By now, I believe most have seen the nail-biting, cringe-worthy 60-second summer segment on the Today show. I'm sure you have as well. In it, Deepica Mutyala, a beauty expert and YouTube personality, is given the daunting task of styling four heads (herself included) in under four minutes. This is a great feat for anyone, and mistakes were bound to happen. All in all, there was nothing particularly special about any of the hairstyles done that day, which comes as no surprise. We have all witnessed LIVE makeover misfires. Stylists are up against the clock, leaving little room for creativity or error.
However, this segment IS significant given the large amount of backlash it received from the natural hair community. Like those outraged, I writhed in empathetic pain as Mutyala tangled, pulled and frizzed model Malyia McNaughton's beautiful natural hair into a sloppy bird's nest.
Immediately after the segment, defenders of natural hair flooded Mutyala's Facebook page, forbidding her from ever touching another Black woman's head. Some even demanded an apology for making textured hair look so ridiculous and unmanageable on national television. The criticism was so bad that McNaughton stepped in and graciously tried to defend the stylist, saying that time restraints were to blame for the hair debacle. This is very possible, but it is also quite clear that Mutyala was uncomfortable and inexperienced in styling Black natural hair.
A week later, Mutyala offered up an apology video entitled Natural Hair 101. This lighthearted video also featured Malyia McNaughton alongside three other Black women from the entertainment industry. For four minutes and 52 seconds, the ladies poke fun at the Today show debacle, share styling tips, and express their frustrations regarding the industry's lack of knowledge when it comes to their textured hair. Mutyala confessed her ignorance on the topic and voiced her eagerness to learn more about natural hair textures and styling techniques. The short video ends with a "surprise" payback hairdo given to Mutyala.
While I appreciated the video, I was also a little disappointed. I may be alone in saying this, but I really wanted to see the YouTube stylist attempt another natural hairdo. While I see merit in taking a step back and educating oneself, I anticipated her jumping in and redeeming her abilities. Most importantly, I wanted her to reach the portion of her audience now traumatized by the thought of styling natural hair, quite possibly, their own. Given the initial backlash, I understand her reservations. However, I don't think it is too soon to try again. The few tips given in the Natural Hair 101 video were good, but not particularly helpful to those still trying to achieve a cute, natural summer updo.
I am curious to know if anyone has pulled her aside to explain what went wrong. It should be understood that side ponytails aren't for everyone. Also, when working with a twist-out, one should gently pull twists apart; otherwise, hair will frizz and ruin the pattern. Without the right tools, the model's hair was too short to be pulled up and double banded. Never pull the hair in order to make the ponytail fuller. This will only cause breakage and unevenness. To achieve a flattering updo, all the hair needed was a stretchy headband and/or a couple of bobby pins.
Contrary to popular belief, natural hair, in general, is not that difficult. A flattering natural hairdo can be attained in a limited amount of time, especially if you are working with a freshly taken-down twist-out, braid-out, Bantu-knot-out, etc. I once believed that natural hair was unmanageable and would take years of practice and expensive products to achieve anything worthwhile. The truth is, it is no more difficult than straightened hair; it's just different and simply requires a different technique.
The best part about the Natural Hair 101 video was that it addressed the lack of diversity concerning stylists within the entertainment industry and beyond. Many hair professionals uneducated on natural textures will view it as unmanageable and, at times, unbecoming. Black women are then encouraged to straighten their hair so their head is "easier" to work with. Most interestingly, this mishap has prompted women from diverse professional backgrounds to comment and share anecdotes of when their hair was ruined or looked down upon by an ill-equipped stylist. In the past, I patronized a Black hair salon that discouraged natural hair for being too difficult. This played a small part in my hesitance to "go natural." Eventually, I realized that negativity toward natural hair was usually derived from lack of knowledge and fear.
I like Deepica Mutyala. I have enjoyed her videos in the past. I appreciate her beauty techniques designed for women of color, and I look forward to seeing the expansion of her brand. The Today show segment was a great lesson. It shed light on something Black women have struggled with for a very long time, both professionally and personally. As the natural hair community grows, I hope the beauty industry, as a whole, becomes more educated on Black textures. At this point, it is a necessity and, quite honestly, becoming a matter of sustainability.