This week Sanaa Lathan shaved her head for her upcoming role in the film Nappily Ever After— and went viral instantly with her empowering and beautiful transformation. It got us thinking about the power of black celebrities to share openly about their hair journey.
Here are 7 inspiring, candid quotes from famous black women on hair.
1. Viola Davis.
"We have to take back everything that people said about us that was negative. Saying that your hair has got to be straightened in order to be formal. Your hair has got to be straightened in order to be beautiful. Being objectified for your beauty but not being appreciated for it in the same way Caucasian women are. Taking back the light skin/dark skin thing. If you're lighter than a paper bag, you're cute. If you're darker, you're less attractive….I am redefining all of that for myself and I say that all of it were lies. Anything anyone ever told me about myself was a lie. So I'm redefining it for myself now at the age of 51."
"I believe that hair is incredibly spiritual, and, energetically, it really encompasses and expresses who we are. Obviously, my relationship with hair, being that I grew up literally in a hair salon, is very deep and very complex. I think that one of the things that I’m also trying to communicate through that song is the way that people see us through our hair. It’s almost my India.Arie “I Am Not My Hair” moment. I feel like when I cut my hair and I decided to wear my hair natural, I didn’t feel any more pro-Black or like I identified any more or less in my walk as a Black woman. That just wasn’t my personal journey."
(Saint Heron, 2016)
3. Tracee Ellis Ross.
"My suggestion to anybody that wants to wear their hair simlar to me… go toward the internal version of it, instead of the external... My suggestion and encouragement to everyone is to do what feels right to them. For example, if you are going to a class reunion or your prom, it’s probably not the day to try a new product or a new hairstyle. If prom is two months away, start experimenting on Sundays or a day that you know you’re going to be at home. If for example you’re growing out your relaxer or your perm, it takes a minute and if you don’t have the courage or desire or the willingness- because it’s not just about courage, sometimes you can’t, you know some people can’t just chop their hair off- then give it some time!"
(Curly Nikki, 2012)
4. Zadie Smith.
"Quite often [wearing a head wrap] has to do with my impatience with getting dressed. I like getting dressed, but I don't want it to [take] a lot of time. The head wrap began as a way of saving time, not being bothered to do my hair in any practical way, but also as a kind of... symbol or allegiance with exactly that kind of African ancestry. After all, many, many more women in the world wear something on their heads than don't, and I like to be part of that sisterhood."
5. Halle Berry.
"I would go to auditions and see every other girl in the room with long, curly hair — whether it be natural or weaved in. I remember thinking this isn’t working for me. I have to somehow be different from these girls, so I cut all my hair off. I went to my manager’s office and he almost had a heart attack. He said, “You’re never going to work. You are no longer commercial.” And I said, “That’s exactly it. I look like every other girl and they’re never going to notice me.” Two weeks after I did that, I got my first acting job. It was Living Dolls on ABC. They even said I was different."
(Huffington Post, 2014)
6. Maya Angelou.
“I would say that hair is a woman’s glory and that you share that glory with your family. And they get to see you braiding it and they get to see you washing it. But it is not a bad thing or a good thing, it’s hair. If you have it on your head it’s good. If you have it growing between your toes it probably isn’t so good.”
(Chris Rock's Good Hair, 2009)
7. Gabrielle Union.
“I went through a phase where I would leave my relaxer on so long, thinking the longer I leave this relaxer on, the straighter it’s going to be,” she said. “Cut to lesions, like open wounds in my scalp, trying to chase something that was unrealistic, and eventually probably in my mid- to late-20s I decided to give up my relaxer, and I went natural. By natural I mean underneath the weaves, extensions, clips and the hair color was my natural hair — thriving.”