Ever since many of us were little girls, we’ve imagined in vivid detail the day we will say “I do” to the man of our dreams. Many of the details have already been written into memory like a fairy tale. The flowing white gown made of beautiful satin or an elegant French lace, the cascading bouquet of perfectly arranged flowers and the towering, handcrafted wedding cake. Some of us have even known exactly what engagement ring we wanted to wear as a Mrs. since we were teens. Those story lines have remained fairly certain for many of us. But over the years, the one detail that may have changed is how you would wear your hair.
Once upon a time, I thought I would bring sophistication to my big day with an updo like a french twist or a perfectly smooth bun. Or perhaps I’d get a weave that would lay long, luxurious ringlets down my back. Now that I’m older and my bridal dreams have evolved as well as my admiration for natural hair, I now know for certain one detail that will not change. I will marry the man of my dreams with a beautiful head of natural hair.
In the spring, I had the wonderful privilege of doing a cover shoot and spread for Munaluchi Bride Magazine. It is like no other magazine I’ve seen. As a woman of color with kinky natural hair, it’s so rare that I see images of us in bridal magazines. Us…black women of all shapes and sizes, skin tones and hair textures. We are often so underrepresented in mainstream media that it can often be discouraging. Where do we go for not only the support of black love but wedding inspiration when “mainstream” media actively tears down our hairstyle choices and the look of our God-given natural hair?
During the photo shoot, I felt like a regal version of myself. I was a princess wandering through an enchanted forest surrounded by curious sprites and mischievous fairies. Or better yet, I felt like I’d snuck into some queen’s wardrobe and was trying on all of her clothes. Every time I slipped on a new dress, I was afraid that somehow I’d ruin it. They were all so detailed and delicate just like I’d always imagined. Remember when Carrie did that bridal shoot for Vogue in the Sex and the City movie? That’s exactly how I felt. I was so beautiful in each and every gown and my hair…my natural hair has never looked so ethereal, so elegant, so royally beautiful as it graced my face and crowned my presence. I felt so beautiful. I was so beautiful.
Though our natural hair is celebrated in Munaluchi, in many other glossies our natural features are often ripped to shreds. From Marie Claire to People Style Watch and even the US Army, we often hear that natural hair is not professional and definitely not elegant enough for a bride to show off at her wedding. Although we are still learning to love and embrace our tight coils and waves, many are still having trouble catching up. After several years of being natural, my own mother has said she’s still getting used to my hair and sometimes suggests that I wear a “more polished look.” I know my mother means well, but her words are often disheartening. When most of the images of blushing brides remain to be white women with straight hair, how can I blame her for thinking kinky hair isn’t fitting for such a monumental event?
I fully acknowledge that these thought patterns, no matter who holds them, are a result of slavery, white privilege and racism. When we begin attacking and tearing women down who have never found or struggle to find their foothold in this world, it inflicts injury and humiliation when we are the most vulnerable and in many ways helps to keep us down. It exploits our body and minds. The genuine love I now have for my natural hair was a real journey of walking head up through the constant barrage of smothering messages that we are undesirable. Our agency gives us freedom. Freedom to be our true selves. When your agency is stripped away, you lose your sense of self. And when you are lost, it is hard to pass on what you don’t fully understand yourself.
I loved being a black bride with natural hair even if it was just for a day. We need more images of black women that are a reflection of our natural selves. This is not to say that black women with straight hair are not equally beautiful, but to show that there is just as much beauty, elegance and regality in natural-haired black women. For so long, society has assaulted our black womanhood – our full lips, round butts and “nappy” hair all because they were cowardly and afraid. It would have meant so much to me as a kinky-haired little girl to be able to see a blushing reflection of myself looking back at me on my ripped out pages of bride magazines. It’s hard to be what you can’t see and I want to see a brown-skinned lady drenched in pearls and an Oscar de la Renta gown with a crown of two strand twists in a mainstream wedding magazine. I want to see her with a fly TWA in a Vera Wang bridal campaign. Can’t you just picture it? Imagine the ripple effect that would have on our community and our daughters. They would finally be able to see what already know: that our womanhood, natural features and hair texture are to be celebrated and respected.
By celebrating and acknowledging natural hair brides, we allow all women and little girls, regardless of race, to see black women in all of our variety as beautiful, powerful and desirable. These images allow us to tell our own story, claim our agency and celebrate our individuality. The more we provide inspiring images of natural hair brides, the more the ethereal fairy tale of the sophisticated, natural black beauty will reveal itself as never having been a myth after all.
Photography by Elizabeth Messina for Munaluchi Bride Magazine, Floral Design and Styling by Nancy Teasley of Oak and the Owl, Hair by Mann Nance, Makeup by Erin Skipley, Styling by First Blush And Co. Events, Dresses by Oscar de la Renta, Samuelle Couture, Jean Ralph-Thurin, Claire Pettibone, Chaviano Couture, Headpieces and Veils by Olivia Headpieces, Twigs and Honey, Delphine Manivet, Earrings by Ben Amun courtesy of ThomasLaine.com