Shea Moisture put out an ad this week called Hair Hate and then sat back and enjoyed their own Pepsi moment. Here’s the ad below:
For a company that is built by, for and literally on black women, expanding their customer base by equating the hair challenges of naturals with the bad hair days of gingers and blondes wasn’t an overreach, it was a betrayal. Shortly after Shea Moisture’s dragging began, so did the comparisons to the Pepsi ad. Both seemed tone deaf, trivializing important aspect of black culture to sell product. But I said it about Pepsi and now I’ll say it about Shea Moisture–they’re not tone deaf, they’re assholes; they’re not silly, they’re sell outs.
Shea Moisture’s built its brand on black women and their hard earned cash. Even the label tells the homey story of the brand’s founder’s grandmother Sofi Tucker selling product in Sierra Leon. Last year the brand shouted its allegiance to ethnic hair by proudly proclaiming it was going to desegregate the beauty isle–the implication being that Shea Moisture’s move to shelf space in the non-ethinc hair care section (called the regular hair section by most people) was about making hair care inclusive of black beauty, not leaving it behind. This ad clearly positions Shea Moisture as here for black women. Turns outs they were just getting ready to sell out in the rush to gentrify haircare and expand their own customer base and bottom line.
This is not a tone deaf company. This is a company that has carefully–and with great success–made it big by catering to black women. Looking back, it seems the brand, like an NBA player, wasn’t trying to rock with the sisters once it started making it big time (please don’t write me letters, my woke NBA brothers). The move to the regular hair isle is now followed up with an ad that is shifting the brand to one that serves “regular hair” The new ad is the shampoo equivalent of all hair matters, compete with Becky with the good hair. (Did they not listen to Lemonade?!)
Hair is an important marker of identity, especially for women, and especially for black women. The natural hair movement has grown along with the movement for black lives. Like the rallying cry, ‘Black is Beautiful’ in the 70’s, the natural hair movement cannot be separated from the politics and social change of our time.
Shea Moisture seeks to equate the hate of different kinds of hair without acknowledging that some hair hate comes with real consequences. The hate towards natural hair in schools, business, and social situations is about more than hair, it is reinforcing white supremacy. To act like hair hate is about hair and not hate means that Shea Moisture just doesn’t understand us anymore. Maybe they never really loved us, they just loved our hair style. Something tells me they’re about to find out if Becky with the good hair can love them like we did.