Bloggers Respond to Allison Samuels's Essay on Zahara Jolie-Pitt

During Good Hair Week, a series of blog articles devoted to issues of hair, culture, politics, and science, we asked writer Allison Samuels to contribute a guest blog posting. Her piece, which called on the Jolie-Pitt household to take better care of adopted daughter Zahara's hair, touched on the politics of interracial adoption, the role of beauty standards by which our children (and we) are judged, despite all our lip service toward the contrary, and the power of hair to guide our sense of self and place. Noting that Zahara's hair often looks damaged and unkempt in photos, she writes:

And while Samuels didn't advocate unnatural and painful straightners or relaxers, she worried that Zahara's hair was not being groomed appropriately, and that the maintenance required to keep African hair healthy was being ignored. Samuels is not alone. In several of the blog postings she cites, the comments are full of women commenting on Zahara's unkempt hairand some bloggers spoke out in agreement after her column posted, like the editor at MAC Chronicles:

As much as I like Angelina Jolie and it is apparent that she and Brad Pitt supply a loving home and environment for their kids, it it also evident that Zahara's hair requires more than Shiloh's and the other kids'...Parents are responsible for the appearance of their kids, so Angelina will have to step it up and make sure that all of her kids look ready for the day.

Then again, there were many more people who felt that any hair-care-related complaints only made the issue worse. Critics claimed that the arguments in the piece reinforced unfair standards of beauty, unfairly criticized a family who has done much to open their homes to children from all parts of the world, and, at their worst, placed unfair scrutiny on a 4-year-old child. Blogging at Jezebel, Latoya expressed her frustration with the moving goalposts that are African-American beauty standards:

We (as young black girls) are always different. If our hair is perfectly straight, flowing, and bouncing, there's still the matter of features and skin tone. Even if our hair is perfectly straight, it will feel different because many of us moisturize with grease (or other products) instead of washing the grease down the drain in the morning. We are different and there is nothing wrong with that. Assimilation is not a guarantee of acceptance.

To answer those critics, Samuels wrote a second essay, published this week on And because we know there are as many opinions on this topic as there are types of shampoo on the shelves, we invited several bloggers to further comment on Samuels's piece and the issue of Zahara Jolie-Pitt's hair. Their essays will be published throughout the day.