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It’s a shame America didn’t get to witness Michelle Obama‘s natural hair much while she was First Lady. After photos of lady O’s natural Afro puff hit the Internet Tuesday, social media has been buzzing about the former FLOTUS’ rarely-seen crown of curls.

Michelle’s photo was snapped by a random Twitter user, presumably while her and Barack vacation in the French Polynesian islands and he writes his memoir. The look was a delightful shock to many who were used to seeing her long locks pressed and straightened.

Of course, the president’s wife is expected to be “workplace ready,” so expecting Michelle to rock her current vacation look at the White House over the past eight years wasn’t realistic. But it’s worth considering why any woman, but Black women especially, have to do so much to alter their appearance in order to be accepted and respected in America.

For the record, this is not the first time Michelle Obama has gone natural. According to her hair stylist, she has been natural for several years. He added that if Michelle did rock a ‘fro instead of a fresh press, it would possibly be during vacation. Most of us have to wait until we’re off the job to “let our hair down” so to speak, but why is the sight of a powerful Black woman with an organic hairdo still so shocking that it’s reserved for island getaways?

Like her husband, Michelle carries a symbolic burden that no other Black American has ever known. I could just as easily be rambling about Barack’s hat right now — which he was recently seen rocking backwards in his greatest cool uncle look to date:

But whether it’s Barack’s backwards cap or Michelle’s natural curls, the theme remains the same. Any expression of non-Whiteness must be processed before America can properly consume it.

Recent proof of that fact includes Pepsi and Kendall Jenner‘s idiotic protest commercial, which uses Jenner’s camera-friendly Whiteness to make protesting look fun and fashionable. That debacle was the clear result of what happens when there is no Black or Brown authority figure with a seat at the table. But even Shonda Rhimes shows and Beyoncé videos turn heads when they feature rare glimpses of natural Black femininity.

True, Donald Trump isn’t going to let his natural hair see the light of day anytime soon, either. But the mere fact he is deemed presentable (let alone presidential) with a combover wig that’s been the butt of jokes for decades suggests there is something deeper at play than just aesthetics.

Michelle Obama’s natural hair is a symbol of the hoops and hurdles non-White Americans must jump through if they hope to make something of themselves in America. Muslim citizens’ right to wear Hijabs still isn’t protected or respected, and Black business students are still advised to sew in weaves and cut off locks in the name of corporate acceptance. But we should all be able to see by now that our ideas of beauty have been hacked and reprogrammed by corporate ad campaigns that subliminally support the American tradition of White Supremacy.

At the end of the day, America is still just one big corporation, like Pepsi Co.; So expecting even the most powerful couple of color in the nation’s history to be able to walk off their jobs, rip off their wigs and unapologetically let their souls glow is like expecting Kendall Jenner to participate in a protest in the streets that isn’t sponsored by a multi-national junk food company.

For now, let’s just treasure this rare visual of powerful, natural beauty and encourage Michelle and all other Americans to stay pretty and pure. Don’t let me or Tyrese shame you out of your favorite relaxer or Brazilian bundle; Just know that what God gave you is a gift that the real world would love for you to share. America may be built on loose roots and unnatural values, but there’s a whole globe out there that is ready to receive you as you are. You don’t have to be vacationing out of sight on a remote island to let your real hair down.


Why Michelle Obama’s Natural Hair Is A National Treasure  was originally published on