The Problem With Coco Austin's "Coco Swoop" Braids

Coco Austin probably didn't expect her summer hairstyle to catch so much heat last week. The model, reality star, and wife of Ice T caught a whole lot of flack after hitting Instagram in the wee hours of the morning to show off her feed-in cornrows... with a head scratch-worthy new name. "My new braids! I call um Da Coco Swoop," she captioned the video. "I wanted a little change up for the Summer... Oh and by the way... I name all the braid styles I do even hair styles with no braids... Its a cute thing I do... I have many weird Coco-isms."
Aside from the plaits being "tragically uneven" (Twitter's words, not mine), most people weren't upset about Austin actually wearing the braids... Instead, social media disagreed with her presenting the style as if it were some new, innovative look — not one that's existed for centuries and already had a perfectly fine name.
And it wasn't just Austin who got flamed. Ice T was on the receiving end of the criticism as well. After one fan tried to explain the frustration, he had this to say:
On Sunday, Austin returned to Instagram — with the braids still installed — to defend herself. She acknowledged that braids have been around for thousands of years, but then continued, "This is so stupid. I can’t believe I’m talking about it, and I believe this shouldn’t be turned out to be a race thing," she wrote. "I name all my styles that I do to myself. These are called the Coco Swoop. The braids before were called the Bo Derek braids. And it’s a Coco-ism. I've always done it. Why can’t we all rename hairstyles or braids? Why is everybody claiming something they shouldn’t?"
For the record, referring to them as "Bo Derek braids" doesn't help the issue here — not only is that also the incorrect name, but that specific example is a classic case of cultural appropriation as well. When Derek wore them in the 1980 movie 10, People magazine wrote that she was the reason for cornrows becoming a "cross-cultural craze and beauty-salon bonanza nationwide."

A post shared by Coco (@coco) on

Oddly enough, Bo Derek had a very similar response when asked about the style and her thoughts on Kylie Jenner's repeat appropriation offenses. “It’s a hairdo! That’s all it is," Derek told New York Magazine in 2015. "No, seriously, of all the important racial and cultural issues we have right now, people are going to focus on a hairstyle? No, no. I’ll save my efforts toward important racial and cultural issues.”
So, yes, Coco: It's clear that you didn't mean any harm. And, as your hairstylist even said, you didn't claim to invent your Coco Swoops. But, at the root, it is a race thing... and instead of denying it, maybe try using this moment to engage with and learn from it.
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