Growing up, I remember in a lot of shows that curly hair, or more specifically natural hair was frowned upon. Did you ever notice that in the movies, when a curly got a makeover (Like in The Princess Diaries) that her hair was straightened? Over the years, as natural hair resurges, I find that there are more positive portrayals of natural hair on screen. This has been a great thing for me personally since I was made fun of for my hair throughout my childhood and into my teen years. I’m sure there are many other great depictions of natural hair, but these are some of my favorite:
Beyond the Lights
Perhaps my favorite hair moment on this list- Beyond the Lights shows us the real Noni (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) that was hiding under the lavender-colored weave. Even better about the moment was the fact that Kaz (Nate Parker) embraces her change. However, if your hair was in a weave that long, would it look that great after taking it out?
Sesame Street: I Love My Hair!
Sesame Street has done an amazing job at adapting to the current generation. In 2010, the show released a song called I Love My Hair featuring a brand new puppet. The song and puppet were inspired by lead writer Joey Mazzarino’s adopted daughter- who did not like her hair. This song sends a positive message to young black and mixed girls, which is something we could have benefited from years ago.
Solange Knowles: Don’t Touch My Hair
Solange’s new album A Seat at the Table is a well-needed tribute to Blackness. Her whole album celebrates our culture. But one song, in particular- Don’t Touch My Hair stands out. There truly is almost nothing like it. I was excited to hear a song that explains why Black hair is important.
Don’t touch my hair
When it’s the feelings I wear
Don’t touch my soul
When it’s the rhythm I know
Don’t touch my crown
They say the vision I’ve found
Don’t touch what’s there
When it’s the feelings I wear
As a kid, I never thought about how important Max (Erika Alexander) and Kyle (T.C. Carson) were, and how groundbreaking a show Living Single was. Max and Kyle were both super successful in corporate New York, proud of their blackness, and rocked locs and braids for the duration of the series. There was also a major plotline in which Kyle was faced with making the decision to cut his hair in order to advance his career- which he didn’t go through with. The power in his stance was that you don’t have to give up your Blackness to get ahead.
I am in love with Zazie Beetz’s (Van) hair. It is a wonder to behold. I first saw Zazie in Joe Swanberg’s Easy on Netflix alongside Dave Franco, but I was so focused on how badass her hair was to really pay attention to anything else. However, in Atlanta, Zazie has more shine as Van, Earn’s (Donald Glover) on again, off again girlfriend- who is balancing life as a mother and teacher.
Dear White People
For the majority of Dear White People, Sam (Tessa Thompson) wears her hair in protective styles, but towards the end of the film, she (literally) lets her hair down. It was pretty symbolic of her attitude change. BONUS: While not pictured, I loved the exchanges with Lionel (Tyler James Williams) over his hair. The one scene where he is cringing while the girl plays in his hair- gold.
I know this one is a bit unconventional, but I really liked seeing a fellow curly on screen in The Craft. After a bout with a racist classmate, Rochelle (Rachel True) hexes her and makes her hair gradually fall out. In the climax of the movie, Sarah (Robin Tunney) warps the minds of the other girls and makes Rochelle think her hair is falling out. As someone who has been natural for almost four years, that’s the stuff nightmares are made out of.
Dreamworks really outdid themselves with Home. When I first saw the images of Tip (Rihanna), I was amazed by how lifelike her curls were. If you pay attention, she has a bit of frizz, and the curls are not uniform. They even bounce and move realistically! In animation, where a lot of female characters go by the same template, it’s refreshing to see something different. Additionally, this was a big step in representation for little girls of color.
How to Get Away With Murder
In a vulnerable scene, Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) removes her wig to reveal the natural hair underneath. In a lot of films and shows, you never see the wig come off! This was truly a bold display of not only Viola Davis’s acting ability, but what many women put themselves through on a daily basis. This was a very private moment for the character and Viola put on display for all to see.
Pelo Malo (Bad Hair)
I saw this film in my Latin American Culture in Film class, and it stuck with me. It is set in Venezuela, the top beauty queen exporter, and a country where the sales of hair products probably only place second to oil. Unfortunately, this film shows a young Afro-Latino’s boy’s obsession with straightening his hair, and takes a cynical turn at the conclusion of the film.
ADRIANA THE CINEMA SOLOIST