Nappily Ever After Shines A Light on Toxic Ideas of Black Hair

by Victoria Coker
Netflix’s new original film Nappily Ever After stars Sanaa Lathan, Lynn Whitfield, Ernie Hudson and cast of other talents. The story delves into the life of fictional character Violet Jones, portrayed by Sanaa, who is looking to find her happily ever after. Instead during the film, she finds her unique voice and confidence. At times the story goes a little over the top but at the core exposes some of the painful truths about Black women’s self-image.

The film was set-up to resemble a fairy-tale yet the ending isn’t quite “traditional”. While at times the film seems to miss the mark, there were a few distinct moments that were very real. I cut my hair in 2009. I was always insecure about my hair partially because of family members and partially due to society. My hair didn’t grow thick like my mother or wavy like my brother. My hair was thin and at times my aunts would compare it to soft fluffy cotton balls — nothing to be proud about. So, when I finally got the courage to cut off my hair, I did. Some people (mostly women) raved while majority of men judged me and shamed me for making the big chop. Similar to the movie people said one of the following things:

1) Are you sick

2) You must be a lesbian

3) When are you growing it back

Throughout this time, I asked many male friends what they thought about women with short hair and why it wasn’t “as attracted” as a perm or long hair. One guy said “it’s not what I dream of when I close my eyes. I see a woman with long flowing hair”. Another told me “well long hair really contours your face”. Don’t you really mean it hides my face? So of course, after cutting my hair off I wanted to grow it back and I did for about two years until it began to break off. I had colored my hair, worn box braids and alone that could be damaging. But my scalp burned and that wasn’t normal. I decided to go to a doctor to get a biopsy and found out I have a condition called lichen planopilaris. It’s a rare inflammatory condition that results in patchy progressive permanent hair loss mainly on the scalp. When I found out at the doctor’s office I cried.

I never appreciated my hair until I was faced without having any. And the reality is many women, for different reasons, don’t have hair or are balding. We need to change beauty standards in the Black community. Many of these biases stem from our childhood. European features are celebrated, and for decades having more “tamed” hair symbolized us conforming to a racist society. Some jobs still discriminate because locs make people feel uncomfortable. We have been taught so long how to fit in we forgot the self-harm we cause to ourselves.

Good hair is hair that grows healthy, not straight hair or a certain texture. I didn’t realize until I was losing my hair what good hair really meant. For some women being bald isn’t a choice. By perpetuating these ideas, we ask these women to hide behind weaves and wigs. Then say you’re not good enough because it doesn’t grow a certain way.

Thank you to Danai Gurira, Michaela Coel and other Black woman who consistently wear your hair “bald”. You ladies normalize baldness in the world of Black beauty. Thank you to Grace Jones who fiercely and unapologetically wore her iconic natural crown. Thanks to Sanaa for bearing her head for this role and showcasing many Black women’s struggle.

 

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Nappily Ever After Shines A Light on Toxic Ideas of Black Hair

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