• Wed, Aug 1 2012

What Do Olympic Athlete Gabby Douglas And Oprah Have In Common? Public Fascination With Their Hair

Olympic athlete Gabby Douglas is 16 years old and has a gold medal in gymnastics under her belt. Oprah is 58, has millions of dollars and a media empire to her name. But today, I’ve read more about their hair than their accomplishments, because apparently, the public is fascinated with black hair, and why it can’t just look like white hair at all times.

Jezebel’s Dodai Stewart outlined the disappointing reactions to Gabby Douglas’ hair on blogs and Olympics recaps–essentially, more bloggers than you’d care to know have commented that, although her gold-medal win was great, her hair was disappointing. And so the chatter has become big news:

gabby douglas hair news

Likewise, O Magazine’s newest cover, to hit newsstands on August 6, is already getting media attention because it’s the first time she hasn’t straightened the kinks out of her hair for a shoot, which, as Buzzfeed notes, “looks quite different when she goes to the bother of getting it done.”

To be fair, Oprah herself wrote about her hair in the issue, according to a press release about the issue:

Winfrey writes that wearing her hair naturally – as she often does on weekends and on vacation – makes her feel unencumbered and that she once wanted to just cut it all off. “I wanted to wear it close-cropped a la Camille Cosby but her husband Bill convinced me otherwise. ‘Don’t do it,’ he said. ‘You’ve got the wrong head shape and you’ll disappoint yourself.’ I took his advice.”

But Douglas didn’t. And as Stewart noted, it’s perfectly acceptable that she isn’t worried about how her sweat affects her hair-do while she competes for gold medals at the Olympics. So notes about a stray curl or kink just seem mean, and point to two things: a) the public’s unhealthy fascination with black hair, and b) the underlying sexism that, despite the huge victories for women in this year’s Olympics, allows men and women to critique women for absurd things like hair and weight, even in the midst of our greatest accomplishments.

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  • Gigi

    First CONGRATS GABBY! ON THE ALL AROUND GOLD!!
    What! Gabby’s hair looks fine. It really did not ball up too much that i can see. There is NOTHING wrong with natural African – type hair anyway!
    She might want to consider Sisterlocks, it is all natural style (locking method) and is great for al kinds of activity and looks GREAT

  • Clay2nd

    To all the haters, Gabby as well as all of the other competitors are wearing their hair the way they are for a reason. The gymnastic judges can take a deduction if a gymnasts hair falls out or a beret falls off during a routine. The gymnastics skills the girls are performing put a lot of G-force on their hair. If you notice all of the girls have their hair plastered to their head.
    This is about deductions and gold medals not fashion or ethnicity. I find the fact we are having this discussion an insult to the accomplishments of an extraordinary person and athlete.

  • Eaglelover

    I think Gabby looks like a young Oprah. CONGRATS on both of your gold medals. Hair is hair. I’ve seen pics. of celebs. in public that look like they’ve just gotten out of bed, yet they paid to have it look like that. Leave her alone, she did a great job and her hair needed to be up so it didn’t get in her way.

  • Sunnyforever

    We have been to the mountain top, but we have not climbed over the hurdles hair haters. I can not believe that hair is even an issue.

    We have been to the mountain top. Now we must learn to accept ourselves in our natural Black beauty, remembering that GOD was are original stylist.

  • Rill

    Gabby is like 5000x better than Oprah, but according to her mom, most of the haters are “AA” women. (A term I think is used too frequently, unless you came directly from Africa, China, Germany, Ireland, Britain, Mexico, etc – You are AMERICAN period. not “blank”-American)
    Locks would be great for her because of the sweating which would help lock it faster, but the hair gets too big for ponytails and stuff and aerodynamics play a role in gymnastics. Unless you want her to be all shorthaired/chickenhead-like?
    Gabby looks great the way she is, she likes her hair long and I commend her for having her own hair instead of someone else’s or a yak’s tail from tibet or somwhere. You go girl.