Angelina Jolie Put Synthetic Braids In Zahara’s Hair. And We Care Because… Why?

Deep, deep sigh. So Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s baby girl, Zahara Jolie-Pitt has synthetic braids in her hair and the innanets are all up in arms—again—over her parents’ choice in hairstyle for their daughter. Apparently, letting a 6-year-old wear braid extensions marks the beginning, middle and end of a mother’s ability to properly care for her child—particularly if she’s a white woman charged with caring for a black child’s thick, curly mane.

C’mon, folk—really? Can Angelina, Brad and Zahara live? I promise you this: Zahara, whose mom came under fire for letting her Ethiopian daughter’s curly afro go “untamed” and free, is not the first 6-year-old black child to get some synthetic braids in her hair. I see elementary-aged girls all up and through my daughters’ schools rocking all kinds of styles—some of them with their little heads snatched into a million heavy baubles and barrettes, some of them with cornrows that look like intricate pieces of folk art, some of them with relaxers, some of them with afros and twists and locs, and yes, some of them with synthetic braids falling on their shoulders. I make it a point not to judge. Because as the mother of two beautiful African American daughters with thick, natural hair, I know intimately just how much time, thought, money and attention goes into caring for Mari’s locs and Lila’s twists, and  we’ve thought very deeply together about  how we like their hair styled and though there are a gang of moms who look at and judge my girls’ natural ‘dos, I’ll be the first one to shout from the rooftops, “mind your beeswax—it’s none of your business or concern how my daughters wear their hair.” Because you know what? It’s not. You’re not coming to my house to put in up to five hours of take-down, detangling, washing, conditioning, more detangling and styling on Lila’s head (while she fidgets and cries), and you’re not washing, moisturizing and palm-rolling Mari’s locs, and you’re not paying for a professional to do it, and last I checked, my daughters call me “mommy,” not you, so, uh, yeah—go on ‘head with alla that. What’s good for my daughters’ hair may not be so for your daughters’ hair and vice versa, and though I’m a huge proponent of natural hair for little girls, I’m also a huge proponent of letting mothers decide for themselves how they want to style their own daughters’ hair.

This mentality is born of the one time when Mari damn-near scalped herself. Actually, her cousin Miles did it. They were three. And we foolishly thought Miles and Mari were mature enough to sit and watch TV in the basement playroom while the grown-ups ate Easter Sunday dinner one flight up. Yeah—not so much. The two of them found a pair of scissors in a basket on top of the TV and thought it would be an absolutely awesome idea to cut off Mari’s twists. By the time they finished, Mari had a reverse Mohawk—was scalped all the way up the middle of her head.

Please understand: there was no playing this hairstyle off. Baby girl was bald from her hairline to the crown of her head, and the only way to salvage her look was to either shave off all her hair and let her look like a 3-year-old boy or take her to a natural haircare salon where a stylist could strategically add in some braids that could be pulled into a style that would hide said scalping. I wanted to cut it all off; her daddy won by pleading his case for letting his daughter look like a girl. So she wore synthetic braids for about seven months while her hair grew back in. (The day that we determined her hair was long enough to take the braids out, she took the scissors to her hair a second time. You can read about the small cow I birthed that day here.)

Of course, we got looks. We couldn’t go anywhere without black women clucking at my baby’s head and then at me and practically shouting with their meddling glares, “What kind of backward ass mother are you slapping fake hair in that little girl’s head?” At first, I walked into rooms ready with my explanation. But after awhile, I figured out that, really, it wasn’t anybody’s business why Mari was rocking braids. I had my reasons. She is my daughter. And that was all anybody needed to know.

The same goes for Angelina Jolie and her Zahara. We don’t know why her mom put braids in her hair. Maybe Angelina wanted a no-fuss style for her daughter’s natural hair while they travel somewhere exotic for the holidays. Maybe Zahara saw some braids somewhere, liked them and asked her mom to style her hair that way. Maybe Zahara or one of her siblings took the scissors to her locks and those braids are hiding some unsightly bald spots. Or maybe Angelina just decided that this week, she wanted Zahara to have some braids. Nothing deeper than that. No matter her reasoning, though—good grief, leave that lady and her baby alone.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.

21 Comments

  1. you know, I could care less what she does with her childs hair. She could shave it bald for all I care. I don’t know why this is news worthy lol

  2. amen! i believe that how i choose to care for my daughter’s hair is a personal parental choice that i make, just like deciding which toothpaste to use to brush her teeth. :-)

  3. Really this is news. The woman rsafe this innocent little girl from possible death and because she put weave in HER childs hair ppl having a issue omg america get a clue already. if it was a african american parent putting weave in their childs hair it would be ok right smh. seriously if you guys need news come to where i live and leave the pitts family alone. get a life seriously

  4. and yes i seen a few spelling error in my post but i am very upset

  5. It reminds me of when everyone was oogling over Suri Cruise and her “High heeled shoes”. Why is it news?

    I loved your last paragraph BTW. I often feel the need to explain why my daughter might have on a cap in the middle of the day when we are out in public (because I did not make her sit those 5 hours in one straight shot, but was dividing the process into 3 days).

    Also, because we live on Lake Michigan and swim all summer long, my daughter has braids all summer long. Because her own hair was 2 inches long for a while (after cutting locs — her choice), she needed the synthetic hair to make the braids last. ANd, yes, I could have put twists in, but she did not want twists and they also do not withstand the daily swimming like braids. I never imagined people might find this upsetting — that we put synthetic braids in. Oh my.

  6. AMEN. I was just talking to a friend about our upcoming transracial adoption and I had to make fun of myself because I am a White woman trying NOT to learn how to do my future Black son’s hair. I am all for paying someone to put braids, cornrows or whatever in little man’s hair and I’ll write the check. My Black girlfriends who know how to do their kids hair still tell me they choose to pay someone else to do it whenever they can. it’s hair, people, it’s a non-issue.

  7. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would care whether or not a kid has synthetic braids. What difference does it make? It’s just a hairstyle.

    When I was a kid I desperately wanted long braids with all of those beautiful beads that everyone had. My hair just wouldn’t grow long enough. If I (or my mom) had thought of synthetic braids (did they have them then? I don’t know), I would have done it in a heartbeat.

    And BTW, my mother grew up in a time when WIGS were in. Even if you had great hair, it was in to wear a wig – just for fun.

  8. I think Jill Scott said it best….”hate on me hater!”…Some people spend just a little bit too much time nic-pickin in others affairs…Bottom line is her hair is cared for and most importantly she is cared for and heaven’s forbid…LOVED! #ijs

  9. i dont approve and I’m not sure that these celebs always know whats best for their black children..

  10. Awesome info. I’m glad I am not the only one who could not be left alone scissors. Yup my Mother had a few cows!! Thanks for the courage to be cool.

  11. I’ve wondered for years why they weren’t using some of their million$ to pay someone to do Zahara’s hair. She’s a beautiful girl and finally has a neat, beautiful hairstyle.

    • Maybe they did spend money to have someone do her hair and that someone did her hair in a “natural” black style.

    • What do you mean ‘finally has a neat, beautiful hairstyle’? It wasn’t messy before because it was curly?? And it certainly wasn’t anything less than beautiful…?! It’s just different styles. But you can’t beat what God gave you at the end of the day, what’s more beautiful than that?

  12. Wow, small minded people is an epidemic…..let the woman raise her damn kids in peace….SMH

  13. It’s not what’s on your head that counts, it’s what’s IN your head. Hairdo’s have nothing to do with good parenting. Nappy hair, straight hair, curly hair or no hair – just love your kids.

  14. Hi I am from Ethiopia and I live the USA . I have three children, two daughters and a son. They were all born here and I do both of my daughters hair braided. It is not wrong to braid their hair like that.

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