In early February, Tessica Brown uploaded a short video to social media platform TikTok outlining her struggles with her hair. In an attempt to lay down her hair and get it as smooth as possible, she used an unconventional product: Gorilla Glue. Not to be confused with the bright yellow bottle known as Moca De Gorila aka Gorilla Snot Gel, this was in fact actual glue. Tessica had used it on her hair and 4 weeks later had yet to get the product off. Soon after, her short video had gone viral, sparking conversations online about hair and the way we react to Black women’s struggles.
Tessica Brown used actual glue?
In conversations with the Flock, our team of multi-ethnic (mostly Black) women from around the world, we spoke about how Tessica’s story had captured the internet. Across various social media platforms – the hashtag #GorillaGlueGirl was trending, even though Tessica was a grown woman. Personally, I had never been so worried for a human being I didn’t know or had never met. Tessica’s decision to use an unconventional product on her hair wasn’t a new thing. In South Africa, my home country, while we had access to haircare for Black hair, it was often to treat and protect chemically processed hair. It was no secret that Black and brown women had to make do with other products, ingredients and the like.
The reaction to Tessica’s story had mixed feelings around the internet. Was it a mistake? Was it intentional? Why would you put glue on your hair? Tessica was under a ton of scrutiny, from accusations that she did it to go viral and that her GoFundMe was a scam. Once again, it felt like Black women aren’t given grace to let their mishaps unfold in the public eye.
Hair, Texturism, and the Politics of “Good Hair”
From a personal perspective, I’ve been natural for over 6 years and fully transitioned from using relaxers to just having my texture out and about. In South Africa, I fall under the “Coloured” racial category (Note: this is not in reference to the US racial slur – learn more about it here).
It’s a mixed racial group with a diverse history, including dealing with hair discrimination during the apartheid regime. If you’re not familiar, South Africa’s former regime had something called a “pencil test” and it sounds as bad as it was – where they used a pencil to determine racial identity. Simply put, a pencil was put into your hair and if it fell to the ground? You “passed” and were considered white. And if it didn’t? Well, you can guess what happened.
Thus, in South Africa having “bad” hair prevented your access to basic human rights. Texturism was quite literally legal. When talking to other Black and brown women, it becomes clear how ingrained those ideologies are when we’re growing up, light skin is preferred, “good” hair is the best kind and the more “exotic” you look the better.
Black women are allowed to experiment with their hair.
My personal stance is that Black women can do whatever they want with their hair and it’s no one’s business. From perms to protective styles – hair is a form of expression. Tessica is a dark-skinned Black American woman which comes with a host of other prejudiced experiences. This includes colorism and texturism. It’s no secret the importance placed on hair across cultures, but it’s so widely known in Black American culture. The hair technology for wigs is astounding. Techniques used to define curls, straighten hair, and create brand-new looks are incredible.
It was not lost on many of us that Tessica received adequate care from a Black (Ghanian, to be exact) medical professional. His name is Dr. Michael K. Obeng and he is based in Beverly Hills. The $12,000 operation was done free of charge and Tessica plans to donate the over $20,000 she received to charity. It is also not lost on us that Tessica was under major scrutiny for her actions while white counterparts that go viral often make lucrative money from their misplaced fame. And while it was a saga to behold, Tessica now has nearly 800,000 followers on instagram, a manager and most importantly, her scalp back.
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