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I Am Not My Hair

This is the 2005 music video for “I Am Not My Hair,” by singer India Arie. It is a remix featuring singer Akon, and is the official single for the song. In the song,  Arie and singer Akon describe various hairstyles they have had throughout their lives and how those styles have impacted how others reacted to them. After a lifetime of being evaluated based on her hair, Arie decides that she is not her hair, that’s “it’s not what’s on your head, it’s what’s underneath.” She calls for others to share in this sentiment. According to  Arie, the song was originally imagined as a duet featuring singer Pink and inspired by Pink’s decision to stop dying her hair. Arie has also described being inspired to write the final verse after seeing singer Melissa Etheridge perform on the Grammy Awards with her head bald from chemotherapy cancer treatments.

discussion questions

What are some of the ways that hairstyle has, according to the song, affected Arie and Akon’s lives?

How does gender play a role in the way  Arie and Akon each describe their experiences? How does race play a role in the message of “I Am Not My Hair”?

In the 1960s, the “afro” hairstyle came to represent the “black is beautiful” message and the Civil Rights Movement. Does the message of “I Am Not My Hair” conflict with using hair to demonstrate political beliefs and make social change?

In to 2007 interview on The Oprah Winfrey Show,  Arie said that her record label insisted, against her wishes, that Akon be added to the single to make the it more “mainstream” and commercial. Why might the label have felt this way? Why might Arie have objected? How would the song be different without Akon?

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