Nicole Jenkins, CROWNed: Black Women's Entanglement with Beauty, Identity, and Family

Blumer Room - 402 Social Sciences Building

Studies show that Black women are targeted in the workplace for their decisions to dawn natural hairstyles (Koval and Rosette 2021, Greene 2012, Dawson et al. 2019). And media attention has shed light on the disproportionate policing of black bodies and, more specifically, those who choose to wear natural hair styling options. Black women and Black children are the most visible targets for natural hair policing and have been subject to various consequences when their natural hairstyles do not meet dress code policies at work and school. As the Crown Act gains recognition around the country and adoption throughout the country, it remains critical to understand the global experiences of Black women who choose to wear natural hairstyles. Scholarship on race and emotions needs more empirical studies that provide intersectional framing of experiences specific to people of color. Because hair is such a salient feature of racial solidarity and overlapping experience within the African Diaspora, including the emotions within the conversations and research is key. By highlighting the emotions associated with the meaning of hair and varying experiences with natural hair, this research will provide insight into the remaining significance of natural hair by capturing the emotional celebrations and struggles that those participating in the natural hair movement endure. For this research project, we ask what are the emotions and experiences of Black women wearing natural hair around the globe. We capture the narrative experiences of 17 women of the African Diaspora as they share their personal life experiences with natural hair. We find that Black women have complicated relationships with their hair that are both enduring and exhausting. We explain how the various paradoxes that exist within these relationships shape women’s social experiences and self-confidence.