The country's leading spokesperson on public health, Surgeon General Dr. Regina M. Benjamin, has never shied away from talking about what she says is a threat to black women's health: concerns about hair maintenance that can get in the way of exercise.
"Oftentimes you get women saying, 'I can't exercise today because I don't want to sweat my hair back or get my hair wet,' " she recently told the New York Times, adding, "When you're starting to exercise, you look for reasons not to, and sometimes the hair is one of those reasons."
While some, like Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, are perplexed about why Benjamin would focus on a "smaller issue" ("I don't know whether the surgeon general's role is to engage in smaller issues like this. It strikes me as bizarre," he said), she clearly doesn't think the topic is insignificant simply because it's unique to African-American women.
In fact, Benjamin recently served as a guest emcee at the third annual Bronner Bros. and United Healthcare "Hair Fitness" competition, which seeks to "promote styles that facilitate healthy and fit African-American women." (Hey, if exercise-friendly hair is enough of an issue to inspire Nicole Ari Parker to design a headband, why not give some credit to non-celebs who figure it out?)
The event took place at the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show on Sunday, Aug. 5, a trade show that draws 60,000 hairstylists from across the nation. In what sounds something like the Olympics of workout-friendly hair care, the stylists were judged on the technical execution of the styles, originality, suitability and head contour and new ideas. Contest categories included low-impact workout, which involves little to no sweat and requires only one shampoo and condition per week; moderate-impact workout, which involves modest sweat and requires one or two shampoos and conditions per week; and high-impact, which involves profuse sweating and requires two or three shampoos and conditions per week (told you it was serious).
Perhaps Benjamin should invite some of her critics next year to shed some light on her "bizarre" interest in this "small" issue of relevance to black women's health.
The winners were announced yesterday. Check them out here.