The latest TV advert for John Frieda's 3-day Straight spray made me angrier than anything I've seen recently. "What can you do with curly, frizzy hair?" a female voice-over coos as a model with severely backcombed curls glares into the camera. The right answer is, apparently, "Make it GO AWAY!" I was utterly incensed. As someone with very curly hair, I found the ad incredibly offensive. Let me explain. I'm all in favour of serums or creams that help you manage your curls, but this ad was implying that curly hair is something awful that needs to be got rid of. Rather than celebrating natural curls, it hints that the only solution is to straighten them into oblivion. If the advert was for skin lightening cream – replace the words "curly, frizzy hair" with "black or Asian skin" – I'm sure a ton of ethical and advertising boundaries would've have been broken.
But apparently it's fine to rubbish curly hair because, my God, it must be so tiresome having to deal with it. Every. Single. Day. It makes me sad that curly hair is so often associated with being frizzy and a burden to anyone that has it. Curly hair is no more a burden than straight or wavy hair; sometimes it looks amazing and you love it, and other days you'd happily shave it off. On the whole, I love my curly hair and I would never want to make it "go away", thanks Mr Frieda.
What worries me more about this advert is that it's just one of many messages we receive about curly hair being somehow wrong. The raging popularity of ghds over the past few years means straight hair is still seen as something to aspire to, the 'best' hair to have. Even the ads showed girls with ghds as angels. The insidious creep of ghds into our consciousness meant women who may have been ambivalent about their curls took to the ceramic plates with gusto, straightening their hair and annihilating their natural locks – and any individuality along with them.
It may sound strange but my hair is very much a part of me. It's totally individual, rarely conforms and looks like fun. One of my best friends even describes me as "curly hair, curly thoughts". So if you straighten my hair, you're also straightening me. I worry that women who straighten their curls, denying they exist, are also denying a part of themselves. You've got have pretty low self-esteem to want to cover up the real you, day after day for years on end.
So it's time for a backlash. I want women to be proud of their gorgeous curly hair, not bullied into believing it's a defect that needs to be fixed. I can't imagine adverts targeting short legs, tiny boobs or ginger hair ever getting past the censors, so why is OK to rubbish curly hair? I'd like to see one advert – just one – that celebrates curls in all their natural, defiant glory. But then that wouldn't sell quite as many straightening products, ghds, or blow-dry brushes now would it?
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