I remember the burning smell of roasted keratin and crispy hair follicles.
The stink of a hot comb and the worrying that you may look down to see your afro on the floor is one that many young black girls have experienced. “Your hair is soooo pretty and longggg!” all the girls would say after that eight-hour hair-straightening session.
My identity was changed every time I heard that sizzle, snap and crackle. I walked into those elementary hallways feeling like the prettiest doll on the block—until the straightening comb got too faulty and my afro was left untamed.
There were moments when the fear of the echoing sound of bullies caused me to beg my mom for my hair to be permanently fixed. I wanted to look like Beyoncé, J-Lo and all those beautiful models I saw in magazines with their sexy, wavy hair.
“Nappily Ever After” is the representation of all those black girl childhood moments.
It is funny and painful. It is the memory of looking in the mirror, seeing our brown faces and “nappy” hair and realizing there’s gold in those tightly bound locks. Violet Jones played by actress Sanaa Lathan goes through the journey of realizing her beauty in the absence of her straight hair or blond weave.
Stuck between the doctor she wants and the man who sees past her insecurities, she finds herself wondering if she wants to be the girl guys want or the girl she wants. I felt the memories flood as I watched her cringe at the sight of an oncoming raincloud. It is the fear that who you are is never enough to be granted the passing smile—or given that job position you are definitely more than qualified for.
Netflix paints a picture of the mental turmoil that comes with that fear. Blackness is not always celebrated in society and walking every day trying to cope with that can make any sane person break. As you watch her hair fall from the buzz of the clippers, you are given a look into the pain behind something so simple yet so beautiful: hair.
Hair is important because it is a part of your soul. It breaks when you fall ill and glows when you feel on top of the world.
“Nappily Ever After” is an addition to the growing narrative of body, skin and hair positivity.
This is what we need. The story is just as real as my own and my sisters and paints a picture for all others to see.
As you watch her jump blissfully into the water with a relieved smile, with no hesitation in her eyes, you see that there is hope for her, and Netflix shows there is hope for us too. Just as the film ends with the reminder of the changing times, I sat with a bubbling emotion inside of me.
As a black girl who struggles to let her hair fly free, I am ready to jump headfirst in the water and let my afro embrace its curly shrinkage.
As Violet says, “Come on in, the water is fine.”