Watching Deepica Mutyala attempt to style natural hair on the TODAY Show was hardly shocking. As a black woman and an advocate for the natural hair community, I’ve sadly grown accustomed to seeing our locks mishandled behind the scenes and in public spaces.
Perhaps the fact that this snafu aired nationally is why my initial reaction went something like this:
What would women new to the natural hair community think? Would they assume that the treatment and styling of model Malyia McNaughton’s hair was acceptable? The thought of no one stepping in to tell them otherwise is what really made me cringe; not the moment in itself.
We’ve all been in Malyia’s shoes—this isn’t new. Recall a time when you sat in a salon chair with one picture in your head, but ended up with something completely different. Sometimes it’s better than what we imagined and other times, it’s a complete disaster.
The bottom line is it happens. And unless there is irreversible damage, whatever you leave the chair with isn’t the end of the world, as evidenced by Malyia’s defense of the viral mistake:
“She keeps apologizing, but I totally understand the pressure that she was under, and I’m grateful for the fact that she wanted to be inclusive, and because the natural-hair movement is such a large segment,” she told The Cut.
“I think people need to look at that angle as opposed to completely bashing her, because I feel like that closes the door for future opportunities. She will probably never work with a natural-hair model again, in regards to hair, and I think that that’s unfortunate, because that’s what we’re fighting against as both women of color.”
Admittedly, reflecting on the bigger picture—natural hair being included in “mainstream” discussion—made me feel a little bad for feeding into the shock value instead of taking on a more positive approach.
Now that the dust is settled, I am beyond impressed with how Deepica chose to recover. Going beyond the standard apology statement, the Indian beauty blogger turned the hindrance into a teachable moment. With the help of three popular natural hair enthusiasts—Kamie Crawford, Akilah Hughes and Tiarra Monet—Deepica gets a crash course in natural hair for dummies at Monet’s NYC salon.
After hilariously referencing the 60-second moment that started it all, each woman takes a moment to highlight important starter tips as both the stylist and styled. There’s talk of product recommendations, must-have tools and a surprise one-minute challenge to conclude. In short: this is damage control done right.
As an established expert in the beauty space, I’m sure Deepica’s business will not be interrupted. She’ll move onto opportunities beyond TODAY and hopefully continue to cover natural hair in a more thoughtful way.
What I truly want is for all hair experts to take this moment and apply it to their own work. Inclusiveness is still an ongoing struggle in the general hair community and alleviating the same problems starts with education. Now is the time for stylists working behind the runway and advertising campaigns to allocate the time and resources necessary to make black beauty more than an afterthought.
Deepica’s hands-on approach has put me at ease…for now. Only time will tell just how effective her apology is for other industry insiders.
What are your thoughts on Deepica’s video? Tell us in the comments below!