Curl, Interrupted: Do Frizzy Coifs Equal Frazzled Psyches?

Like Ouidad, curly hair guru and author Lorraine Massey, founder and co-owner of  Devachan Salon & Departure Lounge (which has the impressively punny and popular No Poo hair care line), preaches to the naturally curly to try and embrace their ringlets rather than quell them. “This whole pathetic straightening religion … it’s modern-day slavery,” said Ms. Massey, who is a passionate believer in her cause. “Everyone is trying to hide from their heritage—it’s anthropological. It goes very deep.” 

Ms. Massey was still livid over a recent run-in with the producers for Bravo’s Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style, which provides makeovers to the fashion-challenged, and who had asked her to participate. She agreed on the condition that for the final “reveal” they wouldn’t straighten the participant’s hair, something they ended up doing anyway. “They just don’t understand my view on this,” Ms. Massey said. “My whole philosophy is to not perpetuate the same crap over and over again.” Shari Harbinger, the director of education for Devachan, agreed: “Hollywood is reacting but Hollywood is also enabling this vicious cycle. Lorraine and I often refer to the drug addict and the drug dealer scenario.”

 

THE GOOD NEWS is that everyone The Observer spoke with seemed to feel a shift was occurring for the curly-haired landscape: more wave with less stereotype. (Look at all those spiraling tresses featured in the fall J.Crew catalog!) “I think people have to get over that straight hair,” said Mr. Warn. “Everyone is starting to look the same with this ironed hair. It’s sort of nice when you see curls; it’s almost refreshing. It looks alive again.”

In early August, Good Morning America aired a segment about people’s perceptions of curly or straight hair. Reporter Taryn Winter Brill went curly and straight for a panel of five “regular” men, and then did the same for job recruiters. With her own naturally curly hair she received higher marks from the recruiters on intelligence, confidence and ability to articulate ideas clearly, though from the random dudes she did better with the blow-out. (We think the message is clear from both tests: go natural!)

“I’m seeing more curls and freedom,” said Ouidad. “We still have a lot to go, but it’s just incredible how much more there is available. Just by the products on the market, it’s apparent.’

“Hollywood will embrace this truth when the people that are behind it get it and then do what they can to reeducate the union stylists and designers,” said Devachan’s Ms. Harbinger. “This is something that we at Deva want to get involved with. It’s almost like the Democratic convention. We have to first undo years of lies, and then reeducate, motivate and guide them to the truth. The truth is that curlies can have ‘neat’ and refined curls if the people who tend to them know what they are doing. And this will in fact significantly change the perception from a false belief to a new understanding of the beauty of curly hair.”

We know, we know, this could take years. Still, we look forward to the day we see Gwyneth Paltrow on the big screen, hitting rock bottom both professionally and personally, getting made over (cue Sheryl Crow!) with a lion’s mane of curls and then being promoted to CEO and winning the man of her dreams. Then, and only then, will we know Hollywood has learned that curls don’t have to signify frazzle. They can dazzle, too. 

svilkomerson@observer.com