I was walking down the hall of my high school with a friend who happened to be African-American.
“How was your weekend?” I asked.
“Fine. I got my hair permed. Did some homework. Hung out.”
I looked at her hair. It wasn’t curly.
“Your hair’s not curly.”
Tiffany could tell I was totally confused. “Perms on black people don’t make their hair curly, Rosie. Perms make our hair straight.”
Years later, I would watch my African American girlfriends in college go through it with their hair. And, now, with an African son, we are even more privy to black hair culture.
“Oh, your baby has that good hair,” the women on my street will tell me.
Hair. We talk about good hair and bad hair.We talk about good hair days and bad hair days. It can affect our body image. It can affect our sense of self. We could be beautiful if only… our hair were straight, curly, longer, shorter, thicker, thinner, blonder, darker. You get the picture. Hair. It’s a whole thing. And, now, there’s a whole documentary dedicated to the chase of the perfect ‘do.
When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the comic committed himself to search the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl’s head. Director Jeff Stilson’s camera followed the funnyman, and the result is Good Hair, a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about African American hair culture. Good Hair visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people. Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question. What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn’t always benefit the black community and little Lola’s question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside.