What Happened When The Today Show Gave This Black Woman a 'Summer Hairstyle' Makeover

August 5th 2016

Tricia Tongco

After airing a segment on "60-second summer hairstyles," NBC's "The Today Show" is facing some criticism over its makeover of a black model.

the today show makeover

The segment, which was posted on Facebook after it aired on Wednesday, featured a "beauty expert" named Deepica Mutyala who was tasked with giving three women – Asian, black, and white – "the season's hottest looks."

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Mutyala attempted to give Malia, the black model, a 90s-inspired, side ponytail, saying in the process, "What we’re going to do is undo these curls and create this bang…really play with the textures of her hair – it’s beautiful, so really embrace it."

However, people on Facebook did not appreciate how Malia's look turned out.

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These comments hint at the heightened sensitivity around black women's hair in American culture, which has also been triggered during recent incidents like Giuliana Rancic making disparaging comments about Zendaya's dreadlocks to Solange Knowles complaining about TSA pat-downs of her afro.

While the hairstylist wasn't necessarily to blame, the ignorance displayed on the show feeds into a racist stereotype that black hair is unmanageable and undesirable. In Chris Rock's 2008 documentary "Good Hair," the comedian Paul Mooney, who has an afro, says, "If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they’re not happy.”

The year's most controversial couplet by Beyonce in her song "Lemonade" also mentioned the notion of "good" hair: "He only want me when I’m not there / He better call Becky with the good hair."

Loyola University associate professor Karsonya Wise Whitehead told Complex back in April that the "good hair" line has deeply rooted racial connotations, as it was a likely reference to the man in the song seeking a white woman with more desirable hair.

But what does "good hair" mean exactly?

In an article exploring the politically charged nature of black hair, the New York Times wrote:

"Getting 'good hair' often means transforming one’s tightly coiled roots; but it is also more freighted, for many African-American women and some men, than simply a choice about grooming. Straightening hair has been perceived as a way to be more acceptable to certain relatives, as well as to the white establishment."

With the historical tensions and discrimination surrounding black hair, it's no wonder that there was such a backlash to the "Today" segment.

Watch the full video below.

[h/t Colorlines]