During the 54th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Procter & Gamble (P&G) aired a new video called “Unbecoming” which focuses on telling the acceptance of Black women and their natural hair.
“I am incredibly proud of what we have created with ‘Unbecoming,’ in taking the art of transformative storytelling from one of vulnerability, into one of strength and confidence,” P&G Beauty’s North America Multicultural Hair Brands Vice President Lela Coffey said.
The clip is part of the company’s My Black is Beauty (MBIB) hair care brand and follows up previous videos like “The Talk,” and “The Look,” – both of which tackle stigmas and biases surrounding Black women’s hair. Created for Black people around the world, MBIB uses its platform to facilitate honest conversations surrounding bias that supports and uplifts beauty in Black culture.
However, “Unbecoming” puts a lens on Black women and natural hair that is void of stigma and bias. Rather, the video focuses on social beauty standards and the ways in which Black women take pride in their hair despite the ways in which society tells them not to.
“When we got this brief, we realized we had never seen undone Black hair and unfiltered Black womanhood celebrated on screen together,” Taylor Whitelow, a creative partner at CARTWRIGHT Agency, said. “By creating a film that starts at the end of the day, we could spotlight the vulnerable moment of Black women ‘unbecoming’ the expectations put on them throughout the day – and champion that as beautiful.”
Initiatives to uplift Black women’s natural hair has been a movement for years, dating back to the 1960s with the Black Power Movement. Natural hairstyles have always been seen as a political statement and rebellion of sorts as a result.
Microaggressions and biased actions have usually been the response from white America, pressuring many Black women to assimilate.
The C.R.O.W.N. Coalition and Dove worked to present the C.R.O.W.N. Act in 2019 to Congress, making discrimination against natural hairstyles in the workplace illegal. Though the act garnered support on both sides of the aisle, it ultimately did not pass.
Dove also conducted a 2023 study on workplace discrimination. According to the study, Black women’s hair is almost three times as likely to be deemed unprofessional, with 66 percent of Black women saying that they change their hairstyle to fit in. Of that percentage, 41 percent straighten their curls.
Black women with curly or coily hair are twice as likely to face microaggressions than Black women with straight hair.
The punishment for wearing natural hair goes beyond reaction. The study found that more than 20 percent of millennial Black women get sent home for their hair – showing a physical rejection of natural hairstyles in the workplace.
Some Black women feel that the discrimination starts before they can even get a foot in. A quarter of Black women feel that they’ve been rejected due to how they wore their hair in an interview, and over half feel pressured to have straight hair in their professional pictures.
It’s clear through the study that the pressure to assimilate is still present, and some company campaigns have worked to show protest. “Unbecoming”, however, allows the story of Black women’s hair to be told from a place of loving oneself despite outside biases and aggression.
“While Black women love the versatility, pride, and strength derived from their hair, there is inherent tension there,” Coffey said. “With ‘Unbecoming’ and our My Black is Beautiful collection of hair care products, we are reaffirming the beauty and uniqueness of Black women and are prioritizing formulas and ingredients that enhance the natural beauty of our hair textures.”
The video will also air during the BET Her Awards and the Essence Festival of Culture.
Byonce Tyus is a reporter for Marcom Weekly covering industry news, advertising conferences, and diverse-owned media trends.