There was a time when we thought Isaiah Mustafa, famous for being the Old Spice guy, could do absolutely no wrong. Then yesterday, he said in an interview that he wants his future wife and kids to have “good hair,” and that era ended.
Mustafah, the man your man could smell like, made the comment in an E! News interview with Guiliana Rancic on Friday. The two had been talking about Mustafah’s new TV show, Angels, when the conversation turned to his personal life and what he’s looking for in a relationship. Mustafah said whoever he ends up with has to have “good hair.”
It might seem like an innocuous enough comment on its face, but for Black women, good hair is a nebulous ideal of beauty that operates on one central premise: natural hair is not beautiful, and the more you can do to straighten and slicken what for many people is curly, wavy hair, the better. What’s worse is that the women who subscribe to this idea spend billions of dollars a year on products to make their hair comply with this unwritten regulation. Writing off women who wear their natural hair with pride was a touchy thing to do, but it seemed like Mustafah was doing just that:
“Yes, it does have to be real hair. I want my kids to have nice hair so she better have good hair. Cause, I don’t know if you’ve checked my hair out lately. Aside from today it’s normally nice. Today it’s slightly nappy,” Mustafa said.
Maybe he was trying to be funny, but he still struck a nerve. After a small explosion of outraged comments, Mustafa took to Twitter to apologize, saying: “I want 2 apologize wholeheartedly 2 anyone out there who was offended or hurt by the irresponsible comments I made on E! News. #ignorant”
Mustafa explained in an interview with blogger Abiola that he was being self deprecating about his own hair, which he’s trying to grow out after years of being having a crew cut so short he’s almost bald.
“In no way was I trying to state that I think more women should have good hair, in that sense, in they way that most African Americans understand it, he said. It was a poor choice of words, a very irresponsible thing to say on my part. That was not my intention at all.”
It’s a nice sentiment, but we would think that no matter what the condition of his own hair, Mustafah would understand the implications of saying something like this in the national media — even if it was a joke. Over the last year or so, black people have been the targets of messages saying they are not and cannot be as beautiful as people of other races: First there was that horrifying study in Psychology Today that tried to use science to explain why Black women aren’t as beautiful as white women, and then a few months ago Nivea tried to convince men to “re-civilize” themselves by cutting off all their hair. In light of that, are you offended by what Mustafah said? More importantly, do you think his apology flies?