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.
1. A Beautiful Black Girl Finally Says, “I Love My Hair!”
2. Little Dolls: Tenderly Tending to Every Strand of Brown Girl Hair, With a Smile
3. Don’t You Wish Your Daughter Was Hot Like Tyra?
4. The Attack Against Black Girl Beauty
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.