Black Barbie

How much influence childhood toys have over the development of ideologies of beauty is debatable. How my dolls looked as a child most definitely influenced how I viewed beauty as an adult, therefore children dolls and toys need to be multi racial with all hair textures included.

Image: black barbie with striaght hair


The first Black Barbie hit the shelves in 1980 with white features shared by many of the dolls following her. In the black community, long, straight hair is often considered more beautiful than short kinky hair. Although many black barbies are available not many of them depict a true image of a females of colour because majority of the have straight hair.

Malaville Toys changes the game

instaThank to Mala Bryan, international model, for launching a collection of dolls with different  races and textures of ethnic hair with the Malaville Dolls.

“I found it very hard to find different black dolls with ethnic hair… I realized I was not the only one having that issue… So I started the collection with 4 different brown skin tones dolls..I create a doll that many young black and brown girls can relate to and many children of other races can now have a black and brown doll to add to their collection.” said, Mala when What inspired you to start the Malaville Debut Collecton Dolls?

To support the revolution of Balck Barbie dolls by visiting the pop up shop in 90 Kloof Street, Gardens, Cape Town.


Barbie Pricing

After browsing the ToysRus website it came to my attention that Black Barbie dolls are more expensive. The black barbie is R299.90 whereas the white Barbie is R179.90.

“It is our policy to price like dolls of all ethnicities the same. We will ensure the pricing is corrected,” Kathleen Waugh, vice president, Corporate Communications at Toys R Us told CNBC in an e-mail. Although this comment was made to CNBC the difference in cost is still very much standing.  Why this is the case is unclear as they only real difference in these two barbies is the skin colour the hair and body shape is the same. This is a subtle form of racism.

“I’m emphatic about a black child having a doll that reflects who she isI want that child to understand that there’s nothing wrong with being black. If black children are force-fed that white is better, or if that’s all that they are exposed to, then they might start to think, ‘What is wrong with me?” said Debbie Behan Garrett, author of Black Dolls: A Comprehensive Guide to Celebrating, Collecting, and Experiencing the Passion. (More here)


This needs to change to allow young girls access to a variety of doll to plat with. These prices because the images children are exposed to can change the way they think.

The video below demonstrates multiple childrens’ Barbie preference,  which underlines the ideals society has of beauty.



It was a accomplishment having a black barbie made now it time to have a barbie depict the true image of a black female with hair that will hopefully encourage young girls to feel normal. The answer to why black barbies are more expensive in retail stores has gone unanswered but its important society asks these questions.


Living the curly life

We all experience life differently based on our race, gender, sexuality and religion but, how much does hair influence our life experience? a lot according to Cheyan Lefvre who says ‘hair is so much more than a simple matter of fashion. It defines us, it exposes us and tells our story of who we are and who we want to be.’

Graphic Designer and illustrator Cheyan Lefvre shares her life expedition as a tall curly headed girl through illustrations. She shares a journey many females of colour go through the journey from relaxed hair to natural hair. She has also composed a inspirational comic for which celebrates natural curly hair.

It’s a  Celebration

today2The comic book put the reader in the shoes of a curly headed female and the basic challenges faced. As much as the comic celebrates Cheyan’s life experience it in essence includes every female of colour who has gone through the same experiences.

Exposing images of females embracing their natural hair is key to empowering females to accept their natural self.  According to Cheyan, learning to know, understand, accept and love a part of yourself — here, curly hair — is often like trying to tame something that appears to be external to yourself. This is why curly hair is often described as a beast whom need to be tamed throughout the comic and blog.

Images portrayal women with curly hair as happy and satisfied with there appearance can be inspirational for younger females.


The pros and cons of having curly hair

Image by Cheyan depitcting the power embracing one’s natural hair could have on future generations.

As much fun as the illustrations are, they address some serious challenge as well as common ideologies about females with curly hair. In many societies straight hair is seen as the ideal and this message can easily be embedded deep in one’s subconscious. When illustrations such as these are put out into the public it creates a space for change. This image encourages its audience to question how many movies depicts multi-racial females with natural hair. It is not a common occurrence a Hollywood movie will depict a black female with natural hair in power.  In this image Wonder women is placed in a black curly headed female rather than a white female with long straight hair.


Sneak peak into our thoughts 

Cheyan illustration further expose some of that have most likely been asked to every female with curly hair.  “You look SO much better with straight hair” Why? because I would look more like you? or like everyone around me? Cheyan images answers these question with a quirky response. Here sarcasm draws on how the question asked to her are seemly normal but her question such as, “You look so much better with less make-up” seems less normal and insulting.


“Can I touch your hair?”  

This question can offend many females of colour because it often makes them feel if they are abnormal and animal like according to Darne’ a 20 year beauty shop assassinate. This can be traced back to slavery where women of colour were often treated as community of property.



You are you

The overall blog encouraged women to embrace there natural hair a deal with the attention it may draw in public, the questions, the pros and the cons. This blog attends to a topic in society that needs more attention in a fun way. As noted your hair is a part of your identity and should be embraced.






The True Cost of Beauty

The grooming of human hair has been a practice of humans for many years. The only thing that has really changed is the products. Before 1920 women used  a lye-based soap that could easily damage ones hair. Today however we are bombarded with choices for hair products, which include hair dyes, relaxer, shampoos, conditioner and treatments. These products promise us ‘perfect hair’ but what is the actual cost of these products. Many hair care products we depend are tested on animals. According to  Human Society International, more or less 115 million animals—including mice, rats, birds, fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, farm animals, dogs, cats, and nonhuman primates—are used and/or killed in
laboratory experiments each year around the world.
Image of scientist testing products on a monkey and a performance done at a lush store in London to stop animal testing.
Vivisection is surgery conducted for experimental purposes on a living organism, typically animals with a central nervous system, to view living internal structure. Humans use these products to obtain beauty but what is the real cost of beauty?

The deadly truth

Animal testing can be dated back as for as  400 Years when the famous Greek doctor Galen (AD129-200) used animals to discover how blood circulated in the body. Modern animal research started 150 years ago.

Crazy facts about Animal Testing:

  1. No experiment is illegal, no matter how cruel, irrelevant to human health, redundant, or painful.
  2. Ninety-five percent of animals used for experiments are excluded from the only federal law offering any sort of protection.
  3. Even when valid alternatives to animals are available, the law doesn’t require that they be used.
  4. Ninety-two percent of experimental drugs that are safe and effective on animals fail in human clinical trials because they don’t work or are dangerous.

This method of experimentation started off for medical reasons but over time became a method used of testing consumer products such as hair care products.



Animal Testing Free Products 

Many of the products that do not test on animals in the above image are only available online. However, there is one product that has been active about creating products for all hair types that does not test on animals, this product is called Lush . Lush has been fighting the battle against animal testing for over 30 years along side the Human Society International, through petitions. To join in on the movement fill in a petition form here.

Image of the Lush Campaign performance 

As part of the campaign a public performance was done in London Lush Rengents street shop.  The video below explains the campaign and its aim.

The video tackles a very serious question, ‘Is animal testing ethical?’.

‘Any living creature should be given the same level of compassion as any other.
Thus if it is unacceptable to conduct research on a human being, I feel that it is also
unacceptable to conduct said research on any other living creature. – Gaynor Armitage

Hair Products

The underlining problem is that Lush has shown that hair care products can be produced without animal testing for all hair types which questions the necessity of the practice. When purchasing a product for your hair think about weather its animal tested and and how you feel about this. According to Nicole Harmon, black women spend enormous amounts of time and money to maintain their hair. This is often because curly hair requires more attention than straight hair as it need more oil. Finding a product that does not animal test is encouraged.



Getting to the root of hair

Women learn from a very early age that the power of their gender is tied to what they look like – and how ‘sexy’ they are – rather than to character and achievement – Brumberg, 1998:195

In society ideals of the female body has evolved, however the practice of body hair removal had remained constant for centuries. Body hair removal is a major aspect of gender and societal norms. The practice of removing hair helps define gender categories, such as masculine and feminine. Social constructions of gender suggest that to be hairless is to be feminine and to be hairy is to be masculine. South African females adhere to the practice of body hair removal which enables them to fit into society without having their femininity questioned. Understanding how hairlesness has become a norm is important in gaining perspective of why females take part in the practice.

Going Bare


1915 advertisement promoting hairless armpits

Women’s armpits (a hollow under the arm at the shoulder) were never exposed until the 1915’s when Harpers Magazine published an advertisement of a women with a strapless dress. This advertisement start a revolution because it became acceptable to wear more reviling clothing and fashionable to not have armpit hair. Before this advertisement women could walk freely without feel embarrassed or ashamed of the armpit hair that grew naturally.


Leg hair removal never caught on as quickly as armpit hair removal, however the revolution was both sprouted by advertisements. During world war 2 ( September 1, 1939 – September 2, 1945) a iconic pin up post of Betty Grable was published. The pin became a sensation in pop culture. Betty became the desire of men and women and thus females began aspiring to the looks and style of Betty.

The popular pin up poster of Betty graples.
Pubic hair 
Many people remove their pubic hair for hygienic reasons, sexual, religious, or culture. In ancient Egypt, people pf both genders removed their body hair and most women, in ancient Greece removed their pubic hair, believing that it looked uncivilized. Ancient Greek artists did not show signs of pubic hair om statues that portrayed women.
During the 1960’s women in western culture started following the practice.  (Read more)
Contradictory to the belief of removing pubic hair as being hygienic and necessary is is proven to be  the cause of at least one health problem for 60% of women, according to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Some of these health problems include  razor burn, cuts, infection in the hair root, abscesses, and bacterial skin infections. Female pubic hair naturally defends women from sexually transmitted infections. Removing one’s pubic hair  makes it easier to transmit molluscum contagiosum, genital warts, and herpes.
Indiana University researchers asked 2,451 women aged 18- 68 how they presented their pubes and these are some of the results.

Hair removal of females was largely driven by the need to conform to societies fashion fads rather than health reasons.

Depilation methods

Exposure of body hair (other than head, eyelashes, eyebrows hair) in public of body hair is often considered to be unaesthetic, unattractive and embarrassing. This is why so many females use different methods of hair removal. Understanding where these methods originated is important when unpacking how long there was a desire for hair removal.(More detail)


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


It is quite fascinating to see how far back we can trace our obsession with hair and hair removal methods. From flint stone razors via arsenic depilatories and honey and oil wax to disposable razors and laser hair removal, we have come a long, long way in our methods and techniques.

Source:  Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History

Lets take the kink out of you hair and your mind

If your hair is relaxed white people are relaxed if your hair is nappy white people aren’t happy –  Paul Moony

This quote resembles   how much pressure was put on those non-whites in the Apartheid era when a pencil or comb test was enforced to determine how relaxed or ‘happy’ white people would be around you. Many females and males of colour in South Africa relax their hair. The reason they do this varies but the one reason that is obvious is that they all want straight hair. The desire to have straight hair stems back to the apartheid systems and colonization. Although the systems in today’s society are a lot more subtle, they are still existent. In order to work towards a more inclusive idea of beauty the usage of relaxers needs investigation.


A trip down memory lane

Garrett Augustus Morgan the inventor of the relaxer.

Garrett Augustus Morgan, a child of former slave in 1877 in Paris Kentucky was a African-American male, who discovered the hair relaxer formula by chance while working as a tailor and repairer of sewing machines. He was trying to create a formula that would polish the machines’ needles so their friction would not scorch and damage fabrics as they sewed. The formula landed on a animal fur cloth which Morgan discovered had straightened the fibers. After testing the product on his friend’s dog and his own hair Morgan began marketing his product line in 1913. His invention started a revolution in the world wide Black hair care market. Form more details click here.

g.a morgan products
A.G. Morgan Product Line, Photo provided by:


The desire to have straight has proven to be the desire of many individuals of colour all over the world for more than 66 years. Today the relaxer which was invented in America is a very popular product in South Africa and is used by males and females.


Pie chart displaying the percentage of Black South African Women who relax their hair, According to Khomotso Mathalela, Dark and Lovely brand manager.

Some women have had bad experiences with relaxers, finding that they might be too aggressive, stripping their hair or making it too bone-straight. Scalp burn, root thinning and breakage are also big concerns.” – Khomotso Mathalela, Dark and Lovely brand manager.

Sodium hydroxide mixed with water, petroleum jelly, mineral oil, and emulsifiers create the relaxers formula. This formula suffuses the protein structure of your hair which results in the weakening of internal bonds.

What hair relaxers do to your scalp.

Considering the dangers of relaxers it is astounding that the product is still in such high demand in South Africa. The conventional wisdom  ‘you must suffer for beauty’ takes on a very literal meaning when considering the risk of scalp burn and root thinning.

Still a contributing factor today

The Hair Hierarchy : Straight, Curly, Afro-texture

The population registration act enforced the law of the pencil test in the 1950’s. This enforced a mind set around hair and the privileges it came with. This mind set has filtered down from generation to generation and is now the driving force for the hair relaxer sales in South Africa.


Through this method of segregation the hair hierarchy had developed, placing straight hair at the top and non-straight hair at the bottom.  The hair hierarchy still persists today in South African society because of life experiences expressed by people interviews (In the video below) and because of many multimedia depictions. Resulting in people still believing straight hair is the ideal.

Multimedia’s influence

The hair hierarchy still persists in the twentieth century and is now dominantly due to multimedia depictions.

hair fuck1'
Collage of images from the Perfect touch hair spray Television advertisement.

This TV commercial for Perfect Touch hair spray, claims to be the number 1 hair styling brand in South Africa. Stats from LSM 7-10 groupings state that men and women form the age  15 to 50 use the product. 

The advert juxtaposes the two females very strategically. The female with straight hair is getting the job while the black female is made to seem jealous. The advert goes on to imply that in order for a female to succeed in her career she should have to have long straight hair and unbutton her top.

The advert is not inclusive in its portrayal of beauty. In the last image the background music is a halo sound and the camera man includes the black female (With natural hair). This indicates the desire females have to conform to ideas put out in the media of beauty.



Reconstructing Beauty 

South African is a country with a rich history, diverse people and a variety of identities. Females of colour, with a variety of hair types and styles have endured an enormous amount of ridicule which has influenced their identities. African individuals’ celebrated their hair as it communicated their personal characteristics, religion, ethnicity, wealth, marital status, age and geographical origins. This connection changed with the dawn of the slave trade and colonization.

“The slave trade is thus historically important to consider when discussing representations of black women, as it was one of the main catalysts for behavioral and psychological mind shifts which took place, regarding representations and notions of beauty for black women.” – Jenna-Lee Marco

A Euro-centric standard of beauty was enforced, when the hair of many African men and women were shaved off due to colonist thinking of it as ‘unhygienic’. Through this thinking many African individuals were stripped of their hair which was deeply embedded in how they portrayed themselves. Understanding why individuals have desired straight hair for many years is important when reconstructing the hegemonic ideal of beauty.

We can through this shift away from the depiction and perceptions of beauty through the colonists eyes and rather perceive beauty through a decolonized perspective.The aim of the article is not to pass judgement on individuals who do relax their hair, it is about sharing insight on how beautiful natural hair can be despite all the negative messages, in the media, that suggest it is not.