Beauty Shop: Cheney's Memoir, Beyonce's Baby Bump

Guests:

Viviana Hurtado, Blogger-in-Chief of The Wise Latina Club.

Danielle Belton, author of The Black Snob.

Michelle Bernard, CEO and President of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy.

Mitzi Miller, Editor-in-Chief of Jet Magazine.

Dick Cheney is coming out with not-so-flattering memories of Condoleezza Rice. Jay-Z and Beyonce are expecting a baby. The U.S. Surgeon General is voicing concern about women who skip exercise to maintain their hairdos. Mayor Bloomberg's language skills are getting attention on the Twitter feed "El Bloombito." Host Michel Martin and the Beauty Shop women discusses these headlines.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, host: I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Now we are going to step into the Beauty Shop. That's where we get a woman's perspective on the things happening in the news.

Early in the program, we brought up an issue that is very important to many women, the whole hair thing. The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Regina Benjamin, appeared at one of the largest hair shows in the country, really it's a convention for people who work in hair care, and talked about the need for heart-healthy hairstyles, which is to say to get people to think about removing the impediments to getting more exercise if it's their hair.

We want to talk more about that in a moment. We also want to talk about New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's not-so-great Spanish skills and former Vice President Dick Cheney's not-so-flattering depiction of former colleagues, including Condoleezza Rice, who was first national security advisor and then secretary of state in the administration they both served, the George. W. Bush administration.

Cheney wrote about Rice and others in his new memoir, "In My Time." Also, there is the news that Jay-Z and Beyonce are expecting their first baby. Both of them are superstars. We thought we'd like to talk about whose career is actually likely to be affected by this.

So joining us to talk about these stories is our panel of experts Viviana Hurtado is the blogger-in-chief at the website The Wise Latina Club. Danielle Belton is behind the pop culture and politics blog The Black Snob. Michelle Bernard is the CEO and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy, that's an independent, right-of-center think tank; and Mitzi Miller is the editor-in-chief of Jet Magazine. Welcome ladies, thank you all so much for joining us.

VIVIANA HURTADO: Thank you.

DANIELLE BELTON: Thanks for having us.

MARTIN: And congratulations, Mitzi, to you. We haven't talked to you since the big promotion. That's quite a promotion.

MITZI MILLER: Yes, it's a huge leap. Thank you so much. I'm excited. It's a wonderful opportunity. I'm really, really excited to be here.

MARTIN: Well, let's do hair because we're doing the Beauty Shop.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: As we talked about earlier in the program, the surgeon general of the United States, Regina Benjamin, recently spoke at the Bronner Brothers Hair Show in Atlanta. That is a huge affair made even more famous than it is, you know, in the industry, made famous outside the industry by Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair."

And she wanted to talk about the fact that some women, particularly black women, seem to be avoiding exercising because they want to preserve their hair. And I wanted to just ask each of you if - scout's honor - have you ever done that. Viviana, have you ever done that, avoided exercising because you wanted to keep your hair cute?

HURTADO: Absolutely. I have kinky hair. I have a relaxer. And on the most express of days, and that's going really fast, it takes me 45 minutes to deep condition and to blow it out and to set it.

That said, I think it's important to just be careful not to over-generalize and say something along - you know, it would be the equivalent of saying some of my Anglo-American friends won't exercise because they're outdoors because they're afraid that they might get sunburned.

That said, particularly women of color, I know I've spent a small fortune on my hair care, on relaxers, on conditioners, on blow dryers, and I think it's important that the hairdressers are a really important source of information for women, where you can really get a conversation started about health issues. And this is the way it seems that this discussion's going.

MARTIN: Well, you've leapt ahead to where I was going to go next, which is do you think this is, in fact, an important use of the surgeon general's time? There was some difference of opinion about that. We had a conservative analyst on earlier in the program. He said he thought that this was not a good use of her time to make this a priority. So that was - so you were leaping ahead. Michelle, what about you? Have you ever done it? You look fabulous, by the way. I hope you do (unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MICHELLE BERNARD: Thank you. I will take - I exercise, and I am someone who always thinks good gracious, I'm going to have to do my hair afterwards. And I admit, like if I've got a big dinner to go to on a certain night, I'm not going to exercise unless I know I can go to the hairdresser that same day.

But that being said, I want to live long. I want to be healthy. I've got two young kids. I want to be here for them. I believe in exercise. I particularly believe in the importance of exercise in our community, which means you figure out...

MARTIN: You're African-American, for those who aren't - who haven't seen on your millions of appearance on the networks and on cable talk shows.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BERNARD: Thank you, yes. I am African-American, and I - you know, it is - it's so important in communities of color that you really have to just get over it. I have lots of friends who will tell you they don't exercise because of the whole hair issue. And I figure, you know what? You put it up, you get a sweat band, and you do the best you can.

MARTIN: So do you think she was right - she is right to focus on that?

BERNARD: I think this is an absolute priority. I am so glad that this is something that she's focusing on. It's one of those little things, I don't want to over-generalize, but it's a little - sort of like a small or maybe medium or large dirty secret in the African-American community in particular, where we don't - we have a problem with weight. We have a problem with diabetes. We have a problem with hypertension. A lot of those things can be dealt with through proper nutrition and to exercise and to it's something that we have to talk about. Danielle?

BELTON: I completely agree that it's a pertinent issue. Just in my own case, I have super, super, super thick hair. My beautician usually jokes that I have like four people's hair in my head.

BERNARD: (Unintelligible) I would say.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BELTON: And I could still remember as a little girl, my mother, finally I was old enough to get my first perm and being so excited because that meant I could play and not worry about sweating my hair back. And my mother being upset with me that I'd ruined her, you know, the four hours of work she would put into it every two weeks to wash and straighten my hair and hope that it would last, two weeks of me being a little rambunctious kid.

And so I know that in the past for me, because my hair is so much work, no matter what I decide to do - just wearing it natural like this today, you know, I spent an hour braiding it up last night. So it is an investment if you want to look nice and it's a reality, that you...

MARTIN: Well, what do you make of (unintelligible) and again, just as a matter of courtesy, we wanted to discuss somebody who was just on the program. But he did make these comments in The New York Times saying that he thought that this was not, you know, an inappropriate use of her time because this is a small issue. And I want to ask you, you know, what about that, Danielle? Why - and I found it interesting, given that as we said, that Dr. Benjamin is focusing on personal responsibility, and secondly, it's just giving you some numbers.

According to, you know, government figures, 33 percent of white women over the age of 20 are overweight or obese; 43 percent of Hispanic women over the age of 20 are overweight or obese; and 50 percent of black women are over the age of 20 are overweight or obese. So just at minimum, somewhere between 33 and 50 percent of most of the population of women, and I'm always puzzled by this question of how half the population can be a special interest group.

MILLER: Yeah. Exactly.

MARTIN: But...

BELTON: Well, this is...

MARTIN: Mitzi, Mitzi wants to get in here. Mitzi what do you think?

MILLER: Well, I have to agree with all the ladies. I think that it's extremely pertinent. I think it's an important issue, and I don't think that we're a specialty issue. I think any time we hit over 50-something percent, you need to realize that this is a majority, we need to pay attention. And as a woman who wears a natural, there are days that I don't want my natural frizz, because just like Danielle said, you still have to style your hair when it's natural. So I enjoy exercising but I'm not fanatical. And there's definitely times when I've been like, hmm, yeah, I have somewhere to go, I can't do it. I can't do it.

Time, money, all of that is put into our hair. Appearance isn't everything but it's definitely in our society important, and women really bear the brunt of that.

MARTIN: Danielle, one of the things I was curious in talking to you about is that do you think that this is one of those issues where, you know, John McWhorter, the linguist and author and commentator wrote a piece for TheRoot.com earlier this week, said that maybe there's just a sort of a floor of getting it. You know, maybe there is a certain point at which other people just aren't going to get your life and you should just stop trying to...

BELTON: Wait, I...

MARTIN: ...persuade them to get your life. And I'm wondering whether you think that this is is...

BELTON: Well, some of it is that to a certain extent. I can see why a certain man would have that response where this is a non-issue, because for a man it is. A man can just wear his hair short. He can wear different varieties of the same clothes every day to work because he has a suit and people will not judge him. As a woman, your appearance - because our society is not fair - you're going to be judged by how you look if you don't look nice today, if your clothes aren't in style, if you're hair is an in style. If your hair isn't neat and professional looking you will be judged for it.

MARTIN: But the question I think I have here is that is this a situation where somebody - because Dr. Benjamin is also a woman of color who has this personal experience...

BELTON: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: ...that that experience, as well as the data, is negated about the fact that there is a body of research now that talks about the fact where women have disclosed that they are making these decisions. They are saying I'm spending this amount of money on my hair so I'm not going to exercise, and other people might think that's crazy but that's the calculation their making, to say, well, that's not important. And so the question I have, you know, here is, is this a question of sort of culturally people not getting it or is it a question of that people just negate issues of particular interest to particular people?

BELTON: Michel...

BERNARD: You know, I would say, frankly, that it is probably just a little bit of both. I think until we get to a point in time where people actually realize that this is an issue of public health and preventive medicine for anyone who believes in self-reliance and personal responsibility, people can't do that unless they actually have the information before them. Black women are less likely than white women to get breast cancer, but are more likely than white women to die of breast cancer. So, and diet has a lot to do with that, as well as, you know...

MARTIN: It might be genetic. There might be some genetic component.

BERNARD: There's some genetic component to it, but there's also just, you know, going to the doctor, what you eat.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

BERNARD: How often you get a mammogram, how early you get a mammogram. It's no different, for example, than letting the public know that it's important to exercise. And...

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our visit to the Beauty Shop. We're getting women's perspectives on news of the day. Joining us, Michelle Bernard, that's who is speaking just now. She's head of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. That's an independent right-of-center think tank. Also with us, Viviana Hurtado, the blogger-in-chief at the website The Wise Latina Club. Danielle Belton runs the blog The Black Snob. And Mitzi Miller is editor-in-chief of the venerable Jet magazine.

We wanted to talk about, switch gears and talk about Vice President Dick Cheney - former Vice President Dick Cheney, who just released his memoir where he talks about the Bush administration.

I'm still reading it. I think many of us are still reading it. But many people will have seen his interviews with "The Today Show," where he makes some really pointed remarks about some of his former colleagues. And the one that's got a lot of people's attention where he talks about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in tears and tearfully saying she was wrong to urge former President Bush to apologize for mistakes in his case in his case to go to war with Iraq. So I'm just, you know, and then now Colin Powell's weighed in, former secretary of State, Rice's predecessor, saying that these are cheap shots and condescending and so forth. And I just I'm interested in what you all think. And Mitzi, I'll start with you.

MILLER: You know, I wish I could say that we were all surprised, but I don't think anyone is surprised by Dick Cheney's vitriol. It's just disheartening.

MARTIN: How come?

MILLER: It disheartening, you know, I feel like it's disheartening that after-the-fact you're still going after people, and especially a woman. You know, it had to be challenging to be Condoleezza in that administration. So, you know, and to pull out a weak moment and put it on display for the nation and repeat it in your interviews, I thought that was extremely low and it was just really disheartening. And, you know, I think during the time of the administration I didn't generally empathize with her all the time, but in this moment my heart went out to her. It's hard to be a black woman at the top.

MARTIN: But she can take care of herself. She's pretty tough. But Michelle, what about you? What do you think - is this inappropriate score settling, or do you think he's just being mean, or do you think he's just telling it the way he sees it?

BERNARD: I, you know, I watched some of the interviews he's done both on "Morning Joe" and on "The Today Show," and I don't know how to describe what I feel about it. I feel very torn. He, if you, if we were sitting in a court of law and sort of just watching him from the perspective of a juror, he appears to really feel that he's just giving the facts as he sees them and how he feels that he lived them. And it's hard to tell if he actually feels like he's going after people or if he's trying to get back at someone. That being said, I'm a big supporter, I really am a fan of Colin Powell and of Condi Rice, and I know that they were in very, very difficult positions for a lot of reasons. And there's always something that strikes...

MARTIN: Why should he sympathize with how hard it was to be them? I mean is that his job? Why...

MILLER: It's not his no, frankly, it's not his job. And I'm not saying he should sympathize with it. I think a lot of the American public, particularly the African-American community, sympathizes with him because whether you agreed with their politics or not, there's this moment of pride when they get the jobs that they had, when they held themselves the way that they did. Particularly for Colin Powell, who really took it on the chin for the Bush administration by going out and giving this commentary about weapons of mass destruction.

But frankly, when you talk about a woman and you say that she tearfully told you something, you know, it always just strikes you as inappropriate. The girl cries in the guys shoot.

MARTIN: OK. Well, there you go. (Unintelligible) because I wanted to get something Viviana, you wanted to talk about, which is that as Hurricane Irene bore down on New York last weekend, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, held several press conferences in English, of course, his native language, and then in Spanish. But his Spanish not so skilled in that. And now there are people who are making fun of him. One New Yorker even created a Twitter feed called El Bloombito to poke fun at his Spanish skills. And I just, I mean I don't know, don't you give the guy a little credit or do you think if he can't, if you don't have that swing, if you don't have it you just keep it to yourself, right?

HURTADO: And mucho funny-o(ph) .

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MILLER: (Unintelligible)

HURTADO: This is the thing. Mayor Bloomberg has been studying Spanish for a really long time. And one of the things that he said way before El Bloombito, way before Hurricane Irene, is gosh, one of these things that I wish that I, you know, did better was speak Spanish because I've been, you know, studying it for seven years I'm still and he said un novato.

What's really interesting about this is that Michael Bloomberg just started speaking Spanish, he just it got out there. At one point he said no ponga su vida en peligroso, which means do not put your life in danger. And the read in the Latino community was a little friendly chuckle, but everybody immediately said hey, at least he's trying. And what's really important about this is that there is a sizable Latino population in the New York metro area that maybe does not have good English communication skills, and so this was a public service issue, public safety issue.

And secondly, this week, the Pew Research Center released a report about Hispanic media. And Hispanic media is outperforming mainstream media in key markets and in other markets hand over fist - network television, local news, radio, newspapers. And so it's really important to also realize that Michael Bloomberg is worried about public safety, but he's a politician. He's thinking and reaching potential voters.

MARTIN: Muchas gracias.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: And finally, Danielle, I'm sorry, we have to ask you, you know that when we only have a minute for this very important issue.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But do you know that the tweet, that the news about Beyonce's pregnancy set a Twitter record.

BELTON: Oh, yeah...

MARTIN: A Twitter record.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But the question...

BELTON: She does everything big.

MARTIN: She does...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MILLER: All big.

MARTIN: The question that I have for you is, are people still, are her fans still going to dig her now that she's a mommy and she's going to join the mommy club? What do you think?

BELTON: Oh, they're going to like die. What are we talking about? Half her fans are moms. Like they are just going to love this. It's like the whole fact that Beyonce's having a baby, what's the baby, going to be a boy or girl? What are they going to name the baby?

MILLER: And she's going to look fabulous the whole pregnancy.

BELTON: Exactly. What's she going to wear? What's the baby going to wear?

MILLER: It's the old the dazzle down...

BELTON: What's the baby's room going to look like?

MARTIN: Yeah, but does anybody want to see her doing "Bootylicious" after that?

BELTON: I don't know. I mean Tina Turner is still wrapped around as a grandmother.

MILLER: Absolutely.

HURTADO: And so is J Lo.

BELTON: Yeah.

MILLER: Absolutely.

MARTIN: True that. True that.

BERNARD: That's true.

MILLER: We cannot see what her snapback is going to be.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MILLER: We want her to hurry up, give birth. I want the baby to come out singing or rapping. And I want Beyonce and her new backup, you know, like this is her little backup Mini Me. I want the little baby running on stage with her and the whole nines.

MARTIN: All right. Well, we have at least, what, six more months to talk about this.

BELTON: Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: Which we will.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Mitzi Miller is editor-in-chief of Jet magazine. She was with us on the phone from Chicago. Danielle Belton is behind the pop culture and politics blog The Black Snob. Viviana Hurtado is blogger-in-chief at The Wise Latina Club, the website. Michelle Bernard is the CEO and president of the Bernard Center for Women, Politics and Public Policy. They were all here with us in Washington, D.C. Ladies, thank you.

BELTON: Thank you.

BERNARD: Thank you for having us.

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