My first relaxer was at 13 years old! I grew up in the Caribbean so I understand the stigma of wearing your hair natural very well! I loved my relaxed hair and had no intention of going through my teenage years without “creaming it” (as we say on the island)every 6 weeks. Fast forward 8 years later things changed dramatically for me! My hair was no longer healthy, it was breaking and the natural hair movement was in full swing! These days wearing your natural hair is nothing but a thing! For some, it’s our identity, our brand, something we are now very much proud of. At least so we thought!
The long and short of it is, we still have work to do! It is 2018 and even with all of our celebrated progress black women are still berated for demanding that they are “allowed” to wear their natural hair in ‘professional settings”! This latest example is model Gabriella Bernard!
You may have already heard about the Caribbean Next Top Model Competition – Gabriella Bernard was a contestant on the show and was pretty outspoken during the taping about not wanting to relax her hair for their “makeover” episode. Not only was she forced to relax but she had to sit through a lecture about how unprofessional she was for asking that they stylist not add chemicals to her hair.
Honestly, when I saw this my first thought was, Gabby needs an apology from Wendy Fitzwilliam the executive producer and guess what, that is exactly what she is demanding on social media.
Read below vis Trinidad Express:
ASPIRING international model Gabriella Bernard feels she deserves an apology from former Miss Universe and executive producer of the Caribbean Next Top Model competition, Wendy Fitzwilliam, after she was given an ultimatum on the television show- relax her natural hair or go home.
The particular episode was filmed in Jamaica last year and aired on television in February.
An excerpt featuring Bernard’s experience was posted to Facebook yesterday.
The majority of persons who commented on the video criticised Fitzwilliam for her response to the model’s stance.
Bernard, 24, told the Express via telephone on Thursday that she and other contestants had to undergo a makeover for the segment.
She said Fitzwilliam had the final say in what each girl’s look should be.
“For my look they wanted my hair relaxed,” she said.
In the video, Bernard was seen pleading with a hairdresser not to chemically process her curly tresses as she had spent the last three years growing it.
“I’m ok with texturizing my hair once my curls stay intact. You need to understand my hair is my identity,” she begged.
Bernard told the Express that the show’s producers, judges and hairdresser were nonchalant about how she felt.
“A lot more happened which you didn’t see in the video. But basically, I was trying to reason with them but they were like it was no big deal, it’s just hair,” she said, adding that she was told that she could either relax her hair or leave the show.
Bernard’s hair was relaxed and she remained in the competition.
Towards the end of the video, she appeared before Fitzwilliam and two other judges- international photographer Pedro Virgil and Caribbean fashion expert Socrates McKinney.
Before critiquing the model’s makeover photograph, Fitzwilliam scolded her for her “naughty” and “unprofessional” behavior.
Bernard apologised, but explained that she previously had her hair relaxed for 15 years. She said when she transitioned to again wearing her hair natural she began loving herself more.
“We live in a world where the media tells us that we need to have straight hair to be accepted,” Bernard emphasised.
Fitzwilliam said she understood the young lady’s point, as she too had made the transition.
“However, as a young and upcoming model, as a young and upcoming attorney facing the judges and senior counsel, you have to be professional.
Shutting down my salon, creating that mayhem, when there were so many other young women to get done and to look fabulous as well, it’s a loud non-starter,” Fitzwilliam said.
Why didn’t she leave?
Asked why she did not stand her ground and bow out of the competition instead of having her hair relaxed, Bernard explained that she weighed her options and felt that she had reached too far in the competition to turn back.
“I had a conversation with myself and I said if I go home what am I going home to? Because I left my job to go on the show. I put in my application the Thursday and by the following Thursday I was flying out. I told myself that I had already reached this far and this was something that I wanted so much,” she said.
Bernard placed third in the competition.
She said she had always looked up to the former beauty queen and was disappointed by her approach and response.
Bernard has turned her experience on the show into a 20-minute documentary called Black Hair.
The documentary will be shown at the 2018 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, from today until Tuesday.
She said she was also lined up for several modelling jobs and competitions.
As for her hair: “Monday actually marks the one year anniversary that I cut my hair and to me it’s growing beautifully.”
We are so sorry that had to happen to you Gabby! Your hair s absolutely stunning! Too bcouldn’ty couldnt see past her ponytail to see it!