Oh No Baby, What Is You Doing? The Latest Shea Moisture Controversy

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As I do every afternoon, today I opened my Twitter app to see what foolishness is happening on the internet and in the world at large, and I saw a flurry of tweets directed at Shea Moisture for what black women are calling a “tone deaf” and “whitewashed” ad.

The ad, which is line with the brand’s “No Hair Hate” messaging, starts off well enough — a young black woman with long, curly hair shares her struggles with finding products for her natural texture and the teasing she faced growing up. Then, within a matter of seconds, the ad takes an interesting turn.

The next two women, who are white, begin to share hair struggles of their own. The first lamented about how she didn’t know what to do with her straight hair, and the second talked about hating her naturally red hair which led her to dye her hair platinum blonde for nearly a decade.

I understand that women, no matter our race, face issues with accepting and embracing our natural beauty. Either we’re too big or too small, our hair is too curly or too straight, we’re too short or too tall, and the list of “what’s wrong” goes on.

But, I don’t think it’s fair to equate the historical struggles of black women who have had to fight against images that degrade black beauty and hair, such as the mammy and the pickaninny, to a white woman who doesn’t know how to style her straight hair or didn’t like her natural hair color, which is exactly what the ad seems to do.

For the past year, I’ve been noticing how Shea Moisture began splitting its products between the “ethnic” and “mainstream” haircare aisles, and I have an inkling that many of the white women who now use the brand don’t know it’s a company that started with black and natural hair in mind.

Furthermore, plenty of black women have been reporting that their holy grail SM products suddenly stopped working, and after some careful examination, they realized it’s because the ingredients have changed.

I want to see black brands grow, thrive and expand what they offer in the same way “mainstream” brands like Pantene and Dove have begun offering products for natural hair, but I want them to be careful not to forget about needs of black women who supported the brand before it hit the shelves of Target, Wal-Mart and Sally’s.

While you’re innovating new products to fulfill the hair goals of women of different demographics, don’t short black women by trying to make products that were made with us in mind to fit a wider audience.

Shea Moisture has denied any claims of changing ingredients and “whitewashing” of the brand in order to appeal to a broader audience:

We’ve never believed that one size fits all – especially for hair and skin needs, and today is no different. We’re proud to now self-manufacture more than 150 different hair care products to serve our community’s varying needs with specific formulations made for the individual – not the generalization or the stereotype. We do not believe that we should accept or adopt the thinking that has made it possible and easier for others to put any of us in a box. We have different hair and skin needs based on who we are as individuals… We make no apologies for solving for and speaking to our community as human beings and not as data points. It is the only way that we’ve been able to consistently address issues that few were willing to recognize on behalf of our communities…

Kinky Curly Coily Me, a well-known and respected black beauty blogger, tweeted an ad Shea Moisture recently released featuring Nikia Phoenix, a model who has been transparent about her own hair journey, apparently in hopes of showing her followers that the brand hasn’t forgotten about black women’s unique relationship with hair standards:

So, what do you think stunners? Is Shea Moisture “doing too much,” or are we just reading it all wrong? Let me know in the comments below!

UPDATE: Shea Moisture apologized for the ad and has pulled it.

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