“It Don’t Move”: Lessons from the Gorilla Glue Girl Saga

Being able to lay down edges and slick ponytails is an elite skill. It comes with a combination of excellent handcraft and the perfect product. After years of consulting with friends, endlessly scrolling through product reviews and many failed attempts, I am yet to perfect this skill and find the perfect product to lay down my type 4 hair.

Despite the struggle, I never would have thought to use a superglue bought from the homeware shop to bond my hair to my scalp. One woman did and gave an unforgettable review.

The viral TikTok of Tessica Brown, also known as ‘Gorilla glue girl’ filled many of us with guilty laughter and genuine concern. After running out of the hair product, Got2b glue spray before heading to the lake, Brown describes using the potent home adhesive, Gorilla Glue, formally used to bond metal, glass and wood on her hair.

@im_d_ollady

Stiff where????? Ma hair 🤬🤬

♬ original sound – Tessica Brown

In her Instagram live, Tessica Brown expressed how she thought she could simply ‘go home and wash it off’. Yet, this became an impossible task as the glue immediately bonded to her scalp. ‘I’ve washed my hair fifteen times, and it don’t move’ she explained in her viral TikTok. It was evident that this experiment quickly turned into ‘a bad bad bad idea!’

Aunties [would] advise me to take pain killers before and after braiding sessions to lessen the pain

As I replayed the video several times, I thought about how silly this mistake was. How it could have been so easily prevented if she only read the label. I was so immersed in her story that I forgot mine. Forgot how years ago I would happily spread cancer-prone hair relaxers on my hair and wait for my scalp to burn before I washed it off. Forgot how I believed that the more my scalp burned, the softer and straighter my hair would be.

It took me a while to remember the hours spent at the hair salon as braids that irritated my scalp and were tight enough to tear my hair were being attached. How normal it was for aunties to advise me to take pain killers before and after my braiding sessions to lessen the pain.

And even my hair, in its most natural form, is still not protected from harsh chemicals. In 2018 one of the most loved products in the natural hair community, Eco Styler Gel, got exposed for containing the chemical Tetrasodium in the ingredient list. This powerful chemical is known to break down the skin barrier and make ways for harmful substances to get into our skin and bloodstream. Yet, I still haven’t found the strength to fully remove it from my hair routine.

These flashbacks are a reminder that we have all gone the extra mile to conform to the pressures of beauty standards. Some further than others. The reality is that accidents like ‘gorilla glue girl’ happen more than we want to acknowledge.

Despite the historical violence and current racism against black hair, it has never lost its cultural and spiritual qualities. However, it is also constantly evolving as it tries to keep on top of beauty trends that never seem to favour our hair’s natural shape, texture or length.

I was one of the thousands of people that followed Brown on Instagram and closely watched her next steps. As I imagined the permanent hair loss or the surgical scalp transplant I believed Brown would have had to suffer, Dr Michael Obeng came to her rescue. In a two-hour-long procedure, Dr Obeng didn’t just use his education in chemistry and medicine, but also applied his knowledge with black hair to undue Brown’s mess.

In the UK, black women are also 4 times more likely to die during childbirth. In the US, this ranges between 2–6 times

With the appropriate combs, oils and conditioners, Dr Obeng successfully removed the glue out of Brown’s hair, leaving her with tears of joy. It was refreshing to see a black woman having a positive medical experience.

With the increase in stories circulating on social media concerning black women being failed by the health care system, it was hard not to fear the worst for Brown’s wellbeing. A quick google search on ‘black women and healthcare’ paints an even darker image of the disparities black women face in healthcare.

From a study conducted in 2016 from the US, it was found that 40% of first- and second-year medical students believed that “black people’s skin is thicker than white people’s.” In the UK, black women are also 4 times more likely to die during childbirth. In the US, this ranges between 2–6 times. These statistics highlight why clinics have become a hostile place for women of colour whose pain is not acknowledged.

Studies show that better communication and trust is formed when patients and doctors share a similar cultural or racial background. Brown was understood, her problem was acknowledged and cultural context was applied to her dilemma. This reminded me of the story of India Marshall, a black woman who woke up from her surgery with her hair freshly braided by a black surgeon to make her recovery easier. Such stories are very rare to come across.

However, the reality is that there won’t be a Dr Obeng for every black woman. Only 4% of doctors in the US and UK are black. Yet, it is unfair for black people to solely rely on black physicians for fair treatment. What should be expected is diversity in medical studies and a greater understanding of bias in both medical schools and clinics. Listening to the voices of people of colour who are in pain goes a long way to reduce putting their lives at risk. Only
then, successful stories like Brown’s can become more and more common.

Written by Manuela Brown


Manuela is a member of The RealTalk Blogging Team.
She has a key interest in the relationships between media, human experiences and global development which is evident in her scope of writing. Manuela is a talented addition to the team and we are sure you will enjoy reading her content as much as we enjoy sharing them!

You can get in touch with Manuela directly via her platforms below, she also has her own online blogging portfolio:

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