It is said that when a woman is going through some serious stuff, she changes her hair whether she cuts, colors or adds to it. In Netflix’s “Nappily Ever After”, Sanaa Lathan’s character Violet Jones proves the old adage to be true. After her boyfriend of 2 years fails to propose to her leading to her breakup, she goes out with her friends. Following an awkward encounter with a man, she drunkenly goes home and makes the decision to tearfully cut off all her hair.
The very first time I cut my hair off, I had just graduated from college. The past few years I had gone through a terrible bout of depression and when I was finally out that fog, something had to go so I chose my hair. First, I cut off a little, then all of it. It was the most freeing experiences of my life. Unlike the main character Violet, I didn’t wake up screaming, but I did feel quite different. I was afraid of what people would think, my hair was a huge part of my identity and I was taking a huge risk by cutting it, though again, I knew it needed to get the hell off my head. The hair held too much pain, trauma and stress to stay. The same applied to Violet since her hair was the most important thing about her and was a huge part of her ex-boyfriend telling her “You’re too perfect, you never let your hair down!”
In an interview with The Breakfast Club, actress Lena Waithe explained that the reason she cut her hair off because she wanted to get free: “It was this piece of femininity… Having long hair allowed people to look at me and go she’s still a girl and I always wanted to cut my hair and I was holding back because of what people would say…” I perfectly understand this feeling, the reason I cut my hair off a bit at a time was because I was afraid of what others would think or say about my identity or sexuality, what assumptions would be made about my gender.
In the film, when Violet wakes up to what she’s done, she covers her head with a scarf and ends up meeting a woman at work who presumes what Violet’s struggle is. She gives her info about a support group with women who have also lost their hair, and she arrives to find out all the women there lost their hair due to cancer. She feels unworthy and goes to leave, but a woman stops her. Violet explains her recent decision to get rid of her precious locks and the woman tells her to be confident, to own it and so she does. She quickly learns in true India Arie fashion that she is indeed not her hair, that there is more to her than what her hair looks like. All of those things are worth exploring and loving as much as she does her hair.
Actress Sanaa Lathan, who cut her hair in real time during the film (after initially wanting to) during an interview with Sway’s Universe called the movie a “fairytale for the modern woman”, adding “universally hair is the ultimate symbol of beauty so if you have an entire culture being told that your hair isn’t good enough… it’s a cultural way that we have adapted.”
I can think back to growing up and being asked why I wouldn’t do anything with my hair or let my mom braid it in different ways, it was because I didn’t like it. It wasn’t like that of my friends in my mostly white schools so I didn’t care about what it looked like. I figured no matter I did with it, I wouldn’t be pretty enough or girly enough. The idea that I was beautiful regardless of my hair didn’t exist. I didn’t know there was such a thing.
Now at 25, if I could tell my 11-year-old self anything, it would be that one day, none of this will be attached to your head and it won’t matter anymore. You’ll be defined by other more important qualities that you possess and maybe that’s another reason I cut my hair, to force myself and others find the beauty in me that wasn’t a physical, tangible thing. To have fallen in love with what I’ve found [underneath my hair] in the same way that Violet appears to by the film’s end is a gift that I’m not sure I would have found without taking the big chop. No matter how much or how little remains there, there is glory in all of that and there always will be.