Kylie Jenner. Photo: @kyliejenner/Instagram
The world may be oversaturated with Kardashian-Jenner news, but sometimes—like, now—it’s actually worth reading. We promise.
Kylie Jenner (and Miley Cyrus, Amanda Seyfried, and Khloe Kardashian… but mostly Kylie Jenner) has been catching a lot of flack, lately, for her recent affinity for wearing her hair in cornrows. Led by teen actress Amandla Stenberg, critics of Jenner have been quick to call her out what they see as racial and cultural appropriation.
“When u appropriate black features and culture but fail to use ur position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards ur wigs instead of police brutality or racism #whitegirlsdoitbetter,“ Stenberg wrote to Jenner on Instagram.
But not everyone agrees that Jenner’s braided locks are worth the fuss. In an interview with Elle.com, Rihanna’s hairstylist, Ursula Stephen—who’s also worked with Kerry Washington, Emma Watson, and Iggy Azalea—says that, in terms of Jenner being a white person wearing cornrows, it’s time to “let [it] go.”
“I can understand that some black stylists are upset, but I’m an open-minded person, and I get that people use hairstyles to express themselves,” Stephen says, before explaining that, stylistically speaking, sharing certain cultural things is a well-established part of our everyday lives. “Black women like me are using weaves and straight hair to get some styles that don’t come, initially, from our culture. So why can’t a white girl do a style that a black girl would do?”
She does stress, however, that Jenner should be aware of her hairstyle’s origins—and so, too, should the designers who often utilize typically black ‘dos in their runway shows: “I would tell Kylie, or any woman wanting braids who doesn’t come from our culture, that it’s not a new thing. You’re not inventing anything or being a trailblazer. Bo Derek did braids decades ago [in the 1979 movie 10], and they were amazing.” ”
She continues, “At Fashion Week, at Couture Week, you see runway styles that come from black culture, but the big-name stylists doing it aren’t giving credit to their heritage or the culture. They’ll say they were inspired by fabric, or a rainstorm, or something. And it’s like, ‘That’s beautiful, but you didn’t start that. And you should talk about where it came from.’ And I think that’s one way that beauty can become even stronger and more important in the world.”
As for whether she, personally, would be willing to actually braid Jenner’s hair into cornrows? Stephen says, absolutely. “Yes, I would do it. I’m a hairstylist. I’m not here to judge you, or to have an opinion on how you want to live your life.”