Serena Williams is no stranger to making history on the court, but this time she makes history for something that society has attempted to restrain black women from doing for centuries. Williams makes history for being the first to wear her hair in cornrows on the cover of Teen Vogue’s December Issue.
We’ve long applauded all the natural fros and puffs making front pages and billboards but the cornrows take us to another place. I can practically feel my mother’s thighs squeezing me tightly as she gripped my hair even tighter in attempts to neatly cornrow the last section of my hair. This hairstyle is a big deal. Cornrows are typically pegged as “jailbraids” or something worn under a wig but here we see our favorite tennis superstar confidently wearing her hair in a braided glory that is so important for a myriad of reasons.
The first reason involves another black girl doing the damn thing. Lindsay Peoples Wagner, the new editor-in-chief of the Conde Nast publication, made the executive decision on the hairstyle during her first editorial in her new position. If you do not follow Wagner on social media and in life, start playing catch up now. She is doing amazing things and her story is especially inspirational to all those 20 somethings about to graduate and trying to figure out what is next.
The next reason speaks to everything that the media and wayward referees have vilified Williams for over the past few years. Despite the constant ridicule from political cartoons depicting her as a sore loser or having her black womanhood questioned and smeared, Williams has always continued to be herself unapologetically and let her 23 Grand Slams, powerful philanthropy, and beautifully transparent motherhood journey speak for themselves. So if she wants to wear cornrows, who is going to check her?!
Lastly, this is deeper than the surface. These cornrows practically shout, “Do what you want!” to all the women of color who are weary from the attacks of the world. Through the daily routine of watered down white America, wearing cornrows on the cover of a magazine speaks volumes and attests to the fact that we will rise, period. No amount of muck or rain will damper our parade that signifies triumphing through the bullshit and being unapologetically us. Let them whisper and question how your hair curls up. Just make sure you continue to hold your head high as you secure the bag, land the deal, and get that acceptance letter.
Whether it is law school, the CEO office, or the tennis court, understand that you never have to water down your blackness to be accepted or move up in life.