On first glance, the curls-inspired-by Nori article looks like as per usual Vogue dismissing the originators and engines of a creative movement, in this case the legions of black women who have been a part of the natural hair movement. The article starts by referencing the baby hair featured on designer Riccardo Tisci’s Givenchy runway and then segues to baby North West, mentioning her appearances sitting in the front row of various fashion shows, establishing her as “a kind of hair icon for a nascent and diverse generation of tots rocking their natural curls.” The biggest whopper of all though and the copy that set social media buzzing is the title, which reads: “How North West’s Curly Styles Are Inspiring a Generation of Natural Hair Girls.”
Throughout social media, the author, Marjon Carlos, has been attacked and criticized for the article with commenters angrily questioning why North was chosen over Beyoncé’s daughter, with the implication that Blue’s hair wasn’t “good”enough. This is the thing though, Carlos herself is a black woman and has written in Vogue in support of the natural hair movement. She did so in a recent article called “Team Natural: Why Halle Berry’s Lawsuit over Her Daughter’s Hair Matters,” which concluded “it’s about embracing the power of determining a beauty ideal all our own.” At the moment, she has made private her Twitter and Instagram accounts, but in our opinion, Carlos has cred and should be given some benefit of the doubt. Hopefully she will speak up soon but it’s understandable that she would allow chatter to come down to Earth first before she does so.
One thing to keep in mind is that magazines are notorious for writing firestorm headlines that completely catch the authors off guard because they didn’t write them or have any say over them. As well, Vogue no doubt has a very intense style guide so there were probably certain items that had to be included in the article: an establishment runway designer, a particular celebrity child, heck, probably even the hair stylist who was mentioned, Anthony Dick, came from a pre-approved list.
The other stickier angle of this story is that it does appear to be speaking to children of mixed racial backgrounds or at least ones with a looser curl pattern. If you will, a bit of a how-to for parents who might not have any experience or background grooming curly locks. While it’s great that Vogue is including styling tips for non-stick-straight hair and at the same time recognizing children of mixed race unions, given its poor history when it comes to representing any people of color, it might not be possible to write such a nuanced article without creating a firestorm of anger and hurt feelings. Throw in the child of an inherently controversial Kardashian as a starting point and you have a certified mess on your hands.
Probably an article like this would have worked just fine in a lot of other places like Essence, any black hair blog, shoot, even Elle could have pulled it off, and that is because those magazines have overall better inclusivity track records as well as editorial policies that allow for or encourage crediting originators. Change the headline and add in a couple of sentences and it would have been a different outcome even for Vogue. It’s a really simple formula, don’t literally whitewash history and give credit when credit is due. You do that and folks will not only cut you slack, but support and cheer you on.