This study consists of a cultural reading of the cover photograph of the June-July 1999 issue of Vibe magazine. It explores the relationship between Mase, an African-American male rap star, and the three anonymous African-American female models that surround him. The study interprets the cover through the long, straightened hair of the models, locating the models' hair in a historically-informed context of black hair theory and practice. The study argues that the models' presence on the cover, particularly their "bone straight and long" hair, "enhances" Mase in much the same way breast-augmented "trophy women" "enhance" their mates. Ultimately, the study encourages and validates a wide variety of black hair styles - including straightening - even as it urges the acceptance of black hair as a site where the demonstration of the struggle for black consciousness (however one exhibits that consciousness on his or her head) can be observed.

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Copyright © 2001, Race, Gender & Class Journal. This article first appeared in Race, Gender, & Class Journal 8:3 (2001), 64-77.

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