She’s At It Again: Kylie Jenner’s “Natural Hair”

A modern-day conversation about cultural appropriation and the commodification of blackness is not complete without the mention of Kylie Jenner. As tgainezz extensively discussed in their “The Commodification of Blackness: The Rise Instagram “Baddie” and Kylie Jenner” post, from her acrylic nails to her lip fillers, Jenner and her “aesthetic” have only been able to achieve fame through the disenfranchisement of black women

Kylie Jenner natural hairCredit: Kylie Jenner/Snapchat
Kylie’s “”””Natural Hair”””” instagram

and the commodification of the attributes they have been historically shamed for. It is this cultural appropriation and the frequent discussion around it when it comes to Jenner that made this recent celebrity news story so interesting to me: as reported on People, Hollywood Life, and Buzzfeed, among other sources, Kylie Jenner posted several Snapchats the other day showcasing her “natural hair.”

“Natural hair,” of course, also primarily has ties to the black community. Referring to hair that hasn’t been straightened or chemically treated, the idea of “natural hair” has little application to Jenner, both in that, as a white woman, she doesn’t have the hair texture people are referring to when they talk about natural hair, and in that she has no association with the politics surrounding natural hair. As Tanisha C. Ford describes it, historically, “wearing one’s hair natural was both a form of cultural self-expression and a way to abandon reliance upon hair products that

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Two of the many images of black women that result from a google search for “natural hair”

reinforced white hegemony” (47). Kylie Jenner’s “natural hair” has nothing to do with a rejection of white hegemony – it is part of white hegemony.  It needs no hair products to reinforce white beauty standards – it does that all on its own.

Furthermore, the reason Jenner can even be mentioned by the media in the same breath as “natural hair” is her particular affinity for wigs. As

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Kylie’s “”””fantastic””””” wigs

Hollywood Life describes it, “If you look up wig in the dictionary you will find a picture of one of Kylie Jenner’s fantastic purple or pink numbers no doubt.” Wigs, of course, are also also mostly tied to the black community. (Sidenote: out of curiosity, I looked up articles about Nicki Minaj, who is also known for her different-colored wigs. Words surrounding her wig choices tended to veer less toward “fantastic” and more towards “outrageous.”) While black women are shamed for “either wanting to wear a wig or wanting to wear their hair natural” (Ford 49), Kylie is praised for both. The articles mention Kylie’s “wisps” and her “cute natural hair, complete with baby hairs” (which, for the record, also also also have stylistic ties to the black and Latinx communities), in stark contrast to the way natural hair on black women has historically been seen as unfeminine (Ford 49). And so, as is its habit, white culture rewards Kylie Jenner, Queen of Wigs, holder of Adorable Baby Hairs, but makes no mention of the black bodies she has exploited to earn this praise.

 

Tanisha C. Ford, “Harlem’s ‘Natural Soul’: Selling Black Beauty to the Diaspora in the Early 1960s,” Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul, 2015.

Jillian Ruffo, “Kylie Jenner Shares a Rare Look at Her Natural Hair,” People Magazine, May 5, 2017, http://people.com/style/kylie-jenner-natural-hair-photos/

Jennifer Maas, “Kylie Jenner Ditches Wigs To Reveal Her Cute Natural Hair & Debuts Epic New Glam Room,” Hollywood Life, May 6, 2017, http://hollywoodlife.com/2017/05/06/kylie-jenner-normal-hair-no-wig-glam-room-pics/

Erin La Rosa, “Kylie Jenner Revealed Her Natural Hair And She Sure Looks Different,” Buzzfeed News, May 6, 2017, https://www.buzzfeed.com/erinlarosa/kylie-jenner-revealed-her-natural-hair-and-she-sure-looks?utm_term=.lxxYr5qQOl#.fm9bnWjKE0

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One thought on “She’s At It Again: Kylie Jenner’s “Natural Hair”

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  1. Kylie Jenner throughout the past few years has been an interesting topic within pop culture and the media. Although there has been some judgment against her, she is still praised and seen as a trendsetter, all while, as melaniekane stated, taking and commodifying the attributes that black women have historically been shamed for. I can think of a few examples that extend further than hair. Kylie Jenner got lip injections and when she first came out with them, many people were curious about her big lips. Her lips were different from the thin lips that a lot of white girls are known for. Kylie Jenner’s big lips gained attention in popular culture through the “Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge,” in which many people used a cup to create big lips. Through this, people are imitating the big lips that are associated with black women, while giving Kylie Jenner credit for the look.
    Additionally, Kylie Jenner is also known for her figure and her butt, evidenced by the followers and likes on her Instagram posts, which show off her body. While black bodies are viewed in a demeaning manner or a sexualized manner by the white gaze, Kylie Jenner’s body is seen as something new, something fresh, something different, when really it is reminiscent of the black body. White hair and bodies are apolitical so in Kylie Jenner’s case, consequences are not tied to the way she decides to portray herself through her appearance. Instead, white women like Kylie Jenner are praised and seen as trendsetters. On the other hand, black hair and bodies are political, there are histories to their hair and their bodies and they carry consequences within them.

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