This Week in Beauty: Who Gets to Tell Me to Take Off My Bonnet?

I feel like I'm writing jokes, I'm not!

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In a now-controversial IGTV video, comedian Mo'Nique shared her thoughts on Black women wearing bonnets and headscarves outside of the house. The video was met with both backlash and praise, making the generational differences between younger generations (Gen-Zers and Millennials) and older generations (Gen-X and Boomers) very clear. I have about three points in me: 

Wearing a bonnet in public is a personal choice, one that any Black woman should be able to make without being ridiculed or tapped on the shoulder. At times, the internet can make everything feel familiar, as if we all are hanging out in the comment section together. Mo'Nique has embraced her user-given role as the internet’s auntie. The role involves giving unsolicited advice to other people on the internet. At one point, midway through the video, Mo’nique’s entire demeanor shifts; she becomes far too familiar. She purses her lips, clasps her hands squarely on her lap. You feel like you’re sitting across from the aunt you routinely avoid. “If you look like you don’t give a damn, how you ‘gon be treated?” As if you deserve any treatment you receive because you decided to wear a bonnet in public. Throughout history, the bonnet, even just the act of wearing a piece of cloth on one’s head, has taken on different meanings. For Black women bonnets, and more broadly headwraps, have been associated with subordination and control. And it’s an idea Black women are working to reclaim. Being a conduit for misogynoir — even if you, too, are Black — will come with pushback from other Black women. 

A question I keep coming back to, especially after this past year: who gets to tell me what to do? It’s also a question that leads me to think of a tennis athlete in the news this week, who the Grand Slam attempted to punish for prioritizing her mental health: Naomi Osaka. Whether it be an athlete or a restaurant worker, some weeks it’s easier than others to see the guardrails aiming to control just how much we’re able to care of ourselves, and how we show up.

This is the opposite direction of where the Black hair conversation has been going the past 30 years. And ultimately, why I think Black women are so utterly annoyed every time this conversation pops up. In 2019, Senator Cory Booker introduced The CROWN Act in his chamber, a bill that would ban employers and educational institutions from discriminating against Black people for wearing their hair in its natural state, or in a protective style. The bill has passed in 11 states. Today, hair is about being boundless and wearing it out in public however you want; natural, relaxed, in braids, in dreads or in locs. Or no hair at all! Anything that seeks to give Black women guidelines on how they should present their hair (or not) in public is going to be faced with resistance. 

Anyway, durags continue to be celebrated in the luxury fashion world. The DuRag Festival out of Charlotte, North Carolina is on its third year. (Bonnets are also mentioned.) There’s been an increase in Black-owned bonnet brands. And in response to Mo’Nique’s comments, Black women have digitally mobilized or shown support for the bonnet.

A post shared by @simone.sullivan
Bonnet by Simone Sullivan, photography by Binnie Musa

PAYING ATTENTION

  • The latest sunscreen drama: An independent laboratory found the known carcinogen benzene in 78 sunscreens and after-sun products. Dermatologist Ranella Hirsch told the Washingpost Post, “this isn’t a sunscreen problem, it’s a contamination problem.” Here’s what else you need to know.

  • The Supreme Court has sided against Johnson & Johnson and awarded $2.2 billion dollars in favor of women who claim the brand's talc products made them develop ovarian cancer. Last year, the company announced it would discontinue talc-based baby power in the U.S. and Canada.

  • On Tik Tok, Bretman Rock kicked off Pride Month by addressing rumors that he’s stopped wearing makeup and started bulking up to fit into male beauty standards. Rather, he no longer wanted to be tied to the beauty community. Bretman is actually known as one of the few popular beauty YouTubers who has stayed relevant without getting involved in drama. He seems to actively stay out of it. I don’t think people strongly associate him with the toxicity of the beauty community, but it’s certainly his prerogative to explore new avenues of creativity.

[I would embed the TikTok, but Substack hasn’t figured out how to do that yet.]

  • Three weeks following their first Twitch stream, Elf Cosmetics has responded to call-outs for not featuring any Black gamers during their May 9th launch. Elf is the first beauty brand to launch a channel on Twitch.

  • Saweetie joins Megan Thee Stallion as a Mielle Organics brand ambassador. Actress and entrepreneur Keshia Knight Pulliam, of The Cosby Show and many other roles, is the brand’s education ambassador.

(It’s hard not to notice that Saweetie appears to be washing her wig in the announcement video.)

  • The soap company Dr. Bronners is coming out with chocolate bars. Yes, edible chocolate bars. Why? They say it’s a way to grow their partnership (and of course product line) with fair trade farmers in Ghana.

  • Beauty YouTuber and Trump supporter Amanda Ensing is suing both Sephora and their CMO Deborah Yeh for defamation after the company stopped working with her due to comments she made about the Capitol riot. Now she is using the hashtag beauty fans used when Sephora sponsored one of her videos: #BoycottSephora. Ensing claims that Sephora defamed her by stating that they were cutting ties due to her support and that Yeh defamed her by sending an email that alerted Sephora employees to the situation.

  • Skin-care influencer Hyram Yarbro is partnering with British skin-care brand Inkey List to launch 'Selfless by Hyram' at Sephora. Products will retail for less than $30.

  • Dior has named Chinese transgender celebrity Jin Xing, a former army colonel and ballet dancer, as the newest ambassador for their iconic J'adore fragrance. In China, where being transgender is still classed as a mental illness, Xing is best known for being an outspoken activist and hosting several widely popular shows.

  • In the Heights and VIDA actor Melissa Barrera is Clinque's new global ambassador and their first from the Americas.

  • Kate Winslett, or Mare if you’re watching Mare of Easttown on HBOMax, is L’Oreal Paris’ new global ambassador.

  • Harry Styles filed a trademark for a fragrance and cosmetics line named 'Pleased As Holding'.

  • I feel like this news got buried by Diddy's Instagram troll: Former MLB player and J-Lo's ex Alex Rodriguez has a new beauty brand, Hims. It includes a Blur Stick concealer in 8 shades the size of a Chapstick.

  • Floral Street Fragrances, a London-based clean beauty brand, is collaborating with Van Gogh Museum to bring the artist's work to life through scented products (to launch August 2021).

MEDIA DROPS

Gonna big up myself here: if you haven’t read my profile on Lauren London for the Los Angeles Times, it’s definitely a beauty story of a different kind.

The Unexpected Beauty of COVID Hair — Photography by Elinor Carucci

Kate Winslet's Beauty Journey Has Come Full Circle — Kayla Greaves (Also read: Kate Winslet said she shot down airbrushing and editing on the set of 'Mare of Easttown' by Hannah Kanik)

Model-Filmaker Semaj Peltier on Creating Characters Through Her Hair, and Drawing Inspiration From Her Ancestors Akili King

The Story Behind Her Place's Her Ribbon, a Dual-Purpose Hair and Bondage Accessory — Nicola Dall'asen

The Cosmetic Surgery "Zoom Boom" Is Real — But There's More To The Story — Jolene Edgar


ABOUT DARIAN: This newsletter is written by Darian Symoné Harvin. Darian is a multimedia beauty reporter and social media editor using her journalism and curatorial skills to craft narratives and distinct takes on beauty, pop culture, and the intersection of both. So far, her career has been dedicated to working on thoughtful and viral ways to present news and content to people on the internet and IRL, for platforms like BuzzFeed News, Yahoo News, NBC News, and Vox.com. Darian wants to use her love and curiosity for beauty to tell stories. She currently writes for the New York Times, Refinery29, TeenVogue, and The Cut. You can find more of her work here.