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Lauren Conrad’s Blog Equates Cornrow Protective Styling With Jail Time

Avatar • May 7, 2015

In a post on former Hills star Lauren Conrad’s blog The Beauty Department, a seemingly innocent post about keeping hair healthy while swimming in the pool/ocean on vacation took a wrong turn and kept on going down the wrong street when she equated cornrows with jail time. Stylist Kristin Ess used deep conditioner-slathered cornrows as an example of a technique to protect the hair (something us BGLH-ers are very familiar with, but I digress) from chlorine and salt water. I could harp on how Ess presented this technique as her very own new idea, but I’m going to leave it alone. Let’s just start with comment that followed the picture below: “Okay, she kinda looks like she’s going to jail, but I promise she’s not.

hair-for-swimming-the-beauty-department

:::rubs temples:::

Why is it that the first correlation to cornrows is jail time? Cornrows go as far back as 500 B.C., to the Nok Civilization in Nigeria. Black women and men of all ages wear or have worn cornrows at some point. Heck, popular websites and online news sites have even declared cornrows as the “hot new trend”. So remind me again, how we arrive at this jail thing?

It’s called being ill-informed and culturally insensitive. And that’s putting it nicely.

What runs me really low is the series of “sorry not sorry” pseudo-apologies and justifications issued by Ess and The Beauty Department.

Wait…tell me why this has anything to do with race or culture? She looks like a bad ass who is standing in front of a gate you guys. And I stand by my opening line…because if I were going to jail I would wear my braids for a low maintenance look. My goodness, you can’t say ANYTHING on the interwebs anymore.”

No, you can’t. It’s called writing responsibly. The internet never forgets. And because she looks “bad ass” (by virtue of her cornrows because well, we can’t ever see her face), she must be getting hauled off to the slammer, right?

OMG I wish you could see my face RN. I’m offended by you telling me I’m racist. And if you’re looking for an apology, you’ve come to the wrong place. Stop associating braids and jail with black culture.”

No Kristin, you stop associating braids with jail. That’s a good place to land.

My favorite clapbackpology (yes, I just made that up) was left by Ess just yesterday:

If anyone was offended by me associating a gate, 4 Dutch braids or a female (which initially looked so OITNB to me, which I love)with jail I am truly sorry. Clearly, my post came across offensively and my responses came across even worse. I never, in a million years, would have thought about it from the angle being pointed out. I would love to go back and change it, but what do I do? If I edit the post I will be criticized for that as well. This comes from the bottom of my heart (not a PR team because we don’t even have a PR team). I saw a few comments yesterday and thought “That’s a ridiculous take on my post.” Then I saw more comments and I thought, “Wait. Check myself. Is this culturally insensitive?” I thought it over and I honestly didn’t see ANY harm in saying what I said. I got defensive immediately, because I know there’s not a single malicious bone in my body and I don’t think it’s okay for those who don’t know me to say such derogatory things to me in regards to where my heart and head were at. BUT as the perfectly communicative Melanie Turnbull points out, you can say something racially offensive without being a “racist person”. I’ve truly never thought about it that way. It made me stop and consider two completely separate angles. I’ve never been in a heated argument with my readers and I respond best to a dialogue vs. accusation. It’s human nature to go on the defense when you feel attacked, and when I’m in defense mode I can’t get any new insight on a situation.

Melanie–thank you for your words and for helping me understand that I could offend without even knowing or intended to do so. For that I am truly sorry.”

It’s a disappointing “it’s not me, it’s you” faux-pology. The “it’s not racist because I’m not a malicious person” is a terrible defense. If a person with an otherwise spotless driving record rear-ends another car, it doesn’t necessarily make him or her a terrible driver. But at the same time, the spotless record does not excuse the offense. It’s called accountability.

What do you think, ladies? How do you feel about the way Ess and The Beauty Department handled the backlash?

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About Christina Patrice

Born, raised, and living in Los Angeles, Christina is BGLH's resident transitioning expert and product junkie. In addition to loving all things hair, she is a fitness novice and advocate of wearing sandals year-round. For more information on transitioning, natural hair, and her own hair journey, visit maneobjective.com. Or, if you like pictures follow Christina on Instagram @maneobjective.

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Jojo
Jojo
5 years ago

Actually, she looks like she’s already in jail! Am I racist or racially insensitive too? BGLH may need new contributors. These posts are getting old and tired TO ME.

via
via
5 years ago
Reply to  Jojo

I’ve been thinking the same thing.

Deeds
Deeds
5 years ago
Reply to  Jojo

Yes, they are. Most be low on ideas because this is reaching.

coco
coco
5 years ago
Reply to  Jojo

I couldn’t agree more. of late all I’ve been seeing on this site or fb post that leads me here, is just a bunch of posts about somebody who said or did something racist, with a bunch of misleading headings. its like someone here has a radar that searches for something with at least a hint of racism on the net to talk about.

Elle
Elle
5 years ago
Reply to  Jojo

While your critique is certainly valid, it would be more helpful if you expressed the types of articles you would like to see. Feedback is important and the BGLH crew is always willing to take our readers’ thoughts into consideration when developing content.

Tabatha
Tabatha
5 years ago

It doesn’t make what she said right, but what can you say, males and females sport that style in jail. She should have kept the comment to herself, but hell everyone thinks that. I work with people who have come out of jail and so far I have only shown 4 of my clients which happen to be all black, “Where do you think she’s going?” They all said, “Jail”. I told them “Wrong she is going to the pool and or the beach; this is a protective style to keep your hair nice.” Unfortunately it’s the ugly side to… Read more »

sanjidude
sanjidude
5 years ago
Reply to  Tabatha

Incarcerated women of all colors wear their hair in ponytails too. Are ponytails now a precursor of criminal behavior? Please trade in your friends for more enlightened, less ignorant folks.
Signed,
A Wealthy, Law Abiding, Cornrows Wearing PhD

Me
Me
5 years ago
Reply to  sanjidude

Co-signed by an affluent, law abiding, cornrows wearing MBA.

K.H.
K.H.
5 years ago
Reply to  sanjidude

The only ignorant person mentioned is you. How can you judge her friends when you do not know them? Honestly, you disgust me. I personally do not associate cornrows with jail but I do understand how others could. You yourself are ignorant for ignoring the fact that so many of the people in jail wear that style. Lol it’s hilarious how you yourself are so UNenlightened. Signed, A perfectly happy middle class, Law abiding, occasional cornrows wearing national merit scholar. (I have not yet graduated high school which is the only reason I do not put something of a higher… Read more »

Annie
Annie
5 years ago
Reply to  K.H.

And how do you know that they’re good people? When people are so full of shit it comes out of both ends zzzz

sanjidude
sanjidude
5 years ago
Reply to  K.H.

Talk to me when you’ve graduated from high school. You’re not in a position to comment intelligently at this point, but you may be some day. The University of Phoenix is lucky to have you.

Adía
Adía
5 years ago
Reply to  Tabatha

Men and women wear that style out of jail as well. And children often wear their hair in cornrows who are not juvenile offenders. It says something ahout you if you associate this predominantly black hair style with jail

RBCA07
RBCA07
5 years ago

The gate adds to the jail feel, but with the hair and all, it was a misfire that clearly this writer doesn’t understand. She and Miss weed and patchouli oil Rancic would be best friends. Except the latter seemed to get after a day’s bashing online, that negative racial stereotypes cannot be justified by suburbian white folk ignorance. These people should just not be let out. They are so tiresome.

Dee
Dee
5 years ago

Uhhhhhhh. I’m not really sure here. Was the comment culturally insensitive? Probably. Then you have to ask do white women go to jail with low maintenance cornrows also. I’ve seen them in jail (on tv) with cornrows lol she could have said, it looks like she is off to military boot camp or something. I can see where the author thought a cultural offense happened. Can equate cornrows to jail. It’s possible.

Sophie
Sophie
5 years ago

I think it wasn’t the greatest comment but I actually got the jail vibe too with the big t‑shirt and chain link fence. Her hair being braided unevenly instead of out and “done” adds to it (those are cornrows but they’re uneven and thus look like a protective style… in defense of cornrows I expect if they’re done as a style they should be done more neatly). I think people need to watch their words but this seems more like a careless comment than a malicious one.

Chevanne
5 years ago

Ess, be real. Your first thought is not protective styling on the way to jail. Your first thought is being made a wife, getting beat up, the loneliness, terrible food, smells, sights and if you’ll get to call your parents. You know damn well those cornrows aren’t “bad ass” because they’re sloppy and uneven. You just popped the cap off your own lie. I’m not saying she should screen content passed the “Is It Racist?™ machine, but just keep your eyes open to criticism. Keep your mouth shut. Think. Google. It’s not hard and going hard to defend yourself just… Read more »

Pinky's Mom
Pinky's Mom
5 years ago

White lady here, and not getting the point. I don’t think of braids or cornrows as jail hair per se, but this photo sure gives me the impression of some troubled kid in lockup. Is the perceived cultural crime being committed the ugly realization of this photographed style, or the fact that someone called it what it looks like? Please help me. Also, cornrowed hair on WHITE PEOPLE looks more like jail hair to me, than it does when people of color wear it. Then it just seems to me like a style that is just another option for people with… Read more »

bsbfankaren
bsbfankaren
5 years ago
Reply to  Pinky's Mom

And that’s all the writer had to say. She exasbated the issue with her own comments.

Pinky's Mom
Pinky's Mom
5 years ago
Reply to  bsbfankaren

I don’t understand your reply…What does “exasbated the issue with her own comments” mean? Do you mean by asking for information that I was genuinely interested in acquiring I created a problem, or that the original writer of this piece answered all my questions in her essay already? I kept checking this page for a couple of days after I placed the comment, but it hadn’t shown up, so I figured the person managing this page did not find value in it, so i stopped looking to see if anyone was willing to inform my ignorance on the subject.

Kisha Q.
Kisha Q.
5 years ago
Reply to  Pinky's Mom

Hey Pinky I don’t believe she said you “exasbated issue”, but that the writer did. Your post was simple and to the point. For me, the person could’ve been green and I still would’ve associated cornrows and standing on front of a fence looking at a white wall as jail. Scared Straight lol

Pinky's Mom
Pinky's Mom
5 years ago
Reply to  Kisha Q.

Kisha, thank you! I was feelin’ crazy and wondering if she meant me, so it’s good to get your perspective on this.

Hair Anomaly
Hair Anomaly
5 years ago

I’m sorry…who are these people???

I think exactly what everyone should think of this…absolutely nothing.

Wait…I do have a thought.

Whoever wore those cornrows should be in jail…right along with whoever did them, and whoever took that picture and allowed them to be seen by anyone.

A damn mess…

Dee
Dee
5 years ago

Lets worry about the killing of brown people without impunity instead. Let’s face it when black women wear cornrows, we slay! Who cares their opinions on what we rock…we know this oh too well.. We get mocked and ridiculed then eventually the same people mocking us will imitate us. #Letsbeunbotheredbythefoolishness

Jasmine
Jasmine
5 years ago

This was blown way out of proportion. This article is dramatic. I got the jail vibe also BECAUSE OF THE GATE. If she had a top knot, I would STILL get the jail vibe. Stop looking to get offended by everything.

DakiMinded
DakiMinded
5 years ago
Reply to  Jasmine

I agree Jasmine. Furthermore, what these 15 sec revolutionaries don’t understand is that getting bent out of shape about things like this actually diminishes the validity of REAL racial injustice.

La Bandita
La Bandita
3 years ago
Reply to  DakiMinded

Lies!! Let twitter revolutionaries fight the twitter racist. Win, win.

EllieLo
EllieLo
5 years ago

The comment was ignorant, but it wasn’t even the worst part here: it’s the way she handled it afterwards. WHO SAYS THAT TO THEIR CONSUMER BASE? Who in their right mind thinks is a good PR tactic to childishly dismiss people’s concerns and comments because YOU feel a bit defensive? If anything gets this person fired (which I saw a quite a few people calling for on that comment board), it’d be for the completely unprofessional and honestly stupid way she handled the backlash.

Talk about giving your company a bad name…LC needs to handle that one.

DakiMinded
DakiMinded
5 years ago

The cornrows are thrown together and she’s standing in front of a gate with a baggy t‑shirt. People really need to look at CONTEXT. Not what you want to see, or want to get offended by. If this was a picture of better cornrows, or with a better background, or of a Black woman, etc. etc. then maybe it would be offensive and out of pocket. If she said it and the girl was by an actual pool with a swimsuit or something…then sure she’d get the side-eye. Yes, historically Black women were the ones who wore cornrows but we… Read more »

La Bandita
La Bandita
3 years ago
Reply to  DakiMinded

Soooo you’re using movies to a point.…

Ronnie
Ronnie
5 years ago

This is just me. But I think life is too short to go back and forth and argue with idiots in person, online, wherever. These two who have no power over any natural’s life. And that’s just what Kristin and Ess are — idiots.

Danay Williams
Danay Williams
5 years ago

whoever wrote this, needs to stop. I’m highly offended that you were so highly offended. I got the same jail vibe because the model is facing a gate in a ratty t‑shirt, not because of the braids. I’m pretty sure if the model was in a yellow polka dot bikini by a pool or at the beach with the same cornrows, the comment wouldn’t have been said. its one thing to be aware of people’s ignorance, its another thing to construct ignorance, try to bully someone into an apology and squawk the big R‑word when they don’t bend to your… Read more »

LivelyLayD
LivelyLayD
5 years ago
Reply to  Danay Williams

Your name is my name too except mine ends with e.

Kisha Q.
Kisha Q.
5 years ago

I agree Danay and those before. I saw pic and immediately thought of “Orange Is The New Black” show lol. While cornrows do go back to B.C. this is 2015 and what most Millennials see possibly.…..not ancient photos. Honestly looked like a scene from Scared Straight lol We have bigger fish to fry.

Jane
Jane
5 years ago

It is a very beautiful blog on long hair it provides good knowledge on hair styles I prefer this blog.

girlfriendgoddess
5 years ago

Thank you for this post. The girl is not only racist, she is so aloof and ignorant that she allegedly doesn’t even notice it? Get out of here with that. She’s a ‘writer’ which means that she reads (hopefully) and should have come across the disgusting statistics regarding black folks in prison, she SHOULD have done research prior to posting about the history of cornrows and noticed that it is the African American woman that originated this hairstyle as a way of protecting our precious crowns! She should be fired, for being an idiot and claiming to be an educated… Read more »

kalexa1
kalexa1
5 years ago

I’m noticing a pattern here with the ‘I’m not a bad person’ defence tactic. Anyone see correlation between that response and the swift recovery tactics of Giuliana Rancic on her faux pas? The non-black majority have pitifully lacking & narrow frames of reference for black people so they perpetually resort to stereotypes they’ve learned and are comfortable with.

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