Maya Rudolph Opens Up About Her Struggle With Natural Hair In The Comedy World

Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images.
Saturday Night Live may have jumpstarted Maya Rudolph’s career, but the experience wasn’t always positive for the comedian and actress.
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Rudolph opened up about the struggle of being mixed-race in the sketch comedy world, and the jokes it led to at her expense.
“My hair was natural when I started Saturday Night Live, but it was so thick to get under the wigs,” Rudolph explained. Because of this, she had to set aside “several hours a week” to change its texture, which turned into a weekly blow-out appointment with the hair department.
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“[The blow-dry station] was on the same hallway as a lot of the dudes’ dressing rooms. And every [expletive] Friday night, we’d hear some [expletive] white guy walking down the hall going, ‘Is something burning in here? What’s burning?’” Rudolph said. “I’m like — 'I’m. Get-ting. My. Hair. Done.’”
She also reflected on her pre-SNL days, which weren’t any better in terms of how others viewed her hair. “Every time I’d work, they’d be like, ‘I really don’t — like, can I touch? — I really don’t know what to do with your hair.’ They would just say the most awful, disgusting things,” she said.
Unfortunately, Rudolph’s experiences aren’t isolated incidents. The hair-work struggle is a constant point of contention for women of color — particularly those of African American descent. A 2017 study conducted by Perception Institute and Shea Moisture even confirmed this.
According to the "Good Hair” study, “a majority of people, regardless of race and gender, hold some bias towards women of color based on their hair.” Key findings also showed that Black women suffer more anxiety around hair issues, spend more money on hair care than any other racial group, and are almost twice as likely to feel pressure to straighten their hair.
Like Rudolph, women of color shouldn’t feel forced to conform to a beauty standard that suppresses their cultural roots in order to be accepted at work. Nor should they have to endure ignorant comments and “jokes” — someone else’s hair should be the least of anyone’s concerns.
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