When black hairstyles happen to white people it’s hard not to notice. And not since Bo Derek wore cornrows for her 15 minutes of fame have ”ethnic” hairdos been so noticeable. Angelina Jolie sports dreadlocks in Gone in 60 Seconds as did Brooke Shields in Black and White. Then there’s Julia Stiles’ cornrowed chignon in Hamlet and Heather Graham’s bohemian twists in Committed. Off screen, Justin Timberlake recently showed off his braided locks at Cannes, while Melanie Griffith incited ”Bo Braids” flashbacks with her own interpretation of the hairstyle. Plus, white men sporting Afros are becoming de rigueur in L.A. Is this cultural misappropriation, or just a nod to multi-culti chic? After all, Lil’ Kim and Sisqo weren’t exactly born blond. To Kyra Panchenko, hairstylist on Hamlet, Stiles’ cornrows were a symbol of strength, not cultural affiliation. ”It was all about making [Ophelia] look strong and powerful,” she says. ”As far as hair is concerned, anything goes right now. There are no black hairstyles or white hairstyles.” Harriette Cole, author of the African-American etiquette guide How to Be, thinks it’s a little more complicated: ”Yes [the style] is powerful, but that power is connected to people of African descent.” Cole continues, ”The challenge is [to show] that people are not co-opting but embracing these [styles]…. The more frequently people make [that link], the greater opportunity there is for meaningful dialogue.”
Posted June 2 2000 — 12:00 AM EDT
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