I’m grateful for Isaiah Mustafa. During a recent interview with E! entertainment reporter Giuliana Rancic, Isaiah Mustafa caused a bit of controversy when he stated that his ideal woman must have “good hair”. Whoops! According to the Huffington Post article, Rancic went on to ask Mustafa if the hair had to be real to which his response was a bit more self referential:
Mustafa stated, “Yes, it does have to be real hair. I want my kids to have nice hair so she better have good hair. Cause, I don’t know if you’ve checked my hair out lately. Aside from today it’s normally nice. Today it’s slightly nappy.” (Source)
Following the interview, Mustafa went on to apologize for his comments via his Twitter page (@isaiahmustafa), stating, “I want 2 apologize wholeheartedly 2 anyone out there who was offended or hurt by the irresponsible comments I made on E! News. #ignorant”
Now, I understand that Mustafa was on the defensive but I hate…hate, hate, hate apologies that celebrities issue where the basic message is “I apologize if anyone was hurt by my comments.” You know people were offended, don’t be silly. That having been said, I actually think this is a really good addition to the whole good hair/nappy hair conversation.
I’m grateful that Mustafa was a bit loose-lipped during his interview with Rancic because in this moment you really get to hear about Mustafa’s own insecurities about his hair (whether in jest or not) which is something that you don’t really hear men talk about in a public forum. He inadvertently let the world know that just as women of all races experience insecurity about their image, so do men.
While many people were offended by his comments (I was too) it doesn’t mean that Mustafa needs to be crucified as some self hating Black man who is still enslaved by White, eurocentric standards Why? Because he’s just like the rest of us. This slip of the tongue has made it obvious to me that Mustafa needs the support that every natural woman or curly-haired guy needs. If you’re a woman who has decided to grow your natural hair, do you remember a time or a moment when you thought and felt the same way Mustafa did? Chances are you did at some point.
Following his comments, Mustafa participated in an interview at Planet Abiola to further discuss his comments and his recent appearance on the new Charlie’s Angel’s reboot. He addresses the hair comments in the first few minutes.
His comments about nappy hair are mainly addressed in the first few minutes of the interview and it’s clear that Mustafa feels bad about his comments and I get the sense that Mustafa is a good guy who’s a bit misguided. He says that he has recently been trying to grow out his hair to give himself a different look. He says right before the interview with Rancic he was fussing with his hair backstage and getting pretty frustrated about his current “in-between” stage. Sound familiar?
When asked for his reaction to the backlash, Mustafa states, “I was being self-deprecating and I was speaking of myself…”
At about the five-minute mark he attempts to explain himself and gets a little incoherent . In an attempt to save face he focuses strongly on his opinions about his own hair, but Abiola challenges him a bit to consider how his perspective may be impacting Black boys and young men who may look up to him. Mustafa apologizes and reiterates that he is only speaking of himself. During the interview he also states, “It’s not what I meant”. And there’s why I feel Mustafa is misguided.
Sometimes its important to take things for what they are. Yes he was only referring to “his hair” but what he does not seem to acknowledge (at least publicly) is that his thoughts on his hair are likely reflective of his feelings about others in his community. I think it’s a bit naive for him to think that he can feel his hair is nappy, and somehow bad or difficult to work with, and not think the same way about others with naturally kinky or tightly curled hair. Am I wrong?
On my worst days I have felt similar to Mustafa. Guys get frustrated with their hair too and this frustration probably grows exponentially with every inch of hair. So did we catch Mustafa on one of those bad hair days? It seems that way. Do I think Mustafa is some sort of Uncle Tom who won’t date Black women or secretly hates who he is? Nope. For all the people who are reacting strongly to Mustafa and his comments I would challenge you to think about his comments more critically and how his comments may be connected to your own personal hairstory and people’s reactions to your hair. I must admit that my gut reaction was to think “HOW STUPID OF HIM!” but the truth is that we all have internalized the whole “bad hair” thing to some degree no matter if you’re a newbie or have been wearing your natural hair for 20+ years. Then again, that’s just my opinion. What do you think?