maintained a movement so large it has implications for a $500 billion dollar industry. Curly Nikki intends to provide a general space for “curlies” of all types. However increasingly; black women are looking for information about moisture for OUR thick curly fro or dyeing OUR fine 4c locs. That is why we are launching Crowned.Me later this year. We think black women deserve a better online experience and we as black women intend to provide it. Please do visit our website to sign-up and take our user survey!

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