Woman’s cultural appropriation question sparks outpouring online: 'I don't want to do that'

Alex Lasker
·4 min read

A white TikTok user is garnering praise after requesting guidance on a particular hairstyle before potentially appropriating it.

TikToker @thegreatchameleon shared a video on Nov. 2 in which she asks for feedback on styling her “shorty hairs” from people of color on the video-sharing platform.

“If you are a person of color, please interact with this because I have a question and I would really like any information and possibly an answer,” she begins her video, which has been viewed over 4.4M times. “Also, if I say anything in this video that’s problematic, please call me on that because that’s literally the last thing I’m trying to be.”

The TikToker goes on to explain that she has been struggling to properly style the short hair around her face, which she calls “shorty hairs” because, as she explains, “I still don’t know if it’s okay for me to refer to them as baby hairs.”

Baby hairs are the short, wispy, sometimes textured strands of hair around the face, which Black and Latina women often choose to lay down with styling gel or pomade, Jezebel writer Kara Brown explains.

The styling of baby hairs in the Black community has become somewhat of an art form and has been appropriated by brands before, so it makes sense why @thegreatchameleon sought guidance before attempting to manage her own short strands in this beautiful manner.

“I’ve been trying to find different ways to style and maintain them, and I think it’s really super pretty when people lay them down,” the TikToker explained. “However, I’ve been trying to do some research and I’ve seen in some places that that would be considered cultural appropriation if I, as a white woman, were to do that. But then I’ve read in other places that it should be totally fine.”

“I’m literally so conflicted,” she added. “So please help me understand if that would be considered cultural appropriation and also help me understand why, because obviously if it’s cultural appropriation, I don’t want to do that.”

The TikTok community provided @thegreatchameleon with a ton of insightful feedback on how to properly handle her “shorty hairs” and also thanked her for her respect.

“Girl please just lay them down with some eco gel,” one user wrote. “Now if you get some box braids next week that’s another issue.”

“Yes they are baby hairs,” said another user. “Put them to rest and lay them down. It’s completely ok.”

“The fact that you are being cautious of other people’s feelings and trying to be sure you are being sensitive to other cultures is <3,” wrote a third.

“Queen when you’re this respectful we are gonna 100% come thru for you!” said another TikToker. “Keep being ur sweet respectful self & listen to the tips from Black Queens.”

“I feel like they might be a little long for you to lay them down, but give it a shot!” noted another. “As long as you acknowledge it’s a Black hairstyle, go for it.”

In an update video, @thegreatchameleon shared her gratitude for all of the Black women who had reached out to her to share their advice and tips for her hair woes.

“I had so many beautiful, wonderful, kind women of color reach out to me and teach me the history and the culture behind maintaining baby hairs and laying edges,” she said.

She also showed off her new look, which she achieved using Eco Style gel and a toothbrush to create tiny “schwoops” along her hairline and keep her hair out of her face.

“I just want to say, I do not take credit for this hairstyle,” she reasserted. “I would not even know how to do this hairstyle or take care of my edges had I not gone on here and reached out to women of color and had such a genuine and kind response.”

In 2014, brands at New York City’s fashion week showed us exactly what not to do when considering using a hair management technique created and made popular by people of color.

Photos of two white models for DKNY sporting so-called “Urban Fabulous” hairdos went viral, with many people expressing outrage over the fact that the brand failed to properly credit the Black community.

“It’s not the fact that they’ve been inspired by (or stolen from, depending on how you look at it) Black culture in the first place, it’s that there is absolutely no acknowledgment of where these looks originated,” Kayla Brown wrote at the time.

“Saying ‘urban’ is just them trying their hardest not to say Black. Like it would just f******* kill them to admit that black culture has a direct influence [on] high fashion,” she added. “Calling these looks urban is not the same as crediting black people. It’s nothing more them doing linguistic gymnasts to completely erase Black people from Black culture.”

Revlon's one-step hairdryer is about to make getting ready a lot easier:

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