Sesame Street Makes Me Love the Hair I Once Had

A great lesson in the difference between style and self-hate.

By Kai Wright Oct 15, 2010

Sesame Street got more than the kiddies’ attention when it took on black women’s hair. The segment’s been floating the Web all week as bloggers have lauded it for giving us all something to sing about (I’d sing louder if I wasn’t bald, but anyway). An adorable black girl Muppet dances up to the camera and starts belting an ode to herself:

Don’t need a trip to the beauty shop
’cause I love what I got on top
It’s curly and it’s brown
and it’s right up there
You know what I love?
I love my haiiiirrr!!

The girl goes on and on in unselfconscious adoration of herself. Then she sings that one of the great things about her hair is all the cool stuff she can do with it–an Afro, cornrows, braids, dreadlocks. Even stick a bow in it. Good stuff Sesame Street. Good stuff.

But comedian Kamau Bell (who killed at our Facing Race 2010 conference) says he can’t quite get on board. Bell–an admitted Street diehard–notes that the segment starts great but then loses itself. That’s because all those hairstyles, particularly the one that looks an awful lot like a perm, do in fact require some serious styling:

Well, now Sesame Street, you dropped us off right where we started. We are back to the message that says…

"Black women, go ahead and love your hair, but sometimes you’re gonna want it to flow down your back and swing in the breeze. And if you want that then you had better sit down, because it’s gonna take hours and hours and require either synthetic or another human’s hair. And then technically, it’s not actually your own hair that you are loving. And no, it does not matter whether or not you have the receipt."

I’m just saying at the very least it is a mixed message and a missed opportunity.

Ok, sure. But here’s the thing: The point is you should love yourself, full stop. If you wanna put blonde extensions in your hair and then perm the extensions, go for it. Hell, die it purple and spike it. White folks aren’t the only ones who get to wild out with their crowns. Just don’t do it because you believe kinky hair is ugly. Know the difference between style and self-hate, then act–and feel–accordingly. That sounds like the message Sesame Street sang to me.