The natural hair conversation is something I have taken part in for five years. I waved goodbye to chemical relaxers and never looked back. Since then, I have seen the movement continuously grow as more and more Black women have embraced their natural hair.
Despite its growth over the years, as a Black Muslim woman, I am aware of the absence of women like myself. When I first made the decision to go natural, there was an abundance of information teaching me about Black hair care. However, since making the decision to wear a hijab, I have noticed the major gap in the natural hair community. Black Muslim women are missing. Whether it be in advertising, forums or at conventions, there is a large scarcity.
Although online content exists from Black Muslim women discussing managing their hair, there is more of a focus on how to style hijabs and turbans with your natural hair. When our hair is covered all day, it is at risk of experiencing dryness and sweat, causing breakage if not taken care of properly. It would be great to have videos on actual haircare.
We also need to be wise in the actual scarves we use to cover our hair. The fabric can contribute to unnecessary hair loss and further breakage. In addition, before our daily ritual prayers, we have to perform ablution which involves putting our hair in contact with water. This rises yet another concern. Because of these everyday factors, it is vital that more Black Muslim women are included in the conversation. We have to treat our hair different than other Black women.
I understand that there are limitations in the way in which Black Muslim women can be showcased in the natural hair conversation. However, we need to be given the same exposure. Put on the same platforms. Be considered when we are having this conversation. The onus should not be on non-Muslim natural hair influencers to make Black Muslim women feel included. It would be refreshing to see an image like myself projected in natural hair campaigns and advertising.
It was only at the beginning of 2018 that L’Oreal made history as they cast the first hijab-wearing model in a hair campaign. Despite not being able to see her hair, casting model, Amena Khan showed there is value in representing diverse voices. It was a necessary statement supported by a global brand. Seeing more campaigns like this and Black Muslim women in the future will hopefully correct common misconceptions about Muslim women and their hair.
The omission of Black Muslim women spreads far beyond the general hair and beauty industry. It is also rife in fashion. With a close eye being placed on diversity and representation now, brands are making an effort to include more visibly Muslim women in their campaigns. However, they still maintain the stereotypical image of Muslim women by using women of Arab and Asian ethnicities.
With modeling experience in the modest fashion industry, I am well aware that opportunities are scarce being both Black and Muslim. If the casting requests from the brands included a specific ethnicity for the models, it was often South Asian or Arab.
This is also reflective of what I see at modest fashion events I have been to. I’m often one of the very few black women in attendance. In addition, many of these brands online rarely use Black models to represent their clothing. Back in December 2017, Dubai Modest Fashion Week was called out by people from the Muslim population for this very same issue. The diversity in the brands, models and “special guests” who were seen at the event was nonexistent. The event only two Black influencers in attendance, including model, Halima Aden.
It’s already difficult navigating these industries as a minority. Couple that with being a minority in a minority, and it makes it even trickier. Being part of both, the Black and Muslim communities shape my experiences. It also influenced my choice in transitioning to my natural hair as it is part of my identity which I am proud of.
When it comes to the natural hair conversation, I hope to see more women who look like me in campaigns. Natural hair brands need to make an effort in diversifying their campaigns to reach a larger audience. It is an entire untapped demographic for these brands. Black Muslim women would greatly benefit from hearing hair care tips from natural hair enthusiasts going through similar daily experiences.
Written by Aisha Rimi