“Nappily Ever After” and A Tale of My Black Experience with Hair

Photo courtesy of Netflix

 

 

By: Alexis Green

 

“Your hair is long for a black girl.”

 

“Your curly hair is cool, but you’re more attractive when it’s straight.”

 

“You have to be mixed with something.”

 

These are the things I grew up hearing. For me, and some other black girls, hair remains a big part of our identity. I remember the first time I spent hours in a salon chair, as two women tackled my coils to give me a sleek straight look. I felt beautiful and it seemed that everyone else thought so as well.

For the next years, I continued straightening my hair for major events— birthdays, holidays, and school pictures. It  made me feel great to receive so many compliments and feel my hair flowing down my back. One day, I remember my friend asking, “when is your hair going to be curly again, I like your curls.” Sadly, it took me hearing that to truly start loving my curls.

 

Netflix’s “Nappily Ever After,” based on the novel,  heavily touches on this topic. The movie features Violet Jones, a black woman who seeks to achieve perfection in her life one straightened look at a time. Jones’ sadness  leads her to cut off all her hair and embrace the freedom that comes with accepting yourself outside of beauty standards.

 

As the buzzing of the clippers started, I had a mixture of emotions. It hurt that she was cutting all off her beautiful locks, especially in such a rash way. Then, I remembered it's just hair. It grows back.

 

Jones did something that I never had the courage to do.  Many times, as spent what seemed like a whole day washing, deep conditioning and  twisting my hair, I wondered what it would be like to just cut it all off. But I couldn’t, I didn’t know who I’d be without my curls. It's how people identify me; it’s how I identify myself.

 

The first time I cut my hair, my friend jokingly threatened to fight me. It was weird because I didn’t see how my style choices could affect others. In the movie, Jones struggles with this too, often having to straighten her hair to feel accepted by others. Off the screen, this sentiment remains a cultural issue. There are countless stories of girls being sent home from school because their hair is unacceptable or being condemned at jobs because it’s not “professional.”

 

Luckily, I grew up in a household where perms weren’t forced upon me. My mom, with her flowing curls, taught me to embrace mine. However, as shown in the film, not everyone has that option. Jones’ mother had been heating up a hot comb for her ever since she was little. That was her ticket to getting a man. It was also her ticket to missing out on a childhood where she could jump in pools or play in the rain in fear of messing up here hair. I’ll admit I’m of guilty of checking the weather app for up to a month before deciding to flat iron my hair. It can sometimes control your life, if you let it.

 

As girl with a lighter complexion with curls, I did have some privilege. I was labeled to have “good hair”. Meaning my hair had curls rather super tight coils, which made it more acceptable to others for some reason I still don’t understand.

 

Even with that privilege, my hair journey has not always been a smooth one. In high school, my hair texture became a little tighter and  my curls became kinkier. Before, I went through a period of wishing for looser waves and as people started commenting on my hair’s new thickness, it felt like a step backwards. From having pencils being put in my hair to people questioning my racial identity, I didn’t always love my hair.

 

Even with that, I never wanted to bid adieu to my coils.