Photo Credit: O Magazine
After decades on television and countless magazine cover shoots, Oprah Winfrey has likely spent the equivalent of weeks of her life in hairstylists’ chairs, enduring the modern torture tools of flat irons and blow dryers. (Imagine what the billionaire’s time is worth and do the math.) So there is no doubt that she’s earned this glorious milestone: Oprah appears smiling broadly on the cover of “O, The Oprah Magazine” decked in a mop of her own natural curls.
It seems an obvious rah-rah moment for women everywhere that a star of Oprah’s wattage would put herself out there as an example of self love. An example of a proud woman, successful beyond measure, finally comfortable enough in her skin (after much-publicized struggles over the years) to put a more realistic version of her likeness on her own magazine for the first time ever after 12 years of publication.
But naturally -- so to speak -- the seemingly simple gesture brought out an array of Internet haters. Feedback on People Style Watch, for instance, suggests that the hairstyle can’t possibly be natural at all, and therefore the look sends yet another unrealistic message to women, and in particular to women of color.
As a Jewish woman with a mop of long blonde curls, I can speak from my own (frequently maddening, sometimes humiliating) experience about the thread of truth running through the complaints. A head of perfect curls right out of bed is a mythology for most people. I’ve had only a handful of blowouts in my life, and I don’t feel like myself with straight hair. I’m proud of my curls -- but (and this is important) only when I’ve wrangled them into submission with a cocktail of products, my quick but essential hand-twisting method, and a diffuser. But at the end of my morning routine, I still feel like I’m presenting my authentic hair to the world. Just the best version of it.
And of course that’s just what Oprah would do. We wouldn’t really expect her to roll right out of bed and mug for the camera, would we? What the most recent “O” cover gives us is the best, camera-friendly version of her natural look. Of course it’s aspirational -- just like everything else about Oprah. And it’s gorgeous!
So let’s keep this trend toward a more natural look going. Hey, Michelle Obama: Will you be next?
Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.