Courtesy of Michelle Joni Lapidos
Michelle Joni Lapidos sports a big afro wig.
Michelle Joni Lapidos sports a big afro wig. Courtesy of Michelle Joni Lapidos
Michelle Joni Lapidos never knew that she would fall in love with a big, black afro wig. And she certainly never knew it would change her life. But after she wore it to a dress-up party, that's exactly what happened. Now the white, Jewish "afro-girl" has been thrown in the middle of a racial firestorm.
It sounds like an experiment from a college sociology class, but Lapidos tells NPR's Michel Martin that she began wearing the wig with good, fun intentions. She was quickly called a racist by people who took offense to it.
Here's one comment on her blog, beforeandafro.com:
"From one white girl to another, please just stop. You are hurting people — you're wearing their identity and culture as a costume that you can put on and take off."
Lapidos received some encouragement, however, from Questlove, the drummer from the band The Roots. Questlove recently tweeted a picture of Lapidos sporting her wig and busting a few moves on the dance floor at a fried chicken festival. Lapidos is unapologetic for wearing the afro, but she is sorry for offending people who think she is mocking anyone's culture.
She says the afro is "a symbol of anything that makes you look at something in a different way." She explains how she "looks cooler" since the wig covers her "normal blond hair."
Lapidos says she's learned a lot from this experience, and now she enjoys educating "a ton of other clueless white people."
Lapidos has changed her look.
Lapidos has changed her look. Jessica Lapidos
She says she genuinely enjoys the look of the afro. But her experience has revealed "the open wound that is still there for people who have afros who feel that they have to straighten their hair for job interviews."
If this were Lapidos' dramatic idea for a dress-up party, then you must wonder what she plans to do for Halloween. She says she'll dress as an Equal Opportunity Offender — wearing a "yarmulke, the afro, a sari, and all these different symbols of culture and religion."
"I never meant to offend anyone, but if I'm gonna offend someone, I'll offend everyone," she says. "Let's just all be offended."
After all the criticism, Lapidos says that she now wears a blond wig.