To Shea or Not to Shea?: My Real Problem with the New Shea Moisture Ad

So I guess this will be my first post in the Hair Journey Section, but it’s also my thoughts on a certain situation plus an update, so it will be in the Thoughts, Ideas, and Updates section as well.

First of all, it’s been almost two months since I posted on the actual blog and that’s about to change completely. Now that I’m pretty much adjusted to my new job situation, it’s time to organize and dedicate my free time to this. I’ve been mostly focusing and putting effort into afro.girl.beauty.gram (the IG page) but it’s time to really expand into the main blog and grow it into what I want it to be.

Now I won’t spend a lot of time intro-ing the Hair Journey Section because I pretty much elaborated on the beginnings of my journey as a “natural” on the About page. So you can check that out by clicking on the “About” tab. I want to get right into something that happened today in the black hair/natural hair world that didn’t really bother me at first….but the more I think about it, the more I have issue with it.

Whenever someone asks me what I use on my hair, I never go without mentioning Shea Moisture. Actually, it’s most likely the first thing I mention. When someone asks me what they should use when they have their natural hair out or what will help them in the process of going natural, I bring up Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Leave-in Conditioner or Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie. I use their 100% Coconut Oil on my skin and has planning to use it more on my hair in the summer.  I’ve been using their Raw Shea Butter Extra-Moisture Detangler regularly since October when I used it to do my hair as a bridesmaid in one of my best friend’s wedding. I’ve been using their products since I really started caring for my natural hair once I discovered it through YouTube videos. It has been an effective, consistent, satisfying, fun brand that has become one of my favorites if not my favorite…until today.

The one of the defining aspects of the Shea Moisture brand, aside from being (once) specifically catered to black/afro-textured hair, is the fact that it’s black-owned. For 25 years Sundial Brand, the company that owns Shea Moisture, has been black-owned and independent from some huge corporation. And as Shea Moisture’s business continues to rapidly grow and expand, of course they are going to venture into new territory. This doesn’t just include their expansion of products which also include skin care and cosmetics, or the fact they have leaped from Walgreens to Target, but also the expansion of their audience. So when I saw the ad that went viral on Twitter today, I wasn’t mad at the fact that Shea Moisture featured a mixed-looking girl with type 3 hair, and more noticeably, two white girls. But I was a little put off by the complete lack of representation in the commercial from black girls with coily and/or kinky afro-textured hair…the people that gave the brand the legs it has today and are the primary consumers of this brand…

shea moisture

So I understood where the aggression or disappointment was coming from for the people who consume this brand regularly and are/were part of its core consumer base. The problem is not that white people were used in the ad and that Shea Moisture wants to expand it’s reach to a “mainstream” audience…but the erasure of black women from a product MADE for black women from a brand that was BUILT off black women using, praising, highly recommending, and sharing the product.

So I understood both sides. But then…I watched the commercial again and there was something that really bothered me.

The whole theme of “hair hate” that they used in the commercial…

I’m just gonna be 100% honest. A white girl getting “hair hate” because she has red/ginger hair and a black girl getting “hair hate” because she has an afro are two different stratospheres of “hair hate”. And to compare the two, especially as a company owned by black people who I am sure know the context of how afro-textured hair has been shunned, rejected, belittled, and even vilified by society in general, is insulting. It’s one thing to be teased (if that) for a hair color and a whole other thing to be fired from a job because you wear an afro or dreads no matter how neat because it’s “unprofessional“. “Hair hate” is when you’re a little black girl going to school and you’re sent home because the texture of hair that grows out of your head is deemed “inappropriate” or “distracting” or “too poofy“.

I don’t know who is on Shea Moisture’s marketing/PR team, but they, like many other companies as of late, need to re-evaluate their message and work on being a little less tone-deaf. Shea Moisture is a natural hair care staple that was made for black women by two black men inspired by a black woman. On almost every Shea Moisture bottle, there’s a little paragraph on the founder/CEO Richelieu Dennis’ grandmother, Sofi Tucker from Sierra Leone, who sold shea butter, African black soap, and skin and hair products all along the countryside. In that paragraph it says “Shea Moisture is her legacy”. My hope is that the founders, Mr. Dennis and Mr. Nyema Tubman, carry on that legacy and always uphold the ones who made Shea Moisture what is it…from their grandmother to the black women who invested and continue to invest in their grandmother’s dream. Please consider that the next time you think about “A Million Ways to Shea”…

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