First Lady Michelle Obama to appear on iCarly

First it was Sesame Street to promote healthy eating and fitness, and now America’s First Lady Michelle Obama is taking on a new cause: Support for military families.
According to the Associated Press, Mrs. Obama will be on the children’s series “iCarly” to promote her Joining Forces initiative. The episode is set to air in January 2012.

Brava to Sesame Street!

Most Generation-Xers (those born between 1961 and 1981) have fond memories of “Sesame Street.” It was decidedly urban, inner-city and positive, and showed a diverse community filled with African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and everything in between.

I highpoint of “Sesame Street” is their educational videos that teach children basic skills and positive behaviors while using fun lyrics and music.

This time “Sesame Street” has introduced a video teaching young girls of color (or anyone with coarse or non-straight hair) to love their bushy ‘fros and natural hair! This message is impact-filled in that it’s the opposite of what young girls and women see everyday online, on television, in films, and in media. We can even look to magazines that supposedly cater to the Black community and rarely will you see a Black woman without straightened hair –chemically or flat-ironed.

Granted, straightened hair is a styling choice, but the proliferation of it as a representative of Black women around the world is shattering. The message is seemingly that the natural appearance of Black women is unacceptable, ugly and not the standard of European beauty, therefore, companies spend billions of dollars selling us products (that have no long term health studies associated with them) to tell us to change what we can to appeal to a “wider audience.”

Some actors have seen their value rise by straightening out the kinks and desperately following a European standard of beauty –some to the point where you have to question their mental health. However, when women-of-color are bombarded by the constant images of European standards of beauty, and more men of color (not just Black men) are choosing those standards as a “trophy” or as a template of women of color should look like, you can’t blame some women of color for drinking the Kool-Aid.

Personally, I’ve worn my hair “natural” for over 15 years (it was chemically-relaxed until from age 16 to 24 years old). Though I understand why African American women do it (family pressure, peer pressure, media reinforcement, playground taunts, etc.), I’ve never commented to any woman about “needing to go natural.” However, I cannot count the number of times women with chemically-straightened or flat-ironed hair have made negative comments or (literally) glared at me with a snarl in an elevator, on the subway, in the workplace, etc., etc., etc. With the “Sesame Street” video it is teaching our young girls early that a rite-of-passage doesn’t necessarily have to coincide with your first chemical burn or rantings about “not scratching your head” the night before a caustic agent is placed on their hair to straighten it.

With a younger generation of Black girls, hopefully, the adults will make a better effort at instilling pride in their hair in it’s natural state and the endless styles they can create from them. Willow Smith, daughter of Jada and Will Smith, is adding to the new acceptance of a natural hair aesthetic with the seemingly contradictory song, “I Whip My Hair (Back and Forth)”.

Seeing the irony of the song, Fraggle Rock Nation has even produced a remix of the video, which shows that people are at least thinking deeper about the implications of a natural hair aesthetic for Black women in popular culture.

With more acceptance of different hair textures, colors, looks, and self-defined styles, hopefully, we will need fewer videos like this one. But for now, “Sesame Street” deserves one big BRAVA!