Gorilla Glue Girl and How We Black Women Injure Ourselves Over Hair
Posted by Garonne Decossard on
I have actually been watching the Gorilla Glue Girl's @im_d_ollady situation since it hit the webs and as someone in the beauty space, although I had a lot to say, I was actually a bit traumatized. I go inwards when I experience my people on the stage being ridiculed. Let's call it "second hand embarrassment".
I initially felt this was a mistake fueled by a branding confusion. As some of you know, there's Gorilla Snot Gel Indestructible Punk Gorilla, and there's Got 2B Glued Blasting Freeze Hairspray. It is possible that she extrapolated this to mean that Gorilla Glue Spray would be suitable to use on her hair.
But I feel like there's another level to this story that deserves discussion. Let's talk about the ease with which we risk injuring ourselves for a hairstyle. To understand the root of how something like this came to be you have to go back centuries.
HairCARE for black people, especially in the US and for the Black diaspora has always been about drastically changing the look and feel of the hair. It's usually centered around doing something to the hair to make it behave differently. Whether it is to make it look straight, slick, to be shinier, move/bounce, or to make it curlier or do things that naturally kinky or coily hair doesn't do.
A well respected dermatologist in the forefront of the hairloss epidemic once said " my white patients are in my office the moment they see a strand of hair in the drain, meanwhile my black patients usually come in my office years after their hairloss has gone beyond treatment." That statement has stayed with me for years now.
She also mentioned to understand this, you have to go back to when the first slaves stepped off the ship and they were told to tie their hair with a scarf to hide it as it was not even suitable to be "seen in its natural state."
Although today you may see the different perspective of how women in Africa traditionally use head wraps as an adornment and object of tribal expression, head scarves in many parts of black culture in the Americas started as a tool to cover one's hair from view rather than adorn it. It's important to understand the cultural differences in the two.
When for centuries, you were expected to cover your hair when it's not "done", you can start to understand how manipulation of the look and feel of one's hair can become central to caring for the hair itself.
Black people in the diaspora, in general will tolerate hair trauma and damage way past when they should, often waiting until there's no way to repair it. We accept hair and scalp trauma and damaging health effects as part of maintaining our hair.
We do this when we preemptively take painkillers before we get braids, or tolerate tight styles hoping it will loosen a few days later. We accept the burns from chemicals, flat irons, and hot combs. When I used to get my hair straightened with a hot comb, my hairdresser would tell me "it's just the grease" when I would complain of the comb burning my scalp. We accept these things as norms. All the while, often doing irreparable damage to our follicles.
Recently, I saw something on IG which was a reminder of this. Lori Harvey posted on her stories that she was getting her hair braided. It seems it was in preparation for a trip with her boo. Within a day or two of getting the braids, she posted that she removed them because they were too tight and hurt way too much. It was refreshing to see her choose her comfort and the health of her follicles over a style, but I couldn't help but think it's also because Lori has the type of hair she can quickly "style" to look presentable based on our beauty standards, which afforded her the luxury to simply remove her braids. Had it been a black woman with tightly coiled hair, she most likely would just endure the pain because of what it would entail to make her hair "presentable" on a whim.
Damages in the picture below don't happen overnight, they usually come about after years of getting tight hairstyles and ignoring the bald spots/thinning because " it's part of getting our hair done".
Credit: @theofficialrazorchic Jasmine Collins
We have made significant progress in the natural movement celebrating accepting our hair. Black women are reading labels, analyzing ingredients and making informed choices on what we put on our hair and skin. We also still have many of us, even within the natural movement, where our haircare is still shrouded under the umbrella of manipulation, or covering to achieve a certain look. Many women have gone "natural" only to never wear their actual hair, always covered under a wig or a weave. Going natural is one thing but being ready to feel beautiful in the hair that grows out of your scalp is another battle.
We now cover our hair with other hair that does not look like what we naturally grow, we cover with weaves, wigs, frontals and a host of innovative hairstyles. Edges must be layed, curls have to "pop" and shine is a "requirement" for hair to be considered healthy.
We still have many women injuring their hair and scalp everyday in the name of style. From the hair glue stripping their edges to apply the frontals, to the wig clips, tight weaves and yes, damaging hair products.
Many of these styles we have to remember were originally designed for once in a while use, like frontals for stage actors. They have now infiltrated popular use and are adopted by the average woman as everyday wear. No amount of proper removal can counteract the fact that your finest hairs are subjected to glue regularly.
Many of the products that slick the hair down or hold it together may overtime damage your hair and scalp, and some were not made to be used at the amount and frequency with which we use them. Often these products were made for professional use by hairstylists and makeup artists for stage looks, photoshoots and special events. We want results over everything, therefore we are more likely to not read labels and follow proper directions of use.
So to understand why someone would spray a hardware store product on their hair without taking the time to read the ingredients and warning labels, you have to understand the overwhelming predisposition we, black women, have as a whole to choose slick styles that manipulate and change our hair over our own comfort, often health and in this case safety. This goes beyond Gorilla glue girl and permeates our culture as a whole and it goes back deeper than we care to admit.
We all have our own theories of what happened with her. Did she make an honest mistake of confusing Gots2Be Glue Spray, with Gorilla Snot Gel, and Gorilla Glue Spray? Did she knowingly know this was a hardware glue hoping she could wash it off? and lastly, did she spray something in her hair without reading the label? Only she can tell us.
When we all boil down to the final decision she took, it speaks to how many of us, are inclined to choose hairSTYLE over our own comfort.
Hopefully she can safely remove this product from her hair even if it means cutting everything off. When she's ready to grow it back, I have a free bottle of Ronnie's Oil waiting for her!
In Love, Health and Presence of Mind