Do Mixed Chicks Hair Care Products Make Light Seem Right? - Curly Chic

Do Mixed Chicks Hair Care Products Make Light Seem Right?

From Coco & Creme

Mixed chicks. Many interesting images come to mind when the phrase is uttered. You might think of old-school images like that of the “tragic mulatto,” or the character played famously by extremely light-skinned actress Fredi Washington in the 1934 movie Imitation of Life. In that fictitious representation of a mixed black woman, the character Peola was conflicted about her heritage and passed for white, but in real life Fredi Washington was as proud of being black as an African-American could be. The last thing I would think of these words is: “What a great name for hair care products for mixed women of color!” And yet, to my dismay, that is what it is.

My dismay began recently when I was taking the subway in New York. One cannot board those creaking trains without being inundated by ads that usually feature big budget films. But as a mid-priced marketing vehicle that is seen by a diverse audience, the subway platform is also apparently the perfect medium for reaching “Mixed Chicks” – a relatively new product line started by and for bi-racial women of African descent.

The Mixed Chicks hair care system has a laudable history. We must respect the founders and their business acumen, even if the name of their products evokes the ghosts of tragic mulattoes, the specter of miscegenation, and other ideas that seem outdated. According to Black Enterprise magazine, two biracial women, Wendi Levy and Kim Etheredge, started Mixed Chicks to address the fact that they could not find products for what they term their “combination hair.” These combinations that they are referring to are the intermixing of black and Irish genes, in the case of Etheredge, and black and Jewish genes in the case of Levy. (Some people would call their “combination hair” by the vestigial term “good hair” – but I digress.) At first the company struggled through start-up growing pains, but began to take off when famous mixed-race actresses began to give unsolicited plugs for their products in interviews, including African-American superstar Halle Berry. In fact: “Revenues doubled from 2008 to 2009—the year Berry announced her affinity for MIXED CHICKS products” (Black Enterprise).

This is interesting, because while no one can deny that Halle Berry is of bi-racial ancestry, she has taken pains throughout her career to identify herself NOT as a “mixed chick,” but as an African-American woman. As recently as her March 2011 Ebony cover story, she almost overstated her belief that she is a black woman, extending this identity to her mostly-white child, who is too young to have been infected by the racism of America to need to identify either way. This shows that the issue of racial identification is still critical in American society, and nowhere is it more prominent to black women than in the arena of hair and beauty.

Our various skin shades and hair textures are still used as tools of both internal and external oppression in a pointed way that keeps most black women tied up in knots that strangle our self-esteem. Our hair textures can’t help but be a major measuring stick of our relative value as beautiful or ugly. Hair makes us competitive against each other, and not having “good hair” can make us hate ourselves – or at least make escaping the chains of a self-hating self image an ongoing battle, even if many of us win it.

In terms of judging ourselves as pretty (or not), there is perhaps nothing more difficult for a black woman to accept than not having “good hair” – hair that is the opposite of the texture that Etheridge and Levy are taking great pains to correct through their Mixed Chicks product line. On some level, this is outrageous. Let’s face it – most black women would love to have this hair, even if that is painful to admit. Bi-racial heritage is so often assumed to grant greater beauty – and if their hair needs special help, Lord help the rest of us. So why would these two black women choose a name that underscores their inherent beauty privilege – and promotes this race-based power? Levy told Black Enterprise: “Some people gave us negative feedback, thinking we were trying to separate ourselves… We are providing unity.” Really? It seems more like they are providing themselves with a marketing vehicle through the black community, while targeting their multi-racial audience, at the cost of black women’s self-esteem.

By being featured in Black Enterprise, and shouting out Halle Berry as a supporter, these mixed chicks are clearly drawing on the energy of the black audience for their company’s benefit. At the same time, they want to emphasize the fact that they are not black — flaunting hair black women spend billions every year trying to replicate. Hair is such a sensitive issue to black women, it is inherently divisive to market a product for mixed women through avenues intended for a predominantly black-identified audience. I find it abrasive and wrong.

Unlike these two mixed chicks, Halle Berry, the mixed chick who put them on the map, does not identify as black when it is convenient and as mixed when the time comes to market herself to a target demographic. She claims her white heritage, but realizes that she wants to stand with the black audience as one of its representatives. She does not try to be both. We find that in entertainment, as in her case, or in politics, as in the case of President Obama, this is important for blacks who still need role models who represent our group with pride. For beauty leaders, especially when it comes to black hair, to flaunt being mixed over being African-American feels like a denial of blackness, not a declaration of unity, as the founders of Mixed Chicks claim. This denial of blackness cannot be tolerated by people who use African-American platforms to trumpet their successes. Black women still suffer from a fragile sense of self that perhaps as women with “good hair,” the Mixed Chick creators don’t understand. Maybe that is why they didn’t take their friends’ astute advice when they were warned not take the “mixed” marketing route. The baggage that goes along with word “mixed” is still too great.

From good vs. bad hair, to the light-skinned preference that still persists among us to a staggering degree, names of products that call out this difference will first and foremost remind most black women that their non-mixed features are not considered flattering. Like the black Hollywood star Fredi Washington before her, Halle Berry chooses to see herself as one shade within our wide beauty spectrum. This is creating real unity. As a black woman who can never use these products, and might never fully overcome her “good hair” jealously, I cannot applaud these women for stamping a product for “mixed people only,” while claiming black stars and publications to promote a product most black people can never use.

To be clear, it is the name that is offensive, not the concept. Of course, multi-ethnic people of African descent are part of the black community. I have many mixed friends. I know 100% black people with loose curls who I love, and who love being black. I even know completely white-looking black people who loudly identify as African-American. I actually respect the bi-racial and multi-ethnic identity, and believe that America should become more diverse in its definitions of racial categories, to the point that eventually these types of distinctions do not exist. But for now they do. And this means when someone puts the words “Mixed Chicks” on a hair care product, they are not only creating another scalp elixir in a jar – they are also printing a label on the newest can of racial worms spawned by multi-ethnic identities.

Is it rational? No. Is it fair to black women who happen to be bi-racial? Not at all. I am sure that Etheredge and Levy mean to serve their audience, and not to offend. But at this time in history this divisive effect is inevitable. The makers of Mixed Chicks should pick different venues to promote their hair care products, and perhaps a name that the average African-American woman won’t be insulted by. Their products are bringing our secret hair and beauty issues to the surface, instead of leaving them to lurk in the psychological undercurrent where they have always been. And this lava flow of repressed vitriol is so hot, the makers of Mixed Chicks, and others who are similarly naïve, have to deal with it. Nothing about black women and our hair can be anything but tinged with stinging emotion as long as socialization pushes every black woman who is not a mixed chick into the category of “less than” in terms of beauty. The superior ranking of mixed people is nothing to celebrate, no matter how great the beauty business success story. And that is what the name Mixed Chicks unwittingly does.

Perhaps through a herculean effort of emotional reprogramming, some black women can escape this internal feeling and be more level-headed, but no one can overcome the insane reality of these beliefs in the millions of minds that make up our society. While perhaps being strong in your sense of beauty on the inside, you will still be forced to face the ignorant belief that mixed is better every day. Sorry Mixed Chicks, but you are perpetuating that sad reality with this name.

Is it possible to overcome “hair jealousy” and share space (shelf space, editorial space, and otherwise) with the beauty products of mixed black women, even if you are a black woman who cannot use them? Is the name “Mixed Chicks” wrong, even if the product concept is right? I leave these questions up to the Coco & Creme audience to decide.

Can mixed people claim both bi-racial and African-American as simultaneous identities – or must they choose one as their predominant identification, even while realistically acknowledging the other? Is this kind of thinking antiquated and divisive in itself? These are questions to be answered as we move forward into the brave new world of the 21st century, as racial identities and black beauty categories will continue to painfully evolve.

– Alexis Garrett Stodghill

  • lis says:

    African hair is different than caucasian hair. I am a multiracial women who the usa identifies as black. I take issue with the mixed chicks name because simply by stating biracial certain images and feeling come up. We are not talking DNA we are talking what do you define yourself as. I dont not have a whitemom or dad but I have white blood thru slavery like most black folks. The issue is that they have one parent that is causcasian. If this was not the case they never would have chosen this name. If you choose to solely identify as Black there will be a problem if yo momma is white. Most black people cannot choose to identify with there 74th greatgrandfather who was white even if its tru. So if you are MOSTLY white well then lets say the products are for you. So to state that this is a product for mixed chicks would include he MAJORITY of the african america. Too name a product mixed chicks in America is culturally insensitive
    given the majority mixed is due to rape adultery etc but since they are a result of a consensual biracial relationship chances are no one has explained to them the implications of the name. I personally dont really like it because it screams of racism and privelege and a us versus you mentality and im jot down with that. Why not say curly or include everyone that is mixex or multiracial. It just smells funny if you ask me

  • Jean says:

    I think the author's intentions of this article was to simply address how the label differentiates other women of color from women of biracial decent. I am biracial and I do agree with some of her points. "Black Hair" in fact is diverse within itself. Therefore, why should the term " Mixed Chicks" designate women with a curly hair pattern? The issue is bigger than the creators of Mixed Chicks. The subject of black hair is very sensitive to african american women because of how the media portrays beauty. My entire life I had to deal with issues regarding hair and beauty. I really think the author made some valid points. Her tone may have offended people who are biracial but overall I think she brought a lot points to the surface.

    • lis says:

      Bc in america biracial doesnt mean black. In america even if you have white heritage say like angela davis she is still considered black. This is because most biracial ppl (one parent of different race) do not identify with blk except like halle berry and others. Most biracial ppl are not taught blk history and to them mixed is just mixed. But misengenation is why it used to b illegal for two races to marry in America. Because biracial ppl (one parent of different race) do not know or have not experienced this they assume that blk ppl have the issue. What they dont know is it was only recently that biracial people were not lumped with primarly africans. In other words if you are biracial you are simply black. The white blood they had in america was not recognized.it had to do with a caste system. So even if you are white you were not allowed to identify yourself as such. And white people would not identify you as white either.

  • Eleanor says:

    I could go through this article and pick out all the problematic aspects. Your "bitterness" is not what gets to me as you accept that there may be an element of 'jealousy' in your feelings regardless how misplaced and un justified they may be. I will make this a brief point. My main issues are two, firstly, you seem to grossly undermine the distinct oppression that has been foisted upon mixed race women (and men) on many fronts throughout history and until today. our position as 'beautiful' based on the idea of white supremacy, because we are 'not fully black' or look 'more European' is not only insulting to us as it denies us a right to beauty in our own right but it is a misinformed view of our social/racial position. Secondly, you seem conflicted as to what you want from us, do you wish for mixed race women to wholly deny our diverse heritage and solely identify as black (which many of us do due to the fact that we are subject to the same racism) or pretend we aren't black so as to be 'allowed' to recognize we often face distinctly different issues from aesthetics to politics and everything in between. we inhabit a space in society which is not binary and you're attitude contributes to much of the vitriol directed at us by society.
    furthermore, I understand you are American, I am from the UK and the situations differ. But being able to have both black and mixed race identity is invaluable to me. as a child growing up i faced extreme racism from both the white and black sectors of society and mixed race was not an option on the census until 2005. The recognition of our complex identity (as well as the complex identities of many others) is so important in challenging these damaging and fascist views about beauty which still scourge our society. Your demands should not be made on us to deny our needs and heritage but on wider society to accept and then challenge the pervasive, pathological beauty myths which define whiteness to be supreme and ALL other races inferior. period

    • lis says:

      What you fail to realize until recently there was no census box for mixed. I understand if your parent is white or black you choose not the reject their heritage but for the REST of us who are african american who ALSO have mixed ancestry we simply do not have the option who to identify with. White people see you as black whether you see yourself as black or not. Mixed people have a choice thanks to mlk.
      The other implication is that there are those who blood sweat and died fof biracial people to b able to self identify. So kim and wendy are able to be this because of others sacrifices. Freedom is as was never freedom.
      Just because some looks black doesnt mean they are ALL black.

  • Mariah LA says:

    I have hair prone to frizz that's been chemically treated and over-ironed for years. I iron my hair 2 times or more a week, and when I attempt to wear it curly it's always unruly. After trying It's a Ten, Mixed Chicks, and countless other conditioners, I've finally found what works: Shielo Hydration Condtioner. I've also tried Shielo Hydration Shampoo, which honestly was not as effective. Just the conditoner works VERY well. When I straighten my hair after using this product it feels silky and healthy; when I wear it curly the frizz is minimal. I'm also half African-American, and even though Shielo doesn't usually market their products for black hair, I encourage women of color to try it!

  • Loraine says:

    I also agree with the article, and the Mixed Chics brand lost its "innocence" when it endorsed a Light Skin vs Dark Skin party a few years back as a form of marketing. What lame, backwards-thinking foolishness. Only someone truly naive can pretend that race and shade in America is a anachronistic problem. Not yet.

  • MIa says:

    I love the article honestly. I believe it is honest and it does give an unbiased view of the issue with the name, NOT THE PRODUCT, this article has absolutely nothing to do with hair jealously, it shouldn't even be comprehended, that way, however, I can see how it would be for those just looking at it's surface value. This article addresses every single issue black women have about themselves, bi-racial and black alike. It is wonderful to be proud of who you are and where you came from but at the end of the day we live in a society that doesn't totally embrace the other side of who you are, if you look black or have even any hint of color you are BLACK..and the products are marketed to BLACK individuals. There are different hair textures within the entire black community, not only those that are bi-racial. That notion in itself is INSANE. I love who I am, how I look and I am realistic about what others view when they see me, but I do not care. This article is an in your face article about the realities of this country. Do you honestly think that it matters if you are carribean and black, no you are BLACK, in the eyes of society. Do you honestly think it matters if you are jewish and black, NO!! you are BLACK, and this is not to say dismiss who you are, but do not be fooled and dismayed by this idea that mixed chicks have hair that is so different from the entire black community that it requires a label. It does not…and by the way I AM A "MIXED CHICK"..that label in itself is disgusting….

  • Ellisha says:

    This article is from coco&creme.com website. This article does not reflect my personal opinion. I post the latest natural hair news on my blog and hair topics. I do not have issues with color or race.

  • renzy says:

    I agree with Nicole D being of Caribbean African mix decent and dark skinned i felt from reading the article that u

    were very bitter and offended by the product. I totally adore the name because it is made for people of mix decent so hence i see the name being very relevant, i believe u r carrying this a little to far in term of race and who is better mix race or pure blacks i believe the creators intent was never to cause diversion and it never dawn on me when i saw the product that i was better because i was mix and have so called good hair so the same can be said about this site which is named curly chic isn't it not suggesting the same as the product line name mix chic am just saying. But just like pure blacks it is very hard to find products to maintain curls and reduce frizz that is not greasy or stiff. However i do agree with a few of your points when it comes to advertising.

  • Nicole D. says:

    After reading this blog, I really sensed a whole heap of bitterness. I'm sorry that you feel so offended by the lable of this brand, but honestly you need to let go of all your "hair jealousy" issues. I'm sure you're a beautiful woman with features that create your own beauty. Please don't make this a race thing because it just lessons the affect of more important racial issues. I mean, we're talking about a hair product that is inclusive of all racial hairtypes, not human rights or policy!

    • Ellisha says:

      This is an article I found on CocoandCreme.com. I also post information that is news on my "What's In The News" section of my blog. This article has nothing to do with my personal opinion nor do I have issues with color or race.


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