I thought we should take a throwback look at a few of the natural hairstyles that managed to emerge during the 80s; the decade where white women were embracing big hair and black women were either in full jherri curl mode or turning to no‐lye relaxers. Shout out to these ladies for being hip with the movement before most of us even realized we needed it!
Patrice Rushen made braids and beads cool before Alicia Keys was thinking about singing. Her 1982 hit song “Forget Me Nots” was nominated for a Grammy and was later sampled for the Men in Black theme song. While Rushen fell out of popularity after the 80s, her beaded braids lived on in the lives of nearly every black girl in elementary school.
When everybody ranted and raved about Lupita’s low‐cut, androgynous look when she first burst onto the scene a few years ago, and how great it was to finally have a celebrity champion of natural hair (especially after Solange played us), we forgot about the iconic Grace Jones whose unique look and sound dominated 80s pop imagery. While Jones sported several closely cropped hairstyles, it was her crisp fade that stood out most for us naturals.
While better known as the female icon of the Black Panther, Black Power, and Black is Beautiful movements of the 1970s, Angela Davis — and her afro — has remained visible in the academic and political spheres since then. In the 1980s, she ran as Vice‐President on the Communist Party ticket for two elections, and campaign buttons show Davis with a more compact version of her 1970s fro.
While many of our first memories of Whoopi are as Celie in The Color Purple in 1985, she locked her hair shortly thereafter, and wore it locked for many of her lesser known movies of the 1980s, such as Burglar, Fatal Beauty, and Jumpin Jack Flash. Aside from Bob Marley, there are few other noteable celebrities who have sported locs for the majority of their careers, and Whoopi often doesn’t get credit for helping make the style mainstream.
Before we had Olivia, Annalise (or Annamae!), Mary Jane and Cookie, there was Whitley. Repping for the looser haired naturals, Jasmine Guy and her soft curls graced our TV sets in the late 80s and early 90s in a variety of down styles, ponytails, and even updos. Guy won SIX consecutive NAACP awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series for her role on A Different World — the most of any actress.
Besides having been married to one of the most beautiful men alive, Lisa Bonet has been all bohemian/Afrocentric girls’ inspiration since the 1980s. Starring as the semi sassy “Denise Huxtable” in the long running series, Bonet’s attitude, style, and hair choices were always carefree. Even before she allowed her hair to lock as she aged gracefully, Bonet’s character always seemed to have the perfect wake up and go look that many of us naturals strive for.
Did I miss any natural hair moments from the 1980s?