Tonight I sat down on the couch in my sweats and watched one of my favorite shows: What Not to Wear. They've had black women on the show before, but Amanda Rodriguez is one of the only clients I've seen with natural hair. I was nervous for her when it got time for her hair makeover. I was sure the stylist was going to cut off major length and iron her beautiful curls straight, especially since he usually irons even relatively straight hair. I relaxed a little when I saw Ted Gibson pop up on the screen -- the black stylist who has replaced the much loved Nick Arrojo. Normally I prefer Arrojo, but Gibson being black made me hopeful that he would let her keep her god-given curls.
Not only did Gibson honor my wish, but he actually made her hair bigger. Instead of killing her curls, he used a diffuser, advised her not to shampoo her hair every day, and to use leave-in conditioner. Teri LaFlesh, author of Curly Like Me, says it's best not to use a hair dryer at all (which I don't follow or I seem to have water dripping down my back) and to leave in actual conditioner and not leave-in conditioner (which I do follow and it's made a world of difference). But regardless of slight variations of upkeep and styling, his advice to Rodriguez, which was also advice to the millions of viewers, was a breath of forward thinking fresh air in a behind the times hair world, much like Urban Outfitters high rise jeans that actually look cute and get rid of the 21st century faux pas of female butt crack. But that's another story for another time.
While I haven't seen every episode of What Not to Wear, I have seen only one other where the stylist made a black woman's hair bigger than it already was. Granted, most of the few black clients who come on the show already have chemically straightened hair, so there is no curl left to work with. Even though I had seen that one previous episode, the one I saw tonight stood out to me more. Maybe because Rodriguez is my age, or has my body, or has my exact hair texture. Maybe it's because, like me, she's a compulsive smiler even when her pet dies. Whatever the reason, the fact that Ted Gibson celebrated her curls, is, for me, a step forward in mainstream culture accepting us curly-haired women just as we are.
After finishing the show, I broke the cardinal rule and went out to Walgreen's in everything What Not to Wear said not to wear. But hey, it was 1:00 a.m.