Miss Jessie’s CEO Successfully Navigates through Natural Hair Criticism (On the “A” w/Souleo)

Miss Jessie's Miko Branch. Photo Credit Laretta Houston.

Miss Jessie’s Miko Branch. Photo Credit Laretta Houston.

Miss Jessie’s CEO Successfully Navigates through Natural Hair Criticism

Earlier this month, The Talk co-host and comedienne Sheryl Underwood felt compelled to apologize for negative remarks she made about kinky hair in September 2013. She did so while revealing her own natural hair. But peruse the comments section of virtually any black natural hair care article or social media post and you’re likely to find a flood of comments debating natural vs. relaxed hair and extensions or weaves. The controversial comments—on both sides of the argument—often lead to heated exchanges about beauty standards and identity.

As CEO and co-founder of the popular natural hair care product Miss Jessie’s, Miko Branch finds the hair wars disturbing.

“In terms of the judgment, I never enjoy seeing that kind of environment,” she said. “For some women, natural hair is a style of choice; for some it is a political statement and the reasons can be countless. I encourage people to embrace whatever choice someone wants to make. Hopefully the judgment might subside over time as we embrace our hair.”

The response to celebrities wearing natural hair is often a mix of praise, offensive comments and, in some cases, an increase in sales for natural hair care products. When actress Viola Davis revealed her natural hair on her hit ABC show, How to Get Away with Murder, last season, it set off a major cultural reaction. Some lauded the move as bold, others joked about her appearance, and even prior to the scene she was labeled by NY Times critic Alessandra Stanley as “less classically beautiful” than her peers. But Davis remains undaunted, and wore a natural style while accepting her historic Emmy win.

Branch finds celebrities like Davis as crucial to promoting self-acceptance and helping the natural hair industry reach estimated annual revenue of $150 million, according to a 2013 report by Ultra Distributors.

“When we see Viola proudly wear curls in a natural state it speaks to self-esteem. It means she is inspiring others to embrace their natural texture. What I see now is women embracing their natural texture not only for self-acceptance but also since it is preferred for style purposes,” she said. “So when we see celebrities in media sporting natural hair, it is one of the reasons why products like Miss Jessie’s thrive.”

Backlash or no backlash, Branch remains committed to being one of the leaders of the natural hair movement. Earlier this year she released the memoir and business advice book, Miss Jessie’s: Creating a Successful Business from Scratch—Naturally, shortly after the passing of her sister and co-founder of Miss Jessie’s, Titi Branch. And now she plans to introduce an extended line of products sometime next year—no matter what critics have to say.

TV personality Erin Andrews (L) with NFL Women's Apparel brand ambassadors (left to right) Tika Sumpter, Erin Heatherton, Dascha Polanco, and Jamie Chung at the first NFL Style Showdown, at ArtBeam in New York City, New York, on September 24th, 2015. (Stephanie Diani/AP Images for National Football League)

TV personality Erin Andrews (L) with NFL Women’s Apparel brand ambassadors (left to right) Tika Sumpter, Erin Heatherton, Dascha Polanco, and Jamie Chung at the first NFL Style Showdown, at ArtBeam in New York City, New York, on September 24th, 2015. (Stephanie Diani/AP Images for National Football League)

Stars Share Musical Requests for Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show

All things football and style were top of mind for attendees at the NFL Style Showdown this past Thursday in New York

NFL Style Showdown Unveiling the Super Bowl 50 Collection at ArtBeam, New York City

NFL Style Showdown Unveiling the Super Bowl 50 Collection at ArtBeam, New York City

City. During the event the NFL presented its Super Bowl 50 Women’s Apparel collection and had fashion bloggers compete to create winning looks using the line. But you can’t talk Super Bowl without mentioning the popular halftime show.

Bruno Mars has reportedly been asked to perform for a second time following his 2014 set, and to select additional musical guests. If actress Tika Sumpter has her way, Super Bowl 50 will include a return of another past performer: Janet Jackson, who suffered a controversial wardrobe malfunction on the show in 2004.

“I want to see Janet Jackson because she is an icon and knows how to put on a show,” she said. “They did my girl wrong, so wrong. But it would be good for her to come back by herself.”

Meanwhile, Orange is the New Black actress Dascha Polanco—who played softball in college—thinks hip-hop is needed to energize the show, in the form of Drake or J. Cole. But whoever performs, Polanco is readying her outfit for the game. Pulling from the new collection, Polanco advises football fans to go for a look that balances athleticism with sex appeal. “I like to incorporate femininity with a touch of the sport,” she said. “That might be a nice jersey with heels or tights with a big jersey or sneakers.”

The line is available beginning October 15 here.

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The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

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