In an interview with Elle magazine, Andre Walker, stylist to Ms. Oprah Winfrey herself for more than two decades, dropped this bomb: “I always recommend embracing your natural texture. Kinky hair can have limited styling options; that’s the only hair type I suggest altering with professional relaxing.”
And with that, Mr. Walker just proved that logic does trump subconscious, because if Oprah’s hair guy is against kinked tresses, do we even want to know who else is?
It’s hard enough if you’re transitioning to natural hair without adding in the bias and opinions of your friends, family—or even your stylist.
As curly girls, all of us have ventured in to at-home product recipes and remedies now and again, but somewhere inside each of us there is that small voice (probably the remnants of some commercial that made an annoying impression on our subconscious) encouraging us that stylists know all and can help our limp, frizzy, dried out, over-styled, under-cared-for tresses.
For the unlucky ones in the group, albeit the majority, each salon trip ends in a myriad of wet cuts, blow-dried hair and fancy talk about how weird it is that your locks frizz up at the sight of heat, even with this super-special product that they are now pressuring you to buy.
For many of us, there is a realization that comes from being a curly girl in a straight-haired salon—I stand up for my hair, or no one does.
And if you have been one of the lucky ones, reluctant yet to see stylists for what they might be (glorified groomers) or you have been even luckier and found a stylist who sees you for who you are, it may be time for a reality check.
With professional, celebrity stylists like Andre Walker believing that kinky tresses are best treated with a straightening agent, it is no wonder that transitioning to natural hair is a scary journey to trek. Stylists aren’t even in it with us!
One commenter points out, “Sad, this is why so many women feel they can’t go natural, when “professional hair stylists” shame their natural hair texture and suggest relaxers.”
Of course, we aren’t the only ones getting frazzled over his statement.
One Elle reader states:
“Oh Andre. You can do better than that. Natural hair is so versatile. The styles we can choose from are diverse and stylish. Saying that kinky hair is the only hair that should have chemicals poured on it is pretty lame. I suspect the comment has more to do with your personal aesthetics or lack of skills to work with any kind of Afro hair.”
Fortunately, Andre Walker did offer a rebuttal to his original statement:
“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.”
Commenters across the web, however, just aren’t taking kindly to Andre Walker’s words—rebutted or not—because, overall, Walker is just plain wrong.
Perhaps not all Type 4 women opt for transitioning to natural hair, but for all of us who choose natural and healthy over straightened and potentially damaged, let it be known that offense has been taken and a note has been made—never let a stylist’s opinion deter your transitioning trek.