Gabriella Bernard Defends Her Natural Hair

In what can be deemed the most controversial season ever on Caribbean’s Next Top Model, one name sure stands out - 24-year-old, Trinidad & Tobago model, Gabriella Bernard - the young contestant who was told by producers that she had to relax her hair in order to ‘look professional’.

In a clip of the episode, which was all over so­cial me­dia, Bernard was heard pleading with a hairdresser that she did not want her hair chem­i­cal­ly straight­ened and al­so gave rea­sons why. One of Bernard’s reasons, she said, was that she want­ed to em­brace the “nat­ur­al beau­ty and em­pow­er­ment of black peo­ple.”

“You need to un­der­stand that my hair is my iden­ti­ty…peo­ple seek me out just be­cause of my hair,” she told the hair­dress­er. She had her hair relaxed for 15 years, but understands that her brand is about embracing your natural beauty.

During the episode, Bernard even­tu­al­ly agreed to chem­i­cal­ly treat her hair, because as she says, “When I weighed the pros and cons, I de­cid­ed to stay. Yes, yes, yes a mil­lion times I should have left, but look­ing back I told my­self I had come so far, left my job, looked up to Wendy, want­ed to be an in­ter­na­tion­al mod­el all my life, I was so close…Did I come all this way to give up now?”

Although the show was shot last year and aired in February this year, Gabriella continues to speak out. The Trinidad Express newspaper reported on September 20th, that Gabriella feels she deserves an apology from former Miss Universe and executive producer of the Caribbean Next Top Model competition, Wendy Fitzwilliam, after she was given an ultimatum on the television show - relax her natural hair or go home. There has been no comment from Ms. Fitzwilliam to date.

Bernard, who has left a lasting impression on many, has turned this experience into an inspiring film, ‘Black Hair’, 20-minute documentary, which was se­lect­ed to screen at the 2018 Trinidad & To­ba­go Film Fes­ti­val (Sep 21-25) and the 2018 Bal­ti­more In­ter­na­tion­al Black Film Fes­ti­val (Oct 2-8).

She continues to speak out about sexual assault, natural hair, and the beauty. Check out her exclusive interview via Hello Beautiful.