white women nappy hair

Recent­ly, in yet anoth­er attempt to claim some­thing that Black peo­ple had all to them­selves, white women have tak­en it upon them­selves to use “nap­py” to describe their own hair. Just search Insta­gram or Twit­ter for your­self — you’ll find mixed in between the thou­sands of pic­tures of fly black women with nat­ur­al hair of all lengths, tex­tures, and col­ors a spat­ter­ing of pho­tos from white women with straight hair. Click on a few and you’ll find that #nap­py­hair is used syn­ony­mous­ly with fresh out of bed hair, frizzy hair, lazy hair days, or bad hair days.

This trend was orig­i­nal­ly brought to light by Buzzfeed’s recent “17 Peo­ple Who Total­ly Have Afros” and it’s fol­lowup on Tea and Break­fast, “13 Peo­ple Who Total­ly Have Nap­py Hair,” which both spot­light — you guessed it — peo­ple with nei­ther afros nor nat­ur­al hair. While I’m more or less in favor of peo­ple of all shades embrac­ing the nat­ur­al hair move­ment and learn­ing from the wealth of knowl­edge we gen­er­ate, I think a fun­da­men­tal require­ment should be that you at least have curly hair with either shrink­age or detan­gling woes to be a true mem­ber of the nat­ur­al hair com­mu­ni­ty. I am not at all here for nap­py hair becom­ing the new twerk, used inap­pro­pri­ate­ly, done incor­rect­ly, and said so often that both it’s mean­ing and sig­nif­i­cance are dilut­ed.

More­over, I’m espe­cial­ly not down to share the term nap­py hair with peo­ple who do not know what it means to have had to col­lec­tive­ly reclaim the term from it’s deroga­to­ry mean­ing dat­ing back to the slave-era. Many nat­u­rals, in what is noth­ing short of an ide­o­log­i­cal counter-rev­o­lu­tion, have embraced the term nap­py and used it to refer to their curls, coils, and kinks with pride.

Proud wearing my Global Couture Nappy Tee.
Proud­ly wear­ing my Glob­al Cou­ture Nap­py Tee.

My main issue is that white women with #nap­py­hair are real­ly try­ing to say that their hair is ugly, dirty, unruly, and unkempt. This not only implies that they still think that’s what the word nap­py means too, but also that they think that’s how we mean it when we use it to talk about our nat­ur­al hair.

Here’s what some of my fel­low BGLH con­trib­u­tors had to say on the top­ic:

Elle Natural Hair

“I find it kind of annoy­ing, but fun­ny at the same time. They can’t pos­si­bly under­stand what ‘nap­py’ means and apply it to a lit­tle frizz or wavy hair. The annoy­ing part is that they don’t even mind being igno­rant enough to not fig­ure out the real mean­ing of the word. They don’t even real­ize how sil­ly they look to a lot of peo­ple.”


“Using #nat­u­ral­hair didn’t work, so now this. It’s a clas­sic case of an insult wrapped in a des­per­ate attempt to be a part of some­thing. The term “nap­py” has been thrown our way for years to deval­ue our nat­ur­al beau­ty. But now that we Black women are proud of our high­ly tex­tured hair and declare to be “nap­py and proud”, it doesn’t sit well. Even on their worst humid­i­ty or tongue-in-sock­et hair days, the aes­thet­ic is far from nap­py. Nap­py is sup­posed to mean bad, and their bad hair day being labeled as #nap­py hair is sup­posed to be an insult, I get it. But at the same time, they want to be like us. Nap­py hair is cool. Kinks and coils are on trend. So are big butts, brown skin, and thick lips. This is noth­ing new — tear us down, only to turn around and try to get what we have.”


“Anoth­er day, anoth­er instance of AAVE (African Amer­i­can Ver­nac­u­lar English)/BVE (Black Ver­nac­u­lar Eng­lish) being appro­pri­at­ed for the sake of seem­ing on trend. From large chain restau­rants tweet­ing their meals are “on fleek” to tra­di­tion­al bub­blegum pop-stars cap­i­tal­iz­ing off the idea of  “bae” and “cuff­ing sea­son,” the black ver­nac­u­lar aes­thet­ic is seen as noth­ing more than a mask that can be put on and removed at ease with­out any neg­a­tive asso­ci­a­tion. The pho­tos tagged as “#nap­py­hair” with­out any regard of the mean­ing and cul­tur­al notions behind the term are just a small part of a larg­er issue. 


“I’m torn between annoy­ance and indif­fer­ence. Annoy­ance because the ‘main­stream’ is per­pet­u­al­ly rip­ping things off from pop­u­lar black cul­ture, while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly try­ing to deval­ue its influ­ence. Also annoy­ing that the term ‘nap­py’ is being used in the neg­a­tive, when there has been a sus­tained move­ment with­in the nat­ur­al hair com­mu­ni­ty to re-define the term as a pos­i­tive. Still, at the end of the day, I won’t lose sleep at night over this. But, Lord, please don’t let ‘nap­py’ make it to the main­stream media cir­cuit. If ‘nap­py’ becomes the new ‘twerk’ I will be so una­mused.”

Do you think white women should be able to use nat­ur­al hair lin­go to describe their hair? Are you both­ered or is this just a sign of the nat­ur­al hair move­ment being embraced by oth­er races?

Klassy Kinks

KlassyKinks.com founder and edi­tor, Ijeo­ma Eboh, is on a mis­sion to change per­cep­tions of kinky tex­tured hair around the world. You can find her on social media @klassykinks.

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132 Comments on "New Trend? White Women On Instagram Are Using the Hashtag #NappyHair"

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I per­son­al­ly don’t think it’s that serious..to write an arti­cle. We need to stop let­ting race define if some­one should be allowed to do some­thing. We always say white peole think they are bet­ter or what­ev­er but we do the same thing. I woudn’t let it both­er me unless they say some­thing racist. Oth­er­wise move on we can’t always get mad over every­thing. And I’m sure we do things that white peo­ple do lol don’t get offend­ed. If they think their hair is nap­py that’s between them and God. Although I would tell them your hair is not nap­py. My… Read more »

Jesus Christ on a bike.
What the hell is wrong with white peo­ple?!? Csnt they func­tion with­out our atten­tion?!?!
I swear more and more the obsses­sion white peo­ple have with black peo­ple reached anoth­er lev­el of dis­turb­ing.


#some­times­they­make­ofmetho wtf? Next trend is white men call­ing each oth­er n****, Lord have mer­cy. I guess we can­not enjoy own­ing cer­tain things, they want every­thing to them­selves. Oh well, they will nev­er take our skin col­or, his­to­ry and Africa!!!!

growing it alone

If you were beat­en and abused as a child… you wouldn’t choose to mar­ry some­one who beats and abus­es you and say “i’m reclaim­ing the abuse i expe­ri­enced as a child and its now pos­si­tive abuse”. That word ( the “N” word ) is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. What­ev­er the colour of the man woman or child throw­ing it around… bad argu­ment!

Oh man, why so seri­ous though? It’s just an adjec­tive for wild or unruly ect. As explained in the arti­cle, Black women are try­ing to reclaim the word nap­py and use it pos­i­tive­ly mean­ing that many Black women still use it negive­ly… So basi­cal­ly, both white and black women are prob­a­bly using it neg­a­tive­ly. I don’t see why this arti­cle isn’t chastis­ing black women using the #nap­py­hair hash­tag describ­ing a bad hair day their hav­ing. Who’s being the racist here? I’m South African and enjoyed learn­ing about how to deal with my curly hair but I always find that the… Read more »
Non ya
But are you black? My old boss is from South Africa and she is not black. She nev­er claimed to be. Her par­ents aren’t and she isn’t, she’s African. It’s not always the same. I also had a stu­dent from South Africa and she is black.  I don’t like the term nap­py, but it has been asso­ci­at­ed with black peo­ple for years. As the arti­cle says, we took the word used to insult us and made it our own. It is insen­si­tive, and cul­ture vul­tur­ing for white women to take it and basi­cal­ly make fun. Tak­ing terms that the black com­mu­ni­ty… Read more »
I don’t think every­one using the tag nec­es­sar­i­ly has mali­cious intent, although some def­i­nite­ly know bet­ter. Most are prob­a­bly com­plete­ly igno­rant of the impli­ca­tions, but sad­ly prob­a­bly wouldn’t care any­way. It’s a quick and cheap laugh, the post is a small part of their day, and they move right along with life. I per­son­al­ly find it dif­fi­cult to know where to draw that appro­pri­a­tion line, I say/do/wear things that white peo­ple wouldn’t get away with. Maybe it isn’t fair that they can’t joke in cer­tain ways but you can’t change his­to­ry, that’s just the way it is. I think the biggest… Read more »

I heard once that every­one wants to be Black but no one wants to be Black..so irri­tat­ing­ly amus­ing to me. They want the hips, thighs, butts, boobs, noses, lips, hair etc but when social injus­tice comes around, they are sleep.…smh.

Great post!


They can kiss my entire Black ***!

omfg–i don’t like this one bit. i am so over the theft and mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tion of black cul­ture by white peo­ple. it is very offen­sive to me for whites to label wavy or mussed hair “nap­py” or some­thing not con­doned by their cul­ture “ghet­to.” i am sick of them equat­ing terms that in a sense describe Black­ness or at least, the Black (in Amer­i­ca) expe­ri­ence with an unde­sir­able or neg­a­tive phe­nom­e­non. Some peo­ple are so invest­ed in their white­ness as a sym­bol of supe­ri­or­i­ty and yet they STAY obsessed with every­thing we do and are. i have a mind to troll… Read more »

I must say that those pics just made me laugh! It kind of looks like some of those ladies just some hair spray or gel. I don’t get it.


This isn’t new–I remem­ber my col­lege class­mates, 15 years ago, using “nap­py” as syn­ony­mous with unruly and/or dirty hair. I don’t think this has any­thing to do with being on trend or the reclaim­ing of nap­py by nat­u­rals, I think this is just straight old-fash­ioned Amer­i­can casu­al racism, like refer­ring to some­thing bro­ken down as “ghet­to”, or using black as a syn­onym for poor or scary. And for the record, this would not be the same group post­ing on nat­ur­al hair sites, or join­ing the dis­cus­sion about life with tight­ly curled/coiled/kinky hair–you can tell because none of them has post­ed on… Read more »
This is just unset­tling. They were using afros in a neg­a­tive sense in ref­er­ence to bad hair days and I wasn’t cool with that, because afros are beau­ti­ful. Nap­py has main­ly been used neg­a­tive­ly, although it refers just to a texture/fibers, as in wool the fibers are napped. Afro tex­tured hair can be napped, hence the use of nap­py. How­ev­er, this is not their hair tex­ture and they are not using the word pos­i­tive­ly. It dis­turbs me that they choose to define their beau­ty by being deroga­to­ry to oth­er types of beau­ty. You take a self­ie in full make­up, with… Read more »

Agreed. I also didn’t like how they made it seem like they had Afros because they didn’t both­er to take the time to tame their hair.

I agree as well. This always annoyed me when I was in school and would hear girls with the straight­est of straight hair or hair that had a slight wave pat­tern have the nerve to say that their hair was nap­py because they just woke up and walked out, when in all actu­al­i­ty all they had to do was grab a comb, comb through once, maybe twice, and their hair is now “done”. But the only rea­son why their hair is in the mat­ted state its in is because of all the hair gel or hair spray they used thats… Read more »

I guess it depends on what “nap­py” means to the indi­vid­ual. Some have pos­i­tive def­i­n­i­tions for the word. For me, nap­py isn’t a good thing; when I say my hair is nap­py I feel that my hair is rough, hard to comb through… basi­cal­ly look­ing a hot mess. So if some White girl’s hair is look­ing rough or she can’t run a comb through it, I’m not mad at her using the term “nap­py” because of what I asso­ciate with the word myself.


You come across as some­one who’s not very smart.

oh why?

*sigh* always one or accord­ing to the sto­ry many


Nah, this isn’t an indi­vid­u­al­is­tic thing. White girls are using the term “nap­py” to refer to their hair when it’s TANGLED, DIRTY, and UNKEMPT. If that’s what their hair is, I don’t under­stand why they just don’t say that. Oh, I know why! Because they’re cul­tur­al­ly igno­rant enough to think the tan­gled mass of straight hair they didn’t both­er to do or comb is in itself the same thing as hav­ing nat­ur­al hair. Pfft.


or maybe they just heard the word and used it, not every­thing has to be a big deal



Ms. Vee

…And yet these are the same group of heifers that want to join the NHM (with their few mam­my accom­plices in agree­ment).

I would have more respect if they just came out and admit­ted “Hey black folks we can’t func­tion with­out your atten­tion”.

But alas I will ignore these nonen­ti­ties like they deserve to be…on to the true black beau­ties that are hap­py being nap­py.

*wait­ing for whites to start call­ing them­selves Nubians* 



*wait­ing for whites to start call­ing them­selves Nubians*.….….….hahahahaha!

Just Saying

Black peo­ple shouldn’t be call­ing them­selves Nubian either, unless they’re actu­al­ly of Nubian eth­nic­i­ty. It’s like call­ing your­self Fulani, Yoru­ba, Kanuri, Zulu etc. You can’t just choose a cul­ture at ran­dom and assign your­self to it.

Ms. Vee

@Just Say­ing

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I agree with Christi­na ” This is noth­ing new…tear us down, only to turn around and try to get what we have.” 

If they were tru­ly ashamed of their so called “nap­py hair” why would they upload a pic­ture of it for the world to see? Im not real­ly con­cerned about the whole sit­u­a­tion, it’s sil­ly