India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” was created for these purposes: to promote self-expression, to inspire people to embrace their inner and outer beauty, to encourage the right to self-definition, and to both critique and refute society’s standards of beauty.

In addition to this, India.Arie’s underlying critique of society’s beauty standards addresses the rejection of natural features of people of color, specifically black people, by the masses. A lot of the lyrics supports this claim, for she speaks on topics that black men and women may experience when it comes to their hair and how other people react to it. She mentions a few terms in the that are typically used to describe black hairstyles; for example, she talks about having a Jeri curl, a relaxer, and dread locks, and going natural, etc.

She then goes on to say how people believe that, “Good hair means curls and waves/ Bad hair means you look like a slave.” This line stems from the idea that kinky hair, particularly 4a-4c hair texture, which negatively called nappy hair, is unpopularized by the masses. Even though there many black men and women who have this texture hair, society has a hard time accepting it in its natural state– simply because natural black hair is sought to be “unprofessional and disruptive.” This happens because society’s standard of beauty is based on European features; this includes straight and wavy hair.

As said before, the genre of neo-soul is driven by socially conscious lyrics. With that in mind, India.Arie response to societies’ beauty standards is to ignore the masses and the naysayers and wear your hair however you want. The chorus says, “I am not my hair/ I am not this skin/ I am not your expectations, no.” India.Arie’s message is clear as day: defy societies’ beauty standards, because one shouldn’t have to live up to unreasonable expectations. Her attitude reads, who are you to tell me what to do with my hair, with my body; why should I have to listen to your opinion of me, when I know who I am already. I love myself too much to conform to your vision of you think I should be or what I should look like.

Another person who believes in this very idea is Andrew Jones. Back in 2016, he was banned from walking across in his high school graduation simply because he would not shave his beard, even though Jones went through all four years of high school, with this beard. But when it came down to the night before graduation day, it was a problem. Jones was supposed to be the Valedictorian, graduating with a 4.0 as a double athlete student, and working a part-time job. With that being said, Jones earned every right to graduate with how hard he worked between school, work, and sports, and that was taken away from him because he wouldn’t shave his beard. He was the only student that was given this ultimatum, despite there being other students graduating who had beards. It is safe to say Jones was singled out because the school deemed his beard to be “disruptive” to the public eye.

This story very much embodies the line in which India.Arie says, “Does the way I wear my hair make a better person… a better friend, determine my integrity.” Jones worked very hard to get to where he was, and it was a slap in the face for his school to not let him enjoy the result of it; all because of the way he decided to wear his (facial) hair, despite all of his accomplishments. Now, Andrew Jones is a senior at Grambling State University, about to graduate with his degree in biology, and he still has his beard. “It’s not what’s on your head, it’s what’s underneath.”

As far as a solution goes, India.Arie’ honest solution is to, as said before, ignore societies’s standards of beauty, and do what the hell you want. Being as though this song was release over a decade ago, there are more black people who are not accepting of their own natural beauty, and the beauty of those who look like them. But that is only part of what needs to be improved, it had to start with us, but the problem isn’t fully dealt with. Not much has changed in the aspect of natural, black hair being accepted by society as a whole. I am aware that some states have passed laws where it makes discrimination against one’s hair illegal. I believe that this needs to be an action that is taken nationwide, not just in certain places. The fact that a school or a workplace, or even a commercial establishment cannot accept features of hair, body, and skin, something that is not interchangeable; and if it is, these things are not an easy change. All in which is beyond me. Something needs to change, and if it has to start with the law, then so be it.