The Significance of Michelle Obama Wearing Her Natural Hair on the Cover of ‘Essence’

Michelle Obama
Former First Lady Michelle Obama and BLACK GIRLS ROCK! founder Beverly Bond (not pictured) host a roundtable on Obama's new book, Becoming at the Berkshire Partners Blue Hill Boys  Boston Globe/Getty Images

Michelle Obama is the star of the December 2018/January 2019 issue of Essence, and, before you even get a chance to open the mag and read her very candid interview about her career, life and marriage before, during and after her time in the White House, the former First Lady makes a statement on the cover with her naturally curly hair. And the the mom of two’s hairstylist is now revealing it was a conscious decision by Obama.

In an interview with the Zoe Report, mane woman Yene Damtew explained that on the heels of her revealing new memoir Becoming and her time away from Washington, D.C., Obama wanted to showcase her natural beauty by showcasing her spiral texture.

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“It definitely was a moment — and still is a moment — for Mrs. Obama, the former First Lady of the United States and the first Black First Lady of the United States to be on the cover of a major publication with her natural hair,” Dametew, who owns Aesthetics Salon in the D.C. area, told the Zoe Report. “It was an important moment for us to showcase, because she does wear her hair natural. We’ve seen little tabloid-y pictures of her on vacation or on Martha’s Vineyard with natural texture. This was a moment where we discussed the cover, and where she wanted to showcase it.”

In her new book, Obama opens up about how difficult it was to find women who looked like her represented in the media or entertainment industries when she was growing up, and she is now keen to use the platform she has to change that for future generations.

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During the Obama family’s time in the White House, Dametew worked as an assistant to the First Lady’s former hairstylist Johnny Wright. It was in those years that Obama stopped using chemical processes to straighten her curls, and Dametew said that decision inspired a lot of her other clients to cease treatments as well.

“I knew that styling hair without chemicals was what I wanted to do,” she explained. “I had clients, such as Mrs. Obama’s family, and was able to showcase that it’s possible to train your hair to do anything you need it to do.”

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For those looking to recreate the Essence cover look at home, Dametew shared that she used a combination of heat styling and finger curls to create a natural pattern. She also warned that readers shouldn’t be fooled by the glorious volume of the Obama’s halo of spirals. There was a fan on set to help keep everything bouncy, and she likes to use a combo of Göt2b Ultra Glued Invincible Styling Gel, Creme of Nature Argan Oil Perfect Edges and KeraCare Styling Wax Stick to keep the mane shiny (without being greasy!) and in place.

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