Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni is putting the newly crowned Miss World Africa on blast for “wearing Indian hair” rather than her natural hair.
Tweeting a photo alongside fellow Ugandan Quiin Abenakyo after her pageant win last week, the president stressed the importance of displaying “African beauty in its natural form.”
“Abenakyo is indeed a tall, beautiful Musoga girl,” he wrote. “My only concern is that she was wearing Indian hair. I have encouraged her to keep her natural, African hair.”
When asked what Museveni meant by the comment, his spokesman Don Wanyama told the BBC, “Just look at the photo and you will see the type of hair. It’s an unnatural wig; he was saying she should wear her natural hair.” However, Wanyama stopped short of explaining whether the president was commenting on the texture of the wig directly or its presumed country of origin.
According to market research firm Mintel, the Black hair care industry is valued at more than $2.5 billion, with most products imported from countries like China and India, both of which are among the world’s biggest suppliers of human hair wigs and weaves.
Museveni’s remarks hit a nerve with critics who argued that Abenakyo and other women should be allowed to style their hair as they please without criticism. Meanwhile, others couldn’t help but poke fun at the president’s own hairless noggin.
“I love how [cisgender] men like to interject themselves in issues involving women making decisions … how they style their hair, reproductive rights…,” one Twitter user said.
“The girl is fine,” another chimed in. “She can wear Indian hair if she wants. It’s her head, isn’t it? It doesn’t take away from her beauty.”
“But why aren’t you keeping your natural hair Mr. President so that you can as well promote the natural African hair and be exemplary,” one user joked. “Gonna are the days you used to keep the ‘Afro.’ ”
Still, there were those who agreed with Museveni’s point.
“On this Mr President, I, all the way from Tanzania, I second you!,” one man tweeted. “Great point there. They may not like it, but you have said it the way it is!”
“Mr president, most times you’re wrong, but on the Indian hair and natural beauty thing you’re really right,” said another.
Abenakyo, 22, was among those who agreed with Museveni about “not trying to copy what the Western world does,” but added that at the end of the day, how she chooses to wear her hair depends on the occasion and how she feels.
“No one needs to define how you wear your hair and what you do,” the beauty queen told the BBC. “If you are comfortable, that is what matters.”