1st Student's Major

Gender and Women's Studies

1st Student's College

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Students' Professional Biography

Vanessa King is originally from Richfield, Minnesota. She is a Psychology and Gender and Women's Studies major at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She plans to graduate in the fall of 2013 and go on to get her Master’s degree in either Gender and Women's Studies or Counseling and Student Personal. She is very interested in working for a nonprofit organization and pursuing a career where she can help others. Dieynaba Niabaly is from Senegal, West Africa. She is majoring in International Relations, Gender and Women’s Studies and Spanish. After her graduation in spring 2014, she will pursue her Master’s degree in International Development and Women’s Studies. Her main professional goal is to work in an International nonprofit organization with a focus on improving social infrastructures in poor countries and empowering women and children.

Mentor's Name

Shannon Miller

Mentor's Email Address


Mentor's Department

Gender and Women's Studies

Mentor's College

Social and Behavioral Sciences


Historically, black women’s image has been subjected to high scrutinization that rendered every choice they made for their body and hair important. Black women have undergone many pressures that shaped their hair choices in various ways. However, there is a general tendency in the literature to homogenize all black women’s experiences and disregard their ethnic diversity. In this study, we explored both African and African American college women’s feelings about the motivations to straighten (relax) or wear their hair without chemical treatment (natural). For this qualitative approach, we utilized a cross-cultural approach and interviewed 12 African and African American college women with relaxed (chemically treated) or natural (chemically untreated) hair to understand the motivations for their various hair choices. Findings reveal that African and African American women with relaxed hair are influenced by different factors; African women with relaxed hair reported being influenced by community and media while African American women reported family as the most influential factor regarding their hair decisions. Both African and African American women with natural hair viewed their hair as a personal choice rather than a political statement. In general, African American women reported more exposure to natural hair than African women who, for the most part, went natural when they came to the United States. Although, black women seem to have similar experiences about their hair cross-culturally, there are relevant particularities in each group’s experiences that are worth taking into account for a more precise knowledge of these groups.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License



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