Nappily Ever After: A Hair Journey
Our hair is our crown and glory. It’s a visual representation of our personalities and a reflection of who we are as women. We will spend hours upon hours washing, drying, straightening, twisting, and combing our tresses to make sure that it looks just right. It’s been ingrained in us from birth and to see it play out in film was a breath of fresh air. I felt seen. Trisha R. Thomas’s “Nappily Ever After” is the story of an everyday black woman’s hair journey, the ups, the downs, and the big chops that come with embracing not only ourselves, but our natural hair as well.
"Nappily Ever After” is about Violent Jones (played by Sanaa Lanthan) who, from childhood, was taught that everything about her had to be perfect. That included her hair as well. Her mother raised her with the notion that as African Americans, we had to be presentable at all times and if that meant you sat by the stove every Saturday to get your hair pressed then so be it. After a failed proposal from her boyfriend and a not so favorable incident at the hair dresser, Violet realizes that there is more to life then being perfect all the time. It took a few drinks (isn’t that all all things start?) and one moment in the mirror for Violet to reach for the clippers and shave it all off. For some reason, I exhaled a sigh of relief.
There are two important themes that I want to touch on concerning this movie. The first being how we as black women put everything into our hair. Everything meaning self esteem, confidence, internal emotions, and our mindset. If something drastic happens in our lives, the first place we look to make a change is our appearance, usually starting with our hair. It signals a fresh start and a renewed purpose. They say when a woman changes her hair, she’s about to change her life and that still rings true.
When I moved to the D.C. area 4 years ago, my hair was so damaged from going natural and switching to a relaxer. I sat in my stylist’s chair and listened to her tell me how bad the damage was. In that moment, I was over it. I told her to cut it all off and that we were going to start fresh. Looking down and seeing all that hair fall on the floor made me feel like I was starting over. A new city meant a new me. The best part about it was hair maintenance was simple and saved me tons of time in the morning.
The second theme that I want to highlight is the constant pressure from African American families of always being presentable in society. Our hair has be straightened, we need to have the best job, and we need to marry someone who matches those same standards. Violet was taught this her entire life until it became the norm for her as an adult. It wasn’t until her boyfriend, who wasn’t worth a dime in my opinion, held a mirror to her face that she realized that she wasn’t living life. Her idea of having to be “perfect” all the time had conditioned her to waking up at 5am to straighten her hair. When she kept worrying about being outside to have lunch with her friends, I got highly annoyed. Did I understand it? Yes. I’m a natural girl with very fine hair myself so when moisture is in the air, you tend to panic. That shouldn’t stop you from enjoying time with your friends.
Overall, I liked this movie. There were spots where the writing could have been a bit better, and I wish there was more focus on how black women navigate their natural hair journeys. Sure, Violet cutting her hair was a slight push back against her mom and everything she was taught but there was more to the story then just her ex realizing he made a mistake. Even her new relationship with a hair stylist was slightly brushed over when he was the one that helped her find confidence. My friend pointed that the book that this movie was based off was written in 2002 so it could explain some of the blind spots. Regardless, it sent the right message.
Changing your hair is a journey. You go from shock, endless tears, acceptance, and then finally, peace. Whether you decided to do the big chop and go natural or you just broke up with your boyfriend and in need of a fresh look, this movie has a great message. Sometimes, you just have to break free and start over. We don’t realize how much dead weight we are carrying around until we are able to let go. When I say dead weight, I mean split ends and broken hair. By holding on to all that damage, you’re preventing the new growth from coming through. Just like Violet’s friends told her after she turned that page, you have to “OWN” it.