When I was in seventh grade, I begged my Mother to take to me to JUST IN TIME hair salon in Pomona, CA. I really wanted Halle Berry's bob cut. You know the one I'm talking about. The style she had in the movie Boomerang. I wanted the silky waves and the rebellious undercut. It was a daring look and I was all about it. JUST IN TIME was the go-to salon where all the girls my age with "good hair" went. I knew they could fix my frizz. I had no idea what to do with my natural hair. Nor did my Mother; who is white. She finally relented to my begging and took me. There was a particular stylist I was to ask for, I forgot her name, but she did all of the popular girls hair. Since my Mother didn't know we needed an appointment and this whole thing was an inconvience we just walked-in. I would have waited forever for this stylist, but my Mother was not having it. She asked for whoever was available and was directed to the old gent with no one in his chair. Picture Clarence (Eddie Murphy) as one of the barbers in Coming to America. I was disappointed, I was willing to come back with an appointment but, was relieved when the gentleman asked what I wanted. He had to know what to do, right? I came prepared with my BET magazine with Halle on the cover. The stylist then proceeded to ask me how tight I wanted the "waves" to be and asked my Mother's permission "relax" my hair. I didn't know what any of this meant so, I just went along with it. I mean, he saw the picture.
A couple of hours later, I was at home crying with a bottle of activator in my hand. My Mom laughed and said, I asked for this style and she paid for it so, nothing could be done. I had a Jehri Curl. A Soul-Mothafucken-Glo Jehri curl. In 1993. This was not even close to the Halle Berry bob. I was already ugly duckling and this style was a nightmare. I can't even go into the mockery I endured at school. I was forced to go through two gigantic bottles of activator and had no other choice but to grow out the Jehri Curl relaxer. My hair was a mess after. Short, uneven and undoable. Rocking a Lupita style was not socially acceptable. I wish I would have had the confidence though. Or I would have. So, I had some peers Mother's braid it to let my hair grow out even more and then my rad Aunt Robin, took me to a popular salon in San Diego, recommended by her even more rad black girlfriends and collegues, Jennifer and Barbara. I finally got the Halle Berry Bob.
I had nothing but horrendous stories about my hair growing up before and after that. But, the Jehri Curl was by far the worst. I think even Ice Cube and Easy E were over theirs at that point. Why was I rocking one? My hair misadventures are a story for another blog but, regardless, my hair has been something I have hated and mistreated until I owned it and went natural. Then I had it colored mulitple times, shaved it off and then grew it out. I rock my fro as often as I can now! I have good hair. I always have.
I wasn't the only one with these issues. The "good-haired" black girls of the 90's had good and slick mane. They often said they were bi-racial" - mixed with a little Indian" or they just had hair that held the pressing comb well, and they took extra good care of it. Girls like me and some of my friends were called "bald-headed" or "nappy-headed". Natural hair was not an option and if your parents couldn't afford it, you were made fun of because of that too. Weaves and extensions were also taboo. If you had either and it was found out, despite popularity, you would get "bagged on." I got shit about my hair, even though I'm bi-racial, because it wasn't that "good mixed-girl hair."
An entire horror film about the pressure of having natural hair was made. It's probably the best horror film of 2020. Bad Hair was released on Hulu October 16th 2020. Set in the 80's, an ambitious , natural haired, black woman Anna (Zaira Kelley) looks to make it to the top within the image obsessed music video industry. She begrudgingly goes to an expensive but, well known salon where she endures a painful day in the chair getting a sewn in weave. She even passes out! Once the weave is in, our protagonist deals with the residual pain and before she knows it, she is promoted, she is seen, she has made it. But, her new hair begins to "do things" when it dries out. The bottle of activator, which is suspiciously very red, isn't enough to quench the hair's thirst. Soon, her hair begins craving blood and the campy film goes wild after that. I won't give spoilers because you really need to see the movie.
It's funny, it's wild, its cast is phenomenal and, yes, there is some damn good horror elements. Bad Hair was so well written in the way that it included dark magic, hair trauma and, actual black horror. White men are behind the cursed weaves. Oh, shit! I spoiled it! But, oh that ending! Have you turned it on yet?
I found myself resonating with Anna so much that my jaw was on the floor. Her timidness and anxiety turned into confidence. Yep, I know how that is. As kids, Anna was was pressured into allowing her sister to relax her hair, and she was traumatized from the pain and loss of hair. Inexperience caused trauma. The chemical left a sensitive scar. I have a few of those. Anna was pressured enough to endure extreme pain, and make a blood sacrifice in order to be accepted. When she did get that look, she knew she was fine! I get it. But, it did come at a cost and, no weave, relaxer or pressed hair would ever last. Whats natural usually doesn't.
I enjoyed Bad Hair for what it was, "a weird love letter to Black women" from Writer and Director Justin Simien. I know this is a love it or hate it film but, I'm a sucker for creative spins on real life horror. I found the film very nostalgic as it started with a scary moment dies off to get you warmed up and familiar with the characters and then the creepy shit starts about 30 minutes in. It was cleverly written and, I enjoyed the backstory.
Perhaps because I could relate to Anna so much.
There was blood, brutal kills and scary images throughout the movie. Thankfully, a great balance of humor as well. At times I couldn't believe how good this movie about possessed hair was. Excuse me IS!
But, what I enjoyed the most was the insight as to how black women's hair has always been such a complicated aspect of our true beauty. Our hair is another feature that white society had taught us to be ashamed of. Only two years ago did Black women receive protection from corporations who demanded they change their natural hair to be more "professional". Yet, young black children are still being benched and rejected for dreads and bantu knots.
I denied the beauty of my naturalness until my mid-30's. She has inspired my curls and, motivated me to learn about different textures of black hair. Yes, I still love my wigs too. They also would have been shunned in Jr. High but, I love rocking them now. It feels good to shake up my hair styles without compromising the health of my natural mane.
Bad Hair is a welcome addition to Black Excellence in Horror. Give it a watch on Hulu.