The Nappy Mafia

The Nappy Mafia Manifesto
·  Relaxers are evil
·  A weave implies a desire to be white
·  Hair is only washed with conditioner, never shampoo
·  Vaseline or any petroleum or mineral oil products are evil
·  Extensions are a sign you don’t love yourself
·  Natural hair under a weave is not really natural – you’re ashamed of your natural hair

If you recognise any of these phrases, then chances are, you’ve met “The Nappy Mafia.”

When iNky and I began this blog in earnest last February (2011), one of the principles that we were determined to uphold was that ZedHair is not part of The Nappy Mafia. In the ‘About Us’ section, we state:

This is NOT a nappy hair mafia site. We are not anti-relaxing one’s hair. Although we may think it is not the healthiest way to treat one’s body, we respect that for some people, that is the way they have chosen to go.  

Since then, I have spent countless hours trawling through the various natural hair and beauty blogs, websites, forums, stand alone articles and YouTube videos and I am more convinced than ever that The Nappy Mafia are not welcome here. Allow me to explain.

There are two main reasons why I often skip the comments section on natural hair sites:

1. The divisiveness of natural hair
2. The seriousness of the natural hair movement.

In Zambia, most naturals exist in blissful ignorance of the online natural hair community. Once introduced to it, some are happy to learn of new products or different techniques and methods of caring for and styling their hair and look forward to sharing some of their own knowledge and experience with others.

The other group, to which I belong, are overwhelmed and intimidated by the deluge of information. Rather than pursuing our instincts and trusting our own experience, we abandon proven products and practices, we embrace the online natural hair Do’s & Don’ts and join the For & Against camps.

Now, I am not saying that a lifelong natural can learn nothing from the Internet. On the contrary, naturals find pleasure from exploring the online universe of natural hair products, tools and techniques.

Ignorance and misinformation cause people to adhere to what they later learn are harmful and detrimental practices. The evidence is all around us – women in Zambia with natural hair don’t often have very long or healthy hair, they use little creativity and thus have limited styling options. That is little incentive for anyone to wear their hair natural.

The online natural hair community can be intimidating, assailing you with the impression that everything you have been doing is wrong. Granted this can be true; for example, using a fine-toothed comb on afro hair.

But, The Nappy Mafia go further and attack you for not upholding the values of ‘the movement’.

For those who have read my natural hair journey, you will recall that I began as a 25-year-old angry black woman. Hell bent on making a political statement with my hair and rejecting ‘western concepts of beauty’, I was well on my way may to membership of The Nappy Mafia.

I am uncomfortable with using terms like “upholding” or “betraying” the movement because it is manipulative, using guilt to ask us to conform to a concept that is bigger and deeper than it needs to be.

In many ways, hair is not just hair for many people. As women, we often derive much of our identity from our hair. I won’t discuss whether or not this is right or wrong, but it is a challenge many people (especially women) have. At the same time, many black people may have grown up with no (or few) positive images of black beauty around them; thus, they see the long, flowing, straight Caucasian hair as a standard. This may be why (although baffling to many of us), some of the fiercest opponents of natural African hair are other black people.

Many naturals are motivated to go natural because of damage to their hair. Others view the straightening culture as part of a societal conspiracy to brainwash black people into hating themselves. To these naturals it is unforeseeable that some women prefer the convenience and simplicity of relaxed hair and are eternally grateful to the person who invented Kanakelon (may their descendants live long and prosper).

One reason I advocate the BC (big chop) for women is that starting from scratch (as in almost no hair at all), forces you to redefine your own beauty. This is because so many of us women derive our identity, our femininity and our sexiness from our hair. Without it, we have to look elsewhere to validate our own attractiveness. Doing The BC forces you to look within.

Many people don’t remember how much I struggled to wear my short natural hair in the early days. I imagined the world was looking down on me. But I developed a confidence that projected itself onto the world. So when people criticise natural hair I don’t get angry, defensive or respond with righteous fire the way I would have even a year ago, because I understand it is not easy.

The greatest challenge with natural hair is feeling comfortable with your own hair. Many extension-wearing ‘closet’ naturals would ditch their weaves in a heartbeat if they knew how to care for and style their hair on their own. However, until you like or accept your own hair, letting others see it will be painful. It’s not the only reason why women camouflage their hair, but for some it is one of the main motives. 

Also, I reject the notion that because I am natural, I am not allowed to add extensions to my hair or wear a wig, and that I am obligated to ‘carry the natural hair cross’ wherever I go. So long as it is on my head, it’s my hair and I will wear it with pride regardless of what it looks like and whether I bought it or grew it.

Some people relish the idea of mixing their own products at home and take immense pride in doing their own hair. This seems to be the desired goal of the natural hair community and what we are all supposed to strive for. I have also learned that some people don’t relish this at all and why should they? Why struggle to do your hair yourself when you can pay someone else to do it faster and neater than you ever could. Others simply don’t want to spend 30 or 40 minutes every morning and more at night fixing their hair. They would rather get up and go. This is why (whether relaxed or natural), some people prefer weaves, braids and wigs. Incidentally, this is the main reason why I will eventually return to my locks (which The Nappy Mafia don’t consider to be truly natural hair). Nothing and I do mean nothing, compares to the convenience and freedom of waking up and walking out the door with only a brief shake of the head.

Your Hair, Your Crown, Your Glory, Your Choice!

The problem with The Nappy Mafia is that they try to make the decision for others on what they should do or how they should think about what they say is right or wrong for your hair. By denying people the opportunity to think and decide for themselves, The Nappy Mafia takes away the ability to learn (or unlearn) what works for your own hair by making individual and independent choices based on what is best for YOU.

The Nappy Mafia is a dictatorship while ZedHair is aiming for something more akin to a democracy. We provide the resources necessary to allow our readership the opportunity to make informed decisions. We will share our own experiences and views, but it is not our business to tell people what to believe or what to do. We believe that when a person plays an active and decisive role in their own hair-care, not only do they have a better growth and learning experience, they won’t blame or resent anyone (or us) for failure and ultimately the rewards will be greater and well-earned. At ZedHair, we remain committed to the best and healthiest hair practices and free will. These are the types of conversations we want to be having on our blog.



Updated on Wednesday, 3rd October 2012 and Monday 18th February 2013.



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8 responses to “The Nappy Mafia

  1. A Very interessing way of thinking; Maybe i am part of the nappy mafia ( Should i stay ?) because i truly believe that relaxers are dangerous ( evil is not my word but it doesn't matter), i never use shampoo YES, because it takes off all the natural oil of my hair; Since then i saw A HUGE DIFFERENCE FOR MY HAIR; For the weaveS i never wore them and you know why? Stangely i prefer to have my hair relaxed BECAUSE EH! IT IS STILL MY HAIR. LIKE some people put a weave on Natural hair rather than relaxing it BECAUSE IT IS TOXIC ETC.. FOR extension i wore them on relaxed ( for long braids) or natural hair and i never thought it was equivalent to being white; I never really feLT the Nappy Mafia Dictatorship maybe because i became natural 10 years ago not for a trend but because i was fed up with relaxers damaging my hair; But what i felt all my life was "THE RELAXER MAFIA DICTATORSHIP" and THIS ONE believe me is/was very powerful.They have a lot of ressources to push their agendas; Even if you met a lot of Nappy Mafia YOU CAN'T COMPARE THEM TO THE RELAXERS MAFIA. WE need to trust people with all the informations on youtube and blogs, i think THEY KNOW THAT IT IS A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND TO CHOOSE WHAT WORKS FOR THEM. I ALSO NOTICED A NEW TREND WHERE THE NATURAL COMMUNITY IS BECAME LIKE THE NEW ENEMY TO FIGHT. WITH THE USE OF TERM LIKE NATURAL "NAZI"," NAPPY MAFIA" or "NATURAL DICTATORSHIP" this are very strong words and it bothering me especially when Natural Advocate jump on the wagon; ARE WE THAT BAD ? At the end of the day we are not the one pushing people to put a very caustic acid on their hair knowing that below your scalp you have an important organ – THE BRAIN- WHO IS AFRAID OF THIS NEW MOVEMENT? ALL THESE COMPLAINS ARES EXCUSES TO DISTRACT BLACK PEOPLE-WOMEN- FROM UNDERSTANDING AND EMBRACING THEIR NATURAL HAIR. I hope i will not be banished to express my opinion; God Bless;

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  2. @Minasek, we wouldn't "banish" you. I'm glad that you have an opinion and you've made the decisions to do what works best for you. The point Zedhair is making here is that we make recommendations and provide information, so that people decide for themselves what works best. Our job is to provide suggestions on ways to better manage your hair and to talk about our own experiences with our hair, the decisions we're making and why. We desire for everyone to be able to have open and earnest conversations on our blog and so we are careful that the tone and messages on our blog, from us and from our readers/commenters are not judgmental or disrespectful to anyone. Let us know if you have any questions and thanks for reading our blog. 🙂

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  3. I have certainly had moments when I was a part of the nappy mafia but I am a lot less harsh about women who choose to be relaxed now (although I still try to gently advocate for them to join the "movement" lol). I have now taken the stand that one of the great things about being a black woman is embracing the diversity of our hair and the ways in which we can wear our hair. However I do feel that hair, whether we like it or not, does have strong cultural, psychological and political connotations and that we have systemically had our perceptions of beauty distorted (but I can go on a long rant there so let me stop before I get carried away). There is something about undergoing a big chop and being "brave" enough to wear your hair in it's short, natural state that forces you to redefine what beauty means to you and to not use your hair as a crutch. Which is why after nearly 3 years of being natural, I have decided that its time to undergo a big chop again and this time have the "courage" to actually rock my do and embrace my natural self.p.s.you will still me rocking a weave every now and then because its so much fun to switch it up heheh!

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  4. The first time I saw you was on The Natural Haven blog site and today I log onto Tweeter and lo and behold, J.C re-tweeted your post which included your Nappy Mafia entry. Let me say that I haven't had a relaxer since 2008, simply because I didn't want to go through it anymore. I had done this long before I grasped the concept of being natural. The first time I shaved (yes shaved) my head was in 2010–again, just because I wanted to. Then in December of 2011, I shaved it again. I like it like that; all easy and simple to manage. Anyway, I started looking up other naturals on youtube and blogs and made note of how beautiful 'black' hair can be in its natural state. Are there people that get overly excited when they discover something new and wonderful (like moi)absolutely? Are there people like the Nappy Mafia (lol) indeed! The word natural is such a broad concept. NONE of us are completely natural. We use soaps on our body, we use antiperspirant, some of us wax our eyebrows and slather on make-up…it's called individuality and their damn prerogative. I don't see what the big deal is if a woman wants to braid her hair with extensions or wear a weave or for that matter get a relaxer. It all boils down to what you said perfectly: "Your Hair, Your Crown, Your Glory, Your Choice!"

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  5. Natasha, I completely agree. It's so easy to get sucked into the nappy mafia, but as with many things in life, bashing people over the head with a good idea or good intentions doesn't always work and may end up doing more harm than good.

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  6. Anon, thank you so much for your comment. The reason I became one of the nappy mafia is because like you, I get super excited about things that I like and go all out to convince those around me to try it too. I just went about it in the wrong way. Thankfully, I got off that train and I am doing my best to stay well away from it. As much as possible, I try to resist being put into a box of what is or isn't natural hair. I reserve the right to switch it up as often as suits me.

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  7. Pingback: Welcome to ZedHair! | ZedHair·

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