February 3rd, 2009
10:15 AM ET

The Michelle Obama hair challenge

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/03/art.michelle.dnc.jpg]
Erin Aubry Kaplan

Nappy or relaxed, African-American hair has always been a loaded subject. So what does it mean to have a black do in the White House?

Are we moving toward a "black hair" moment?

It might sound like one of those media-created, racially overwrought questions meant to boost ratings and Internet chatter. But with Obama in the White House and a black family center stage - not to mention a first lady whose appearance and fashion choices are already being endlessly dissected - the question suddenly becomes almost reasonable.


Filed under: Michelle Obama • Race in America • Women's Issues
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Isabel Abreu

    More than the hair of Michelle, the discussion could revolve around the hair of the girls, Malia and Sasha, too relaxed.

    According to dermatologists, children under 10 years should not pass strong chemicals in hair.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  2. Isabel Abreu, Brazil

    Maybe Erin wasn't well interpreted.
    Perhaps the purpose of the discussion was beyond what Michelle does or fails to do in your hair.
    Perhaps the intention was to discuss the racial prejudice that will not end with the election of a black man.

    The hair of Michelle is irrelevant, but not racial prejudice.

    February 4, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  3. joanne

    @ Mike..
    i certainly did .. and i can understand where she was coming from but you are right, it was a damned if i did and damned if i don't situation..but it shouldn't have to be that way.

    February 3, 2009 at 9:56 pm |
  4. Isabel Abreu

    Maybe Erin has not been well interpreted.
    Perhaps the purpose of the discussion was beyond what Michelle does or fails to do in your hair.
    Perhaps the intention was to discuss the racial prejudice that will not end with the election of a black man.

    In a black President, the majority voted. This proves that the people is no more racism in employment matters, but if a candidate son-in-law or daughter-in-law, to the thing would be different, they agree?

    Nobody lost nights of sleep for a black president, but lose the peace if your daughter or your son (white) is flirting with a black.

    The hair of Michelle is irrelevant, but not racial prejudice.

    February 3, 2009 at 8:24 pm |
  5. Carmen

    She does not have any style sense when it comes to her hair. Best to her the stylist around for both her hair and makeup. Yikes!

    February 3, 2009 at 7:32 pm |
  6. dottie

    Enough with stereotype,s Mrs, OBama is 1st lady for all people
    and all classes l think she should wear her hair of or on her own

    February 3, 2009 at 5:36 pm |
  7. Annie Kate

    Ever since I can remember at the beginning of a new President's term of office his wife's hair and attire have been the subject of much comment – seemed like how they wore their hair and dressed was important because that was how American women wanted to look – Jackie Kennedy got talked about incessantly for her hair styles and her beautiful clothes and how much she spent on those clothes; Nancy Reagan was always stirring comment with her designer dresses that looked so good on her. Hillary's hair styles were talked about – mostly in a uncomplimentary way. Michelle is just going through the same rite of passage the others did....I think Michelle looks fantastic and I think some of the comments are just interested fascination about how any woman achieves "her" own look.

    February 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
  8. dottie

    Enough already; Caucasian women have curley or kinky hair,as well back in the day , this how they smooth out curls and the kinks , with a flat hot iron on a flat board.today
    they're using hot conair pressing combs and perms in their beauty salon.they also wear weaves and wigs. so. l dont see any different
    from Africians American women and Caucasian women.
    people ,let's focus on fixing the economcy.
    yeah. l think they're trying to get personal, with the hair comment.'s
    MRs, Obama is frist lady to all the people , l think she should wear her
    hair of or on own her own accord. Enough with the sterotype.
    stereotype-an oversimplified standardized image of a person or group..

    February 3, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
  9. nerakami

    This subject goes to the heart of the African-american woman's sense of self. I understand that whites will not understand and of course, how could they... this is the reality of black women... good or bad, it simply is. The raw, honest truth is (and many black women may still be in denial), most black women are embarrassed by their natural hair... images and depictions since birth have reaffirmed the notion that black hair is ugly and undesirable. The statistic is; approx 80% of black women have chemically altered their natural hair...

    The process is unpleasant and damaging to the scalp but it is deemed such a necessary aspect of acceptable appearance that most will endure it even to the point of losing their hair. This is an excruciatingly deep psychological issue for black women... and as I said, most of whom are not even ready to face the truth behind why they do what they to their hair....

    February 3, 2009 at 5:06 pm |
  10. Trina

    To post a statement about Mrs. Obamas hair is so beneath you. I really am at awe to see we still have people in this world with what I call that old slave mentality. People like you have been around for years and suffer from the loss of power. For years this country has been the same........jus different players to the game. Why is it so hard to respectfully accept the NEW PRESIDENT AND HIS FAMILY alone with new ideas and new ways to approach many of the old unjust methods used. Get over it, talk about our PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY. No matter what you say, they are and will continue to beTHE FIRST AFRICAN AMERICAN or THE FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT AND FIRST LADY ...... which ever you choose to use. The fact still remains HE'S IN THE HOUSE and believe me IT WAS MORE THAN JUST THE COLOR OF HIS SKIN THAT GOT HIM THERE .

    February 3, 2009 at 4:59 pm |
  11. Brennis

    Being an african woman working in corporate america this article caters to the plight that my peers have and in also brings up the obvious ignorance and unappreciation mainstream america has still for black history. Instead of going to venice beach or Ensenada and getting braids for a weekend ask the people who actually cherish them as OUR culture what they really mean. I see most of the commentors would not, could not or more than likely should not wear their hair in styles traditionally from the black culture. But our hair means more to US then they could ever know. Unfortunately, Anderson and friends this conversation is still way too deep to be understood by your mainstream audience. But thanks for sparking a bit of conversation at my next hair appointment-maybe I'll decide to be natural instead of softening my image to be accepted more at my place of employment, then again since I work in Corporate America I choose to keep my job and get my hair relaxed.

    February 3, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  12. Maria

    She is the first lady; of course her hair and her cloth will be an issue.

    February 3, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  13. Mike in NYC


    Most stereotypes have a basis in reality.

    You seem to have had a valuable lesson in race relations. Don't waste your time "reaching out." It's damned if you do and damned if you don't. Even in the "post-racial" Age of the Great One.

    February 3, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  14. Kristen-University Park, PA

    This is ridiculous. With all the news worthy stories out there really it's annoying to read stuff like this. WHO CARES????? Michelle Obama's hair is her business and no one else's. Stop talking about insignificant nonsense.

    February 3, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  15. Joanne

    I was a hairstylist for many years and changed jobs and now work in an office environment.
    I starting working with an african-canadian woman with the most beautiful straight hair.. one day I asked her how often she had to straighten it (i had taken courses in ethnic hair styling) and she got VERY offended and call me a stereo typical white woman for assuming she had, as she put it ,a "fro". And explaining why I had an interest only made it worse .
    So we shall see how many doors this conversation opens or , in my case, slams in your face.

    February 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  16. Marka Danielle

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? Who the heck cares about how Michelle Obama or anyone else wears their hair!
    People are struggling to survive and this is the best subject you can put on your blog site???

    February 3, 2009 at 3:10 pm |
  17. Alley

    Can we not just look at the first family as the first family and let go of the color factor?

    Who cares how Michelle wears her hair; it's her business not the media. What a ridiculous article to post!

    February 3, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  18. Teresa, OH

    I wonder how this article would be percieved if it was written by a naturally blonde haired white woman?

    Please please stop any personal articles on the first family's clothes, their hair, their hobbies, their pets.... what next, their choice in TP?

    Please go back to making news , NEWS.

    February 3, 2009 at 2:38 pm |
  19. Cindy

    OK...I have to say that this is the stupidest post that I have seen on the 360 blog in a while! Who really cares how Michelle does her hair and if she will wear it straight or not. It's her hair...she can do as she pleases!

    We have a broken economy and nuts on the Hill arguing about how to fix it and this article is the best that you can come up with!? Come on!!


    February 3, 2009 at 2:13 pm |
  20. Michael "C" Lorton, Virginia

    We know MIchelle is African-American--let it go---just look at her as the "first lady." I'm sure she would appreciate that.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  21. Mike in NYC

    Isn't "nappy" a racial slur?

    Oh, wait, Erin's black. But she's married to a Jewish guy. Now I'm confused.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:40 pm |
  22. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Wow, this is so not relevant to anything.

    February 3, 2009 at 1:37 pm |