On the heels of a study that suggests a connection between hair relaxers and uterine fibroids, actress Viola Davis decided to leave her wig at home and take to the red carpet at the Oscars in a stunning gown and an even more stunning teeny weeny afro. Of course when the moment happened, I was busy celebrating Thanksgiving but all of a sudden, my Twitter timeline went nuts and I just had to see it.
And there she was, in all of her natural beauty; glorious brown skin, dazzling smile and a crown of tightly coiled hair that excited me. It was a big fucking deal, this woman, this Black woman taking such a chance and telling the world that she didn’t care what was “in” or trendy at the moment.
I’ve said before that for a Black woman, hair is much more than hair. And Davis’s decision to carve out her own image was an important one that didn’t go over well with some critics. Wendy Williams had no qualms with expressing her opinion that natural hair isn’t formal, that she didn’t want to see a “Room 222 look” on the red carpet. This is an unfortunate sentiment that walks the same line as the sentiment that natural hair is unprofessional.
If it’s just hair then why do we feel that our natural hair isn’t professional or formal enough for the board room or the red carpet? For many of us, by the time we have reached adulthood we have gone through the rigorous conditioning and come to the understanding that our hair must be tamed, laid, and or pressed. Every hairstory resonates with me. I was given my first relaxer at an early age. The rest of my childhood and teen years were a dizzying haze of braids, weaves and looking for the hairdresser that could get my hair the straightest, ESPECIALLY for special occasions.
I don’t find fault with any Black woman who believes that our natural hair isn’t formal or professional enough because I know that struggle. Viola Davis may not have meant to make a statement but she provided us with a valuable teaching moment. By putting her natural on display in such a major way, she has shed light on a dilemma that plagues the majority of Black women in America and given us a chance to re-examine the ways in which we consider our hair in its natural state, a chance to re-imagine beauty and redefine the way we fit into society’s construction of beauty.