Newsflash: black women’s hair is political, but there’s way more to it than that. It’s a defining aspect of day-to-day life for women of colour everywhere. Its emotional ties are just as significant as the statement on inflexible beauty standards that the #teamnatural movement has grown to become. And yet (surprise, surprise) black hair is barely referenced in the few big budget films that care to document the lives of this huge community of people. Until now. There’s a new Netflix film on the way that’s positioned itself to do something about that, and if the trailer is anything to go by, it hits pretty high on the relatability scale.
In Nappily Ever After we meet Violet, the high-flying protagonist and young woman who's set to carry the weight of black women's hair anxieties for the duration of the film. Played by actress Sanaa Lathan, our first impressions of her are of the quintessential grown-up businesswoman – the successful, confident one with hot boyfriend, fruitful career and her shit together.
She's nailing life and has consciously spent years striving for insanely high standards – and her hair is a big part of that journey. "Ever since I was a kid my hair was everything. It had to be fixed, only then I was perfect", she says in the trailer. But of course, that all dramatically changes in this otherwise typical rom-com story arc when Violet ditches her expensive weaves, shaves off her natural hair and is forced to adjust to life in her new look. "My hair is like a second job, now I’m forced to focus on myself", she adds.
Her use of the word 'fixed' is jolting. Black women are all too familiar with the toxic, unflattering language used to describe our hair (kinky, wild, nappy, stubborn) and the plight to achieve what society tells us is 'perfect' (straight, silky and typically Caucasian). It's a stressful endeavour that many of us have battled and now there's a film that places this specific and influential part of our lives in the centre of a storyline. Natural hair is presented as normal without being trivialised or conflated as a political statement Violet didn't mean to make. Nappily Ever After is long overdue, and trust us, the anticipation for this one is high.
Nappily Ever After is available on Netflix on 21st September 2018.