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Of the myriad attacks against natural hair, one that comes from a professional hairstylist is especially distressing. Oprah Winfrey’s hairstylist, Andre Walker, shared his less-than-favorable view of natural hair, particularly, kinky type 4 textures, with Elle Magazine:

I always recommend embracing your natural texture. Kinky hair can have limited styling options; that’s the only hair type that I suggest altering with professional relaxing.

Clearly, Andre subscribes to the school of thinking that there are hardly any hairstyle choices for women with kinky hair though one look at Natural Hair YouTube channels shows that couldn’t be further from the truth.

After his comments were met with disdain and outrage on the internet, he offered up some kind of explanation:

Let me first say that there is no such thing as “bad” hair, and I have long ago freed myself from being afraid to use the word “kinky” and also from being accused of not liking natural hair. We have become a multi-cultural society that embraces many different looks and styles when it comes to hair. It is my Mission to help you grow strong, healthy hair, and wear it in the style or styles that best suit your likes and particular hair type.

When it comes to curly and kinky hair (there is a difference), I leave the political correctness of “going straight” or staying natural to a woman’s personal preference. Once again, my advice is based on how to best achieve strong, healthy hair. So for those who would like to engage me in a debate about who has more racial pride and self esteem, based on hairstyle preference and use or non-use of chemical relaxers, know that I believe in personal freedom, and in the use of advanced technology when it yields positive results, which many of today’s (versus yesterday’s) chemical relaxers do deliver.

It is a fact that kinky hair (my Type 4 definition) is extremely fragile and breaks easily. Even when you are very careful, something as simple as combing can break this texture. It is very difficult to achieve a longer length when the hair breaks, even with simple combing. That being said, there is the style option of wearing braids, dreads, or twists, which allows the hair to grow longer because it is combed less often. Another style choice is to simply wear a shorter cut, which is very attractive on some women but just not right for others.

So when I say to embrace your natural texture, but consider relaxing kinky hair, am I contradicting myself? I don’t think so! You see, even relaxed hair can still be worn naturally. If you want a natural look, but find that your kinky hair is difficult to manage, breaks too easily, lacks shine and luster, and limits your preferred styling options, I say feel free to consider a mild chemical relaxer, sometimes called a texturizer, that eases your hair to a more manageable texture and allows you to Make Peace With Your Hair.

I am flabbergasted that a hairstylist whose motto is “Make Peace With Your Hair” would suggest a texturizer to make your kinky hair less “difficult to manage” instead of offering ways women can protect, care for and nurture their hair as is.

Unfortunately, Walker’s point-of-view is relatively prevalent among hairstylists which is why many naturals opt to take care of their hair without visiting the salon.

What do you think of Andre Walker’s comments on kinky hair?

-Jessica C. Andrews

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  • http://nocturneadagio.blogspot.com/ LainaLain

    Yea….I don’t like him. I think he needs to either ease up or wisen up.

  • Earthseed

    When you look at Oprah’s, behind the scene show, I’ve never spotted any naturals.(If you have PLEASE correct me) I’ve wondered if she has some type of mandate on hair styles like she does with the no chewing gum rule.

    Earl Graves of Black Enterprise Magazine had a no dredlock rule about 7-10 years ago. I’m not sure if that rule still exist within his company today.

    He’s more than entitled to his professional opinion, as is my hair stylist who is a natural hair tech.

  • Bianca

    i don’t disagree with him. if you want to wear your hair in naturally kinky styles then thats fine. but kinky hair IS the most fragile. i have kinky hair that i wore natural for a while. i had to come to terms with the fact that i do not care for that aesthetic on me. you cannot wear kinky hair curly. you have to twist it or braid it. i did not like that what i once considered shiny was dramatically altered because of the new texture of my hair. i did not like that detangling was a huge affair. can kinky hair be beautiful? absolutely. but the effort required to do so was not my cup of tea.

    i honestly believe that relaxers were MADE for 4 type hair. when my hair is relaxed its still thick but i don’t have to worry about it in the same way that i did when it was natural. many of my clients that i can convince to ditch the relaxer do not have predominantly type 4 hair and they have been happy with the switch. what if you have type 4 hair but you do not care for braids or twists or afro’s then what do you do? accept it anyway? do you put a wig on just so you can say you’re natural underneath? that’s ridiculous. every woman has the right to do what makes her hair the most manageable and appealing for her own skill level and aesthetic tastes.

  • LBC

    I wasn’t really offended by the comment, but I am not surprised. Sounds like a lot of stylists out there who are just old-school and still think styling options for kinky hair are too “limited” or not really feasible. I guess…

  • yuko

    he’s wrong, that is all

  • Simone

    It says alot about the person. Alot of self hatred. “Natural hair is limiting”, yeah right. And denial is forever.

  • Vivian Flowers

    He’s not right and he’s not wrong, because he’s simply expressing a professional opinion based on his experiences and leanings. I am personally disappointed with his “limiting” reference, but at the end of the day, I don’t really care one way or ther other. There are so many stylists and product makers who promote natural hair and deem permed hair as limiting, whose perspective I happen to lean most toward. Finally, I am just happy that styles, products, images and the hair care/styling market for women of color is way more progressive and self-loving/affirming than when I was growing up.

  • Donna

    You can wear type 4 hair out. The issue is knowing how to care for the texture and while I get his statement and feel people are making too big a deal based on his reasoning. The fact that he’s a hairstylist he should know how to care for all hair textures as is rather a person wants to use chemicals to alter it or not. With our textures, stylists didn’t have to care so they didn’t that doesn’t fly today with all of the naturals who know how to do their own hair let alone natural salons that can.

  • Donna

    That’s pretty much it right here.

  • Donna

    Oh but let me add, not everyone is going to be a pro at all things when it comes to being a pro. But even in that regard you know who to recommend them to.

  • fuchsia

    I agree with him in a sense. But I think that he needs to do more research before making such a sweeping statement about a type of hair he doesn’t really care for. How would he know what kind of natural styles there are if he won’t even bother to look it up? And as a professional he shouldn’t discourage anyone from wearing their natural hair, but instead be able to refer them to another person that specializes in natural hair. He made himself look like an ass.

  • Ash

    You cannot change one’s perspective on a subject. If one does not know how to care for “kinky” hair, then one should not provide a professional recommendation. To think that relaxers were made for Type 4 hair is baffling to me. If black people and other hairstylists were educated in how to care for Type 4, then perhaps it would curve people’s opinion on natural hair!

  • Wens

    Hi Earthseed. I watch the behind the scenes shows too. I have seen one natural. She is a producer on the show. There is an episode where Oprah does a sit down with all of the producers. She was more visible on that episode.

  • C in Cleveland

    His statement makes me think of “Good Hair.” Stylists, who were interviewed, shared openly that their cosmetology training focused on relaxed hair. It’s no wonder that stylists are perplexed when a customer walks in with hair naturally grown from her scalp.

  • minna k.

    As a grown up woman, i really don’t GET these statements about “options” and “limitations”. Does this mean you don’t have as many options to wear the hair flat? Maybe not, but then that is just not what it wants to do. I say rock something that is consistent, flattering, and not too difficult. Something that you can master, and just make it your classic. What’s with the desire for schizophrenic hair?

  • http://www.christielover.com rebekah

    Depending on your lifestyle and hair choice. I think no matter your preference you are going to have to work to keep your hair in check. Its work to keep up all styles and all textures. I am one of the most laziest mofos you ever want to meet. Which is why I always opted for short cuts. Eventually (if not later) I shaved all my hair off and I’m still not off the hook (shape-ups). I’ve been trying to look for an easy way from rocking my natural texture, to Afros, fried hot-combed hair, damaging perms, and of course dyes and rinses. Not only do I like to experiment but I like to mix it up, and mainly aim for comfortability. I’m the first to know about not wanting to work on your hair and clearly these hair stylist are the laziest of them all. They only have to deal with ones hair on appointment so they couldn’t possibly understand what’s manageable and what’s not.
    The goal is to learn your natural texture first and play later.

  • Foxxy

    I totally agree. If more stylists could get more of an education on afro texture hair they would not be limited to only twists or dreadslocs.

  • http://poetrygrl.tumblr.com Taryn Nicole

    I read everyone’s comment and it’s funny that only one thought pops in my mind. 40-50 years ago, they were probably having the exact OPPOSITE conversation. Black women in the 60s and 70s had no issue with wearing a fro, and most preferred it. The bigger the better. And that’s what stylists loved! Now, their offspring all of a sudden don’t know how to handle it. I don’t care how you wear you hair. But at least know what your real texture feels like. By the way, thank God for barbershops! They still know how to help me rock and care for my naps better than anyone. Why pay $65-$100 when I can pay $15?

  • http://naaadjoa2.wordpress.com SutotaDakota

    Unfortunately, what Andre doesn’t realize is that his subconscious has been informed over years by the standard in the beauty industry: a non-black standard.

    Think about it: say our society was reversed, where people of African descent were in the majority AND wore their hair in it’s natural state, historically. Well, then there would be a totally different standard. All we would ever know is natural hair and style it accordingly. We would base our preference on what we’ve known to be equated with beauty: tight curls. If fro’s were mainstream, the boundaries for styles to Andre, would be limitless.

    He should flip the script and look at how he understands a standard from a different perspective. Imagination would be so helpful in this scenario.

  • Ariel

    These are my thoughts exactly. Not everybody cares to have seven different hairstyles for every day of the week. I don’t mind having the same style consistently. It’s easier and it’s always flattering. Every once and a while I might switch it up. Hair doesn’t make my look anyway. It’s more about what I’m wearing.

  • http://www.hairspiration.blogspot.com natural belle

    coco+creme is one of the only websites that i enjoy the comments almost as much as the articles

  • Tomi-chan

    Wow…. he basically said every girl go embrace your curls! Except you niggers right there. You need to cover that nappiness up. Go get a perm which will damage and make your hair even more brittle and unmanageable. Mr. Walker have a seat. You obviously suck as a hairstylist if a seventeen year old with time 4a and 4b hair can manage and grow her hair longer and healthier than your expectations.

  • Merci

    Ha! So true.

  • C. Hamilton

    Hmmm.
    ‘If you want a natural look, but find that your kinky hair is difficult to manage, breaks too easily, lacks shine and luster, and limits your preferred styling options. I say feel free to consider a mild chemical relaxer, sometimes called a texturizer, that eases your hair to a more manageable texture’

    I’ve seen ppl with relaxed hair with the EXACT same problems (difficult to manage, breaks too easily, lacks shine and luster)…so what advice would he give them?

  • Nayners

    I learned a lot about caring for my hair before Andre came along. But I also learned even more about taking care of my hair from him. When I look at Oprah’s hair from way back and the way it looks today, I know he has to know what he’s talking about.

    For those who site the afro, and are old enough to have been around during that time, know that there was a reason for wearing an afro. Althugh I was young, I did wear an afro, and it was NOT easy to maintain! If you notice, it didn’t last long.
    I’ve worn a relaxer for many years with no problems. My natural hair is wavy and curly, but not kinky. Wearing a relaxer gives me the leverage to wear my hair straight, curl it if that’s what I want that day. But during the summer, I wash it, run gel through it with my fingers, scrunch it, and hit the road. It’s whatever works for you.
    The biggest problem I’ve seen when it comes to caring for our hair (natural or relaxed) is that black women don’t want to take the time to care for their hair properly.

  • Nayners

    Some people cannot tolerate a relaxer, that is true. But I will say again, that black women don’t always know how to take care of their hair properly. I know women that still think haircare products marketed for black folks hair is the only thing the can/will use. I just spoke with someone who still uses hair grease!! Those days have been long over.

  • iamqd

    I’m so sick and tired of some “naturals” saying that what what Andre actually had some merit. Instead of ditching the bad habits and back asswards thinking of the past and making the decision to love your hair no matter the texture, you decided to pray for a certain “type” of hair. And you chopped all your relaxed hair off and you don’t have the hair you prayed for. So, instead of learning how to take care of the hair God blessed you with, you decided to moan and complain. The reason why your hair is difficult to take care of isn’t genetics, it’s YOU! The reason why your hair doesn’t grow isn’t genetics, it’s YOU! God didn’t give black women the shaft when it comes to our hair, you have screwed yourself with your negative thinking and refusal to learn yourself.So instead of taking responsibity for your hair, you jump on Andre’s bandwagon (a man who obviously has his own hangup’s when it comes to hair, check his pics), and dog black hair in it’s kinky-est form. You need to cut that out, there are women out there who rock their natural hair and are not of mixed decent, check out kimmaytube and rusticbeauty on youtube, or YaYa DeCosta. Beautiful hair comes in all textures from bone straight, to the kinky cottony halo that reaches for the sky. Now if after you’ve actually done all you can do to take care of your hair you still want to go back to a relaxer then that’s perfectly fine, but stop being so simple and don’t blame anyone else for the fact that your hair is not where you want it to be except for yourself

  • daughte of judah

    Actually God or Ahayah as is his real name (Ahayah is Hebrew for I AM, the only name God ever told Moses to call him was I am that I am or Ahyah Ashar Ahayah), DID give black women the shaft. Because we were worshipping false idols basically trying to assimilate with Egyptian and pagan cultures Ahayah punished us, and put a curse on the hair of the black woman. Black people are the tribe of Judah and the curse is written about in the Bible. I would add the scriptural references but i also am kinda tired and don’t really feel like writing more info that will be promptly ignored.

  • Megan Torres

    @Daughte(r?) of Judah

    Are you referring to the curse of Ham? If so a couple of things, and if not I would love scripture reference that supports your ludicrous statement that we were given the shaft. Theres so much wrong with that statement, but I’m going to attack it from a scriptural level.

    The Bible places limitations on curses-only three or four generations at most (Ex. 20:5).

    The descendants of Ham’s other sons-Cush, Mizraim, and Put-have continued to this day as national peoples in Ethiopia (Cush), Egypt (Mizraim), and Libya (Put).

    God says that curses based on disobedience are reversed when people repent and turn again to obedience (Ex. 20:6).

    So yea…no. Our hair is not a curse from God. If I thought you were joking I wouldn’t be as upset. It’s okay. Just like Andre. You just don’t know. But now you do and you can choose to do what you will with the info. The way the bible is somehow always twisted to reinforce the subjugation of blacks or “prove” that blacks are somehow other and more evil than other races makes me sick. We weren’t the ones to colonize almost the entire world, kill off entire races and destroy the environment and continue to benefit financially and socially from colonization and slavery. Hell is going to be mighty hot for white folks since they didn’t seem to get “cursed”in this lifetime. Just sayin.

    Oh Mr. Andre. As Mr. T says…I pity the fool. It’s not his fault ya’ll. He works in a white dominated industry. You know what would have been awesome? If Oprah BC’d. Or at least did a show on natural hair. Uh BESIDES the Chris Rock one where she allowed him to belittle her and compare her to a slave….how low is her self worth to allow that. Seriously. A self made millionaire lets this jokester (so don’t wanna say jokester. I really want to insert the n word sorry ya’ll IM breakin that mentality) belittle her and make fun of her? On HER show? Sigh.

  • Maddie

    Uh, I’m natural and wear my hair out all the time without a “wig”. I wear twist outs all the time with my hair and get many compliments on my natural hair from black and white people. You only have to know how to care for natural hair and accept it for what it is.

    Uh..and you can wear it curly. (see Napptural85 on You Tube). You can also do roller sets, blow outs, wear in twists, braided…wear braid outs, straighten it..the options are limitless.

    And by the way, relaxers aren’t made for Type 4 hair, they were made to clean out pipes, because that’s what’s literally in drain cleaners (lye).

    Not everyone’s scalp or hair can take a relaxer. I know that mine broke off constantly with each application (no matter how many moisturizers I put on it). Now, after doing the big chop more about a year ago, it’s the longest its ever been in my adult life (about two inches past my collar bone), even when seeing the stylist every week back in the day.

  • Maddie

    +1. Completely agree.

  • J

    If something as simple as combing Type 4 hair can be damaging, why in the WORLD would a chemical process be less harsh? Shenanigans…

  • Natural for 8 years

    Donna is absolutely right. These stupid misconceptions about the only ways to wear type 4 hair being braids, locks and a fro need to go out the window already! I’m personally a 3c/4a but have many FULL type 4 natural friends who wear their hair in the following ways (which I have too):

    Braids and BRAIDOUTS
    Twists and TWISTOUTS
    “Loose” – sections of wet hair defined with products and certain brushes/combs and left to air dry or dried with a diffuser
    Rod/Straw Sets
    Picked out Fro
    Chunky/Curly Fro
    Cool Blow Out for semi-straightness and volume to wear large french/dutch braids and twists
    Buns
    Pony Tails (stretched hair) or Pony Puffs
    Locks
    Hot Blow Out & Flat Ironed Straight

    Last time I checked, that’s more than 3-4 hairstyles and isn’t cutting your hair really short or wearing a wig either.

    With the following options you can wear natural hair at many different lengths, achieve different amounts of volume and wear many different styles. All you need to do is learn the best tools and techniques for dealing with your hair type and combine that with products that put maximum moisture in your hair so it can grow long and healthy (yes kinky hair can grow long and healthy)

    Andre is DEAD wrong!

    Type 4 hair is actually the MOST versatile.

    Also, WTH is he talking about when it comes to combing? Yes if you try and run a fine tooth comb through kinky hair (which you should never do anyway) of COURSE it’s going to cause breakage! Curly and Kinky hair types should only be combed with tools with medium to wide teeth and with a good conditioner to provide slip.

    I am SO tired of people acting as though there’s a problem with kinky hair because it’s not compatible with tools made for STRAIGHT hair!

    *steps off soap box*

  • Casey B

    I do not think black hair in any of its forms is limited. This man’s imagination, on the other hand….

  • Sharon

    Stick 2 doing Oprah’s hair is what I would tell him!! I will continue to my NATURAL 4 type KINKY hair thank you!! Uughh

  • Sharon

    EMBRACE is my missing word. I was mad after i read this…lol.

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