Thursday, October 05, 2006

Brad Pitt and Black Hair

"For white people who might be having a little trouble with black- person hair, Carol's Daughter is a fantastic hair product. We got it for Z. Now her hair has this beautiful luster. And it smells nice, too." -- Brad Pitt, Esquire Magazine, 10/06

For those of you who don't know, Black hair as a social phenomenon is my thing. I wrote a book about it and everything. So you know I have to talk about Brad Pitt.

As it goes, in the October issue of Esquire magazine, Mr. Pitt made a comment about how much he likes Carol's daughter's products for his daughter Zahara's hair. Originally I was simply going to write about that. You know comment on how his casual endorsement would probably translate to thousands of new customers for Lisa Price and her Brooklyn-based company. I was also going to mention that this was the kind of meltingpot experience that I love to see. You know, White people learning through hands-on experience what Black hair is really about.

But that's not the real story here. The real story is how much press this comment has gotten, online and in the blogosphere. People are going crazy over this. Go ahead and Google Brad Pitt and Carol's Daughter and you'll get over 200,000 hits. Why? Because people want to see controversy in a White man talking about a Black person's hair. Some people are offended that Brad referred to his daughter's hair as "Black-person hair." Others were offended that he said the products made Z's hair smell really good. As if it smelled bad before. And one website actually labeled Pitt a racist, misquoting him of course, saying that he had "trouble" with his daughter's hair. Wow!

When my co-author, Ayana Byrd and I wrote Hair Story five years ago, people were crucifying another White person, this time a public school teacher, for reading the book Nappy Hair to her Black students. As it was then and it still is now, the Black community is still really sensitive when it comes to our hair. Sure we may be more accepting of natural styles and less ashamed to flaunt our weaves and extensions but something is still unhealed in our collective psyche.

I don't believe Brad Pitt deserves any criticism or condemnation for his comments. But maybe I should send him a copy of my book so he understands the tangled roots of our hairstory.

Peace Out


Anonymous said...


All black folks know that we are *always* looking for the next product that's promises magic. That's just the reality: our hair generally requires more tlc to look good. I keep reminding my dear hubbie when he's caring for our dear daughter's hair: she's only half caucasian, merely brushing will not do. We use special combs, certain moisturizers, specific hair oils, and we almost never use the generic shampoo/conditioner available at our local gym. We know that, why get mad when white folks find out too?

I think if popular culture would depict more multiracial families, reflecting the reality that white people are having/adopting black kids for example, and dealing with these mundane everyday puzzles, then we would be more honest about such issues.

But apart from Grey's Anatomy, as you mentioned in an earlier post, multi-culti just isn't seen on tv. I just started watching The Unit, a show about an elite army unit and their families. Now, I've only watched a few shows but I have yet to see a mixed race couple or family. Surely in the US military, which sends its personnel all over the world, there are some folks who come back home with a German, Japanese, African spouse. Off the top of my head I can think of at least two such families. Why are they not depcted on tv?

Lisa Johnson said...

I hadn't heard about any of this until reading your post. Quite interesting. The never-ending saga of black hair drama continues.

I have to give it to Brad for learning that his daughter's hair needs different products than he is used to. Some white parents just don't know or don't want to think about the differences.

meera bowman-johnson said...

Hi Lori,

Great blog - I've been cracking up with agreement all evening.

We black folks are so funny...I read a bunch of recent posts where people had a bazillion comments about how "they needed to do something with that child's hair", and how "no child should ever be allowed to go out of the house like that!" It was in response to a recent pic of baby Z and dad on location in India (okay, she was sporting a slightly uneven, slightly matted twa, but she's a baby!!!).
Maybe the pic was taken before the Mimosa Hair Honey?

I really think that people just like having something to talk about half the time. If it's not one thing it's another. Also, "we" are supposed to be the "experts" on us. So how dare anybody else comment? Who does he think he is - Brad Pitt??

That said, I still had to go there on my blog and write a short satirical post on what Brangelina needs to learn about having a black daughter with "black person hair". Maybe we should send this along with your book (which I loved btw).

Thanks for keeping it real...

Anonymous said...

Lori- first and foremost i love your view on Brad's comment. i have entirely embraced the white community as well as my black people. its funny that we're all the same on the inside but hair can set us apart. its great that white people are trying to learn our hair. But we really cant expect them to get it ALL right!

Anonymous said...

why should these people get mad at the white people. they are ignorant of the ways of ethnic hair. we cannot expect them to know something just because we do. i personally thank brad because i can't seem to find anything that works on my hair. it could be because of the fact that my hair is so;s nice to know that the caucasians are at least trying to see things in our perspective. shouldn;t we look at theirs???????

Anonymous said...

Brad Pitt adores his daughter. If his verbage rattled the cages of the oversensitive black community, I'm sure it was not intentional. Please stop being so overly sensitive so the white people in the world will stop walking on eggshells, all trying so hard not to offend you. Good grief.

Professor Tharps said...

Hey Anon at 8:43,

Thanks for reading the Meltingpot. I appreciate your comments for illuminating the "other" side of the story. However, I would also suggest you pick up a copy of Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, so you might have a better understanding as to why the Black community is so "overly sensitive" when it comes to our hair. I'm not saying you'll agree or condone the behavior, but it just might make more sense to you.

Again thanks so much for stopping by!

Unknown said...

I think the hair care is very important for every woman, because the hair represent one of the most attractive point. A woman can even conquer a man just with a beautiful hair, and when that happend is better the man buy viagra for a great sexual performance.

Precision Resistors said...

That is nice of Brad to suggest products to help with black hair!