Romans 8:38–39 NIV — ‘For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
If anyone has ever cared to ask me for my favorite scripture is, I’ve probably recited the above verse. It’s the word I clung to during the darkest days of my walk, during the seasons where I questioned if Christianity was truly for me, and in the moments where I felt furthest from God. This scripture accompanies my prayers, and serves as my reminder that no matter where I land in this life, regardless of where my intelligence (or stupidity) takes me, I will be always be surrounded by the abundant grace and love of Christ.
Where am I going with this?
In case you haven’t heard, Tessica Brown from Louisiana uploaded a panicked video on TikTok about a hair experiment gone horribly wrong. In the process of styling her own ponytail, she realized that she ran out of her Got2B glued spray, a key component in keeping her hair slick and laid to the gawds. So, in a pinch, she decided to try using Gorilla Glue spray adhesive to lay down her hair and edges. Yes, she knew that she was using this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling. But she never imagined that the outcome would be so dire. Let’s face it. People find alternative uses for household products all the time. But unfortunately Tessica’s failed experiment was in her words, a “bad, bad, BAD idea.”
After fifteen attempts to wash the glue out of her hair over the course of one month, Tessica’s hair still looked as fresh as the day she first styled it, and she was unable to take down her style. Her hair was completely glued and stuck to her head.
When she posted her desperate cry for help on social media, some of us laughed — after all, her delivery was quite entertaining. But then she followed up with a second video attempting to wash her hair to no avail, and all I could think about were the health implications behind this ordeal. Would she be able to save her hair? Her scalp? I, along with countless others, were concerned. On this good Black History month the entire internet, it seemed, became invested in her journey.
Seemingly overnight, she gained thousands of followers on social media, and got her blue verification check. Then she updated her bio to include a contact for management. All smart and necessary steps for someone suddenly thrust into the public eye. Regarding her social media verification, how else would she be able to verify the validity of her social media accounts, when there are scammers out there who could attempt to impersonate her? She would also need a management contact to help her navigate the many press inquiries I’m sure she received.
She reportedly struck a deal with TMZ granting them first dibs in reporting updates and photos about her journey. Then, (false) rumors circulated that she was considering filing a lawsuit against the Gorilla Glue company. And this news was met with so much vitriol. Between group chats, tweets, and other social media posts, so many were calling this woman all types of “stupid” for her error, voicing that she was undeserving of the doors that opened from her newfound visibility. She was accused of posting her original TikTok solely for clout, as if anyone could have predicted her video would have gone as viral as it did. People who have never met Tessica asserted that she was “dumb” and incapable of making sound decisions because of her blunder, and deserved so much less than she was getting.
Ultimately, the recurring theme in all this discourse centered around the notion that Tessica Brown should not be rewarded for her “stupidity.” And I found all of these responses, void of any compassion and grace, extremely triggering.
First off, was Tessica’s reward in the agonizing migraines and lack of sleep she suffered as a result of this ordeal? Did the reward reside in her burning, sensitive scalp? Was the reward nestled in the anxiety she experienced about the health implications of her mistake and the potential cost to correct it? Was the reward voiced the hateful comments, the jokes and the snide commentary she received by strangers? The anguish she experienced as a result of her decision has already taught her all the lessons she needed to learn from this lapse in judgment. So why should the public disparage her when she’s already in a vulnerable position by calling her everything but a child of God? Who are we to dictate what she is or is not deserving of? Or how much suffering she should have to endure? After all, no one aside from Tessica Brown was physically harmed from her error. This incident did not cost her detractors a thing, but from the vitriol she received, you would have thought that she sprayed Gorilla Glue in their mama, sister, cousin or Beyoncé’s hair.
These negative responses, unfortunately reminded me of the church settings I grew up in. The home environment I was raised in. The graceless spaces where mistakes were damning and near unforgivable. The spaces that were anthesis to the love of God that scripture so beautifully depicts in Romans 8:38–39. It reminded me of the “you made your bed, now lay in it,” narrative that so many of us have had to endure.
Black women rarely get a soft place to land, even in the best of times, but especially when they make the kind of mistake that others feel they would never make themselves.
I do wonder if the negative reactions to Tessica Brown is a reflection of how people relate to their own past or current mistakes. I wonder if it’s reflective of the lack of grace they have for themselves or the empathy they wished they had received from others. And because of their negative relationship with their own life experiences and trauma, they find discomfort with the idea that the events that “should’ve” led to Tessica’s downfall is the catalyst for her come up. The “L” that Tessica was supposed to take for this gaffe, has instead elevated her and is leading to some wins, and folks are unsure of how to positively process the reality of this.
We’ve all made mistakes and fell flat on our own swords. And maybe in those moments, no one provided the love, compassion and support that we so desperately needed during those trying times. No one bothered to pick us up when we were down, or lend a graceful hand of encouragement. We were held captive by high-pressure environments where there was zero margin for error. Our boo-boos were not kissed, and we were beaten even more for daring to get hurt. And for this, I’m so very sorry. I, for one, was raised in a similar environment that nearly broke me. And as a result, I actively do my best to avoid inflicting the same level of pain and trauma to others. Just because I went through the fire, does not mean that others have to as well.
Now, to be fair, there are many people who have led with compassion when expressing their thoughts about Tessica’s story. Sisters have reached out to Tessica inquiring about how they could help, so she and her sister created a GoFundMe campaign with a modest goal of $1,500.00. At the time of this writing, they have surpassed their goal 15 times over.
I do hope Tessica turns her pain into profit. Should she desire to catapult her newfound visibility into an influencer career where she lands endorsements and brand deals, I wish her success in that endeavor. She clearly has the personality necessary to captivate her audience, which is why her original video garnered the viral attention it did. If the Kardashian klan can flip a sex tape into a billion dollar empire, then I won’t hate on Tessica for stretching her fame for as far as it can go. And while Tessica ultimately denied rumors of a lawsuit against Gorilla Glue, I wouldn’t even judge her if she decided to go that route and her legal team found a credible loophole regarding the warnings placed on their product label. I understand that this aspect of the conversation is highly controversial, but pettier lawsuits have been filed. And the fact is, none of us pay Tessica Brown’s bills and no one knows what they would do in any given situation unless they were in it.
I’m tired of a world that tries to ration the demands that women (especially marginalized ones) are “allowed” to make or accept. If the media outlets can monetize Tessica’s misery, and the internet can cackle at her expense, then Tessica should get paid for it. Let her have all the things.
I’m so glad that Tessica reached out to the internet in her distress and received exactly what she was seeking: a solution. A Black Beverly Hills based plastic surgeon by the name of Dr. Obeng reached out to Tessica, and flew her out to Los Angeles to conduct the necessary 4-hour procedure to remove the glue from her hair, all pro-bono. The procedure was a success, and Tessica left that surgery table with her edges intact. Oh, how I love a happy ending. A loving, grace-filled ending.
Even amidst the negativity surrounding this story, I truly believe that God’s hand was evident in how this situation played out. Yes, Tessica Brown is ultimately 100% responsible for what happened to the hair, but even then, grace abounds. Every resource that she has received in the aftermath of this incident was freely given to her. Because she was brave enough to create a TikTok video about her “embarrassing” mistake, (which was a total shot in the dark) her story came to light and landed her in the right hands. Her journey cemented the notion that even when we do experience failure, even when we do fall on our own swords, the love of God is truly never far. Absolutely nothing in this world or outside of it can separate us from the love that God has for us.
Tessica Brown is so much more than this one mishap. She is a mother. A dear relative and friend to many. Per her earlier Instagram posts she has her own daycare center, “Tessica’s Little Angels.” She leads a dance team. She openly sows back into her community and invests in the children in her life. She is so much more than this mistake, and it’s grossly unfair to reduce her to being “stupid,” or #gorillagluegirl because of it.
May grace abound for Tessica Brown.