On the Couch with Joey Mazzarino


It's time for a Youtube pop quiz...

Who is Antoine Dodson?

If you answered "Mr. Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife," you'd be correct.

Too easy? Let's try a more difficult one.

Who is Joey Mazzarino?

Not so sure? ...

Does the Sesame Street song "I Love My Hair" ring a bell? That's right... Joey Mazzarino is the man behind the Muppet--the writer of the wonderful song that hit Youtube a couple weeks ago and quickly became an overnight sensation. I was recently granted the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Mazzarino and ask him the questions that you most wanted answered. He has already given stellar interviews to NPR and the Huffington Post, but I still wanted to take the opportunity to ask the questions that may have been overlooked. So, I reached out to the talented and lovely ladies of the CN.com community to help facilitate the interview. Hopefully, we have covered everything and more that you wanted to know. :)


CN: I started my blog for the same underlying reasons you wrote the song for your daughter. I'm sure you're tired of repeating it, but could you give the CN.com community the background story?

Sure! A year ago, when my daughter was four, I started to notice that she wasn't happy with her hair. She repeatedly expressed a desire to have straight hair like her mother's. She wanted to be able to toss it, and flip it back and forth. Like most girls her age, she has a collection of Barbie dolls-- a mix of African American and White ones, and unfortunately only three of them have curly hair. It's incredibly difficult to find Barbies with curly hair! One day, while playing with one of her White dolls, she said, "I'd like to have long, blonde hair like her". I thought the problem was unique to us-- being two White parents raising an African American daughter. But then when Chris Rock's movie Good Hair came out, I realized that it was a much larger issue. I spoke to my executive producer about it and asked her if I could write a song that touched on hair and self-esteem. We were just finishing the writing season for the year, but she gave me the go-ahead anyway. I wrote the lyrics and we got Chris Jackson, a wonderful composer and Broadway star, to do the music. He turned it around very quickly and we were able to shoot it!

Was the song particularly difficult to write? Was it hard finding the right words?

Not at all. I would always tell my daughter, "I love your hair! It's great! It's so beautiful and curly! Plus, you can do so many great things with it!" And she would always respond, "But I want hair like yours, I want hair like mommy's'!" So I found myself reflecting on the stuff I told her while I was writing the lyrics, and it was actually one of the easier things I've ever had to write.

Maria G, a CurlyNikki reader, wants to know how your daughter reacted to the video?

I took it to her the day we taped it. This was at the end of last year-- we didn't air it until now because our new season didn't begin until the end of September. It wasn't edited at all, so I just showed her the first take we did, and she absolutely loved it! She was dancing around and singing, it was great! Time passed and she sort of forgot about it. Now that it's aired and getting all of this attention, she's been asking for it again.
The other day, she was looking in the mirror and bouncing her hair up and down and smiling. My wife asked her, "Are you looking at your curls?' and she said, 'Yeah!' She loves her hair now. I don't think it was just because of the song… I hope it has more to do with our parenting and the excellent African American teacher she had last year. I'm really happy that she's loving who she is.

Will this new character appear as a regular in future shows?

Initially she was just for that sketch, but I think we will have to resurrect her, give her a name, and have her tackle some other issues.

Maria G asks, 'I've been watching Sesame Street since the early 70's and I have never seen a video such as this one. It brought a tear to my eye. Will the show add more segments on self esteem?'

I think we will. I think we've always done it, but may not have touched on it in a while. After reading some of the comments on the boards and FaceBook, I actually remember a character from childhood, Roosevelt Franklin. While I don't remember all of the stuff he said, I can recall some great songs, one was called 'The Skin I'm In'. I went back and listened to it, and it was wonderful and talked about having brown skin specifically. I think there is definitely room to tackle some more self esteem issues.

Do you see anywhere that websites like CurlyNikki could help be a resource to parents like you -- is there anywhere earlier in the process that we can provided information and support?

Luckily on Sesame Street, we have this guy Gordon Price, he's a wonderful member of our crew, and his wife is Lisa Price, the creator of Carol's Daughter. So when we adopted our daughter, I knew it would be different taking care of her curly hair hair, but he told me not to worry, and that Lisa would hook me up with a bunch of stuff and teach me how to do everything. So luckily I had them as a great resource. With the popularity of the video, I've been getting so many tips and products that I'm like, 'whoa, I only have one!' The wealth of info and help has been great. I'm definitely going to check out your site and others, especially when it's Dad alone and I have to do her hair, so that will help to do it better.

You're good! My dad didn't touch my head... that was all Momma. [Laughter]

[Laughter]
Well, my wife, she's an actress and she had to go away for the whole summer. My daughter and I were alone and we were traveling back and forth to Seattle, so I had to take care of her hair on a daily basis. I told myself I wouldn't leave her hair wild, I had to learn how to do it. So my wife and my daughter's baby sitter showed me how to do braids and how to comb it out. So yes, I'm getting better and better.

Jasmine A. asks, 'What are your daughters favorite hairstyles? What products are you guys using?'

She loves braids and she does what Willow Smith does and she 'whips them back and forth'! She whips them around like crazy.
Sunday it was Halloween, and she went as Princess Tiana. So we found a picture of her and created a similar hairdo. She loved that. She was too cute.
Favorite products? Carols Daughter Princess Tiana line is our current favorite, mainly because it has Princess Tiana on the bottle and my daughter loves her. We're also loving the Loc Butter, so yeah, we mostly use a lot of Carol's Daughter in my house.

Naterra asks, 'If your daughter gets older and asks for a perm, how will you and your wife react to that?'
That's an interesting question, and I honestly have no idea. I take it day by day and I want her to love who she is. I don't' know how I'm going to handle any of the tough questions that will come up, like 'can I pierce my ears', 'get a tattoo'... I don't know what I'm going to say! I just want her to love herself and respect herself and be proud of who she is and hopefully she won't ask me that question. What would you do as somebody that is a big advocate of Natural Hair? What would you say?

Wow. I guess I'm in the same boat as you. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it! I just had a baby about 9 weeks ago. Growing up, relaxers weren't allowed in my household, so my dad made it easy [laughter] it wasn't even an option. I guess all I can do is educate her and hope she makes good decisions.

My wife is very careful about what she puts on our daughter's skin and hair. So I think we would definitely use education- explain that the chemicals aren't good for her. She might be old enough to make her own decision by then, but we'll definitely educate her about chemicals and make sure she has the skills to care for her hair in its natural state.

What message would you like to send out to the Curly Community?

I'm thankful to all of the bloggers and the women who put it on their Facebook because all we want to do here is reach as many kids as we can to hear the message. So thanks to all of you for getting the message out and for letting the little girls see the video. And I just encourage anyone who has not shown it to their nieces, or their friend's kids or their kids, show it to them, even if they don't have an issue, it's important to see that they should be proud of their hair.


38 Weigh in!:
Anonymous said...

Great interview! I love that he does her hair himself, & braiding?? That's impressive :) I have 2 daughters & my hubby leaves all the hair combing to me!

Namun said...

Awesome interview! I love it when dads can take care of their daughter's hair. My dad used to comb and style my hair when I was young. Thanks for this interview.

Moni said...

I love the interview! I also love the fact that they're bringing this character back. I am a long way from having kids myself, but would love for them to have as many positive role models as possible when I do!

EllaMomi2002 said...

Love the song!
Love the video!
And love the story behind it all!!!

Great interview. And I can't wait to see the character progress.

westNDNbeauty said...

Great Interview!

I wonder if this was the same guy in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and on the news combing his daughter's hair?

Anonymous said...

Great interview - good to know the background to the story.

@westNDNbeauty - no it's not the same guy in the Atlanta Journal Constitution article.

Beads, Braids & Beyond said...

Great interview! I can't wait to see this muppet in more shows!

TiAnna Mae said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TiAnna Mae said...

Great interview! I've read and listened to a few interviews with Joey, and this is one of the best. I didn't realize that he does his daughter's hair often. That is VERY impressive. I love to see parents who are engaged in their children's well being and sensitive to cultural differences, if any. I think many people who have children of a different background, tend to ignore the differences vs. accepting them. Joey and his wife are on point!

Anonymous said...

WOW!

I have been thinking about this man for the past few days. Why? Because I really feel that his putting this out there on Sesame Street was like a psychological healing and apology to the African-American community...something I am sure he NEVER thought about when doing this video.

Here is why. As I have said before on this very blog, issues with our hair run deep and WAAAAAAy back to slavery and all that oppression. And sadly, it was started by white people.

And, THIS IS MY OPINION...I felt that because these sad issues were begun with white people, the healing process (although this blog and some others are a huge help as well) would have to come from a white person.

The amount of power in Mr. Mazzarino's hand is huge. The influence of Sesame Street is huge. And television itself is huge.

And, this is not in any way a mean spirited comment. It is just what it says...posting a comment.

I think it is absolutely wonderful that he has taken this subject on because of his love for his daughter.

I love the video! Beautiful! And Blessed!

Anonymous said...

I love when media is used as it should to educate! Sesame street is huge and now the message is out LOVE YOUR HAIR!

drmsd said...

I'm not sure why, but I found myself tearing up while reading this interview. Maybe I'm just a sucker for parents who walk the walk when it comes to loving their children. I just thought it was so beautiful. It just makes me think of all the stories I've read of fellow naturals being berated by their own mothers for their decision to go natural.

Stephanie said...

Thank you for the outstanding interview Nikki and Joey. I liked the candor of the discussion, and I liked that the "I love my hair" character and song came from a genuine place. I really appreciated how Joey responded to the perm question. It sounds like a good foundation is being set for lil mama's self esteem.

In the same way, this site's positive encouraging messages feed into high self esteem for all people on hair and life journeys.

Hugs to all.

Redeemed said...

I love how Joey and his wife both try and understand their daughter and the issues she might face.As a parent i think its important teach your children to love themselves.I tell my daughter she is beautiful and has beautuiful hair also even i she doesn't understand.(my daughter is 1).

I am also transitioning so my daughter will see me with natural hair. Of those i no that are natural their parents influneced that decision. Parents have a responsibility to onfluence thier children for good no matter what the past or the media says. Great story and interview. :)

Tonya said...

I think bringing the character back as a "regular" on Sesame Street would be incredible! I hope it happens.

Thanks for the interview.

Ms. Overproof said...

YAY!!!!! LOVES IT..

dcnewlyweds said...

What a fantastic article. I love this video and the way it encourages all of us - no matter what age - to "rock what we've got." It's such an important message, especially when you're young and impressionable. How wonderful that Joey and his wife have Carol Price to help guide them along the bumpy road of being a curly girl! Great interview, Nikki!

April said...

I was hoping that I would get a chance to actually read what Joey Mazzarino had to say about the video. Great interview. I hope she doesn't end up perming her hair when she gets older. I think with having such great parents the thought won't even cross her mind.

Anonymous said...

I like that he acknowledged that his daughter's self-esteem wasn't really so much about the video (that was gravy), but the way she was being raised. In the past weeks when people have acted as if this video was some kind of magical charm, I've been dubious.

Personally, I find the song irritating.

It would be good if the character is incorporated into Sesame Street, otherwise, it will seem like a feel-good token "self-esteem" video.

TRCYNCLE said...

Great interview Nikki!I love the video, awesome job Sesame Stree and Mr. Mazzarino!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview Nikki! Thanks!

Skillsgill said...

I had the same reaction as drmsd, I teared up a little reading this article. There are truly beautiful, compassionate people in the world and race has nothing to do with it. Great interview Nikki. I have to figure out how to share it on FB. Maybe I can do so from your FB page=).

cherchezlacurl said...

That is so awesome! I heard his interview on NPR; nice to read more of his perspective.

Channing said...

I loved the video, and after reading this it really makes me appreciate it, and being natural so much more. It is such a blessing and I am so glad that I decided to take this journey. I was having relapes issues a few day ago even set up an appointment, cause I convinced myself it's just hair, but at the end of the day, it's much more and i knew that, this is ME in every way and I'd be a fool to change that.

I realized that my hair may not be the curl I envisioned but it IS the curl i wanted, I just had to get past myself to see that

Anonymous said...

Awesome interview! And it's great how the parents our learning how to take care of HER hair vs. trying to make her hair more like their own.

I don't have kids yet, but if I some glad we are entering this whole natural "revolution" (curly hair, of all textures, in commercials, videos, etc).

Extra kudos to Dad learning how to do hair. I was sick for a week and my boyfriend tried to do my hair...damn near ripped the thoughts out of my head.

Tam

LBell said...

Another interview coup, Nikki! Great job. Thanks!

DMB said...

I enjoyed reading this story, very inspiring

Les said...

I wish some of the parents I know were as loving and accepting of their daughter's curly hair. Still, I'm happy to see there are parents out there who love their little girl and her curly hair.

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview!

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview!

Nutmeg said...

It's weird to say that you love people whom you don't even know, but I love this man and his wife! I love the spirit in which they're raising their daughter and the attention and care they are bringing to her overall esteem and well-being. Job well done!

Anonymous said...

When I first saw this video it brought tears to my eyes! I Love love love it. Thank you so much for doing this for your daughter.

Jasmine said...

omg this is the first time i ever saw the video! it is so cute. i had a little tear! i hope a lot of little curly girls start to feel this way about their hair.

Ugomma said...

OMG I can't believe you got any interview with Joey! I love this man and his work! As a 22 year old I really wish something like this was around when I was younger because I had the same self-image issues with comparing my hair to my white barbies. I really wish they will continue to have this character on Sesame St. she is an INSPIRATION to women young and old!

T. L. HUNTER said...

I TOOK ON AN ATLANTA RADIO STATION FOR BASHING THIS VIDEO
I LOVE this SONG, VIDEO, the story behind it, EVERYTHING! I LOVE IT SO MUCH THAT I TOOK ON A POPULAR ATLANTA RADIO STATION (that has listenership in the thousands) and has primarily African-American audience. This station completely BASHED this video! So I got really angry and wrote them a letter. (See the letter & the radio station’s response below):

FROM ME:

Elle,
First and foremost, you bring a new perspective to the V-103 morning show, which I appreciate.
I am writing about the comments you made on Friday morning, October 15 regarding the Sesame Street video, “I Love My Hair.” I am both saddened and disappointed by your (and seemingly Frank’s ) negative reaction to this video.
You often talk about how you are judged by the way you look, which is wrong … Well, consider the flip-side…there are also many women with darker complexions who are told they are not beautiful because of their skin color, natural hair texture or both. Those women were once little girls, just like the one represented by the puppet in the video.
Historically ( and currently) only straight, wavy, curly are considered by most as beautiful, but not short and/or kinky hair. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against relaxers (I had one for most of my life), weaves, braids, whatever, I say, “Do you!” It’s all beautiful! But so are all of the little girls represented by the puppet in the video. It is irresponsible for a radio station that has a primarily African-American listeners that a video promoting self-love is negative or a “the busta of the week”! I am appalled! Think Frank made some negative remark about ‘cornrows’. Newsflash: many African –American little girls wear cornrows, and they are lovely! The first daughters, Sasha & Malia, wear braids & plaits! Why is it that anything that is afro-centric or “Black” automatically negative? I guess if the little girl was “whipping a relaxer” that would be more acceptable.
Also, you said… “We already have a hair video… “Whip My Hair” by Willow Smith. What does that mean? There is only room for one representation of our beauty? I wholeheartedly reject that notion. Not every little girl has the texture of hair that Willow has (which is beautiful in its right) nor can they “whip” their hair, and they are still beautiful, kinks and all. As long as the hair is clean and well cared for, it’s beautiful. My lingering question is, “How can a video for little girls about loving themselves as they are be one that deserves a “busta” title? It is really pathetic that a black radio station and specifically, a woman of color would be the one to bash this video. Really sad.
Tameeka

T. L. HUNTER said...

FROM HER -- PART III
Tameeka.. I appreciate your email! But I need you to understand a couple things.. #1 the Buster of The Wk is usually tongue in cheek.. meaning its a joke.. I didnt Bust on the message I busted on the wigs they used in the video! I even said the song is adorable and grrr8!! I said they used cheap lookin wigs, crooked wigs and the stereotypical Jamaican costume wig instead of a true depiction of what black hair looks like... The irony was in talking bout real hair w/ wigs on a puppet! LOL! Sometimes I wonder if after 6 yrs on V-103 if ppl understand the SARCASM and tongue in cheek element to my personality and what I do.. The Whip my Har reference is b/c anyone who listens to the show on a regular basis knows I use that clip EVERYTIME i can.. at which point Frank and Wanda roast me fro constantly playing it.. its called a bit.. its a joke.. I played it for DUnta Robinson of the Falcons when he got fined.. to whip his hair back and forth! its an entertainment report..
Not only do I speak, mentor and volunteer with numerous Girls organizations, I speak about the pitfalls of societal pressures.. self image issues and confidence in self! But I'm not one to talk about the amazing opportunites I've bn given to affect change!! Or the prom dresses we help secure for young girls who have no money and are too embarassed to go to Prom.. or the Saturday afternoons spent in an old library with 50 girls crammed in a little room w/ no air talkin about all the things they cant talk to their parents about!

Those things don't come to light, but thats ok.. b/c the only ppl who need to know how much I love and care for these young black girls is them! And no one takes their role as a woman with an ability to help more than I do!

Sorry for the long repsonse, but I feel passionate about the topics.. And I also named them the Buster ONLY at 8:45 if you noticed.. which is whn the little kids are in school! LOL!! Just in case their was confusion by kids!! But I guess I shouldve explained that too! Thank you again for your email.. I love the discussion and i THANK YOU soooooo much for listening!

PS- I turned down a few thousand dollars in endorsement money from a hair company who wanted me to promote their relaxers.. NEVER had one and I told them I wouldnt encourage black women to do it to their hair either!! And giiiirl it's a recession but sometimes you have to stand on prinicipal

T. L. HUNTER said...

FROM ME:
Elle, first, my email was NOT meant to offend you, or to have you take it personally. My only goal was to share a different perspective on your comments. As I said, I think you are certainly entertaining on the show and I LOVE that you are a woman who knows so much about sports! Also, I am sure you do a lot of good in the community, but honestly, that wasn't (and isn't) my point. It’s not about you per se, only what you said.

It is irrelevant that you comment was played at 8:45 am, since children have parents and older relatives who hear and discuss what happens on your show daily, so the time it aired doesn’t matter. And you are right, many people (not just children) may be unable to parse out sarcasm, or a tongue-in-cheek bit, from serious journalism -- and that is precisely my point, since many may not realize you are "joking", it came across as your being negative about the video as a whole, whether you intended it to or not. And in my opinion, this video shouldn’t have been joked about, but rather it should be praised.
For the record, I am not really talking about the puppet here, but rather the population the puppet represents. This video is about "self-love", and loving yourself as you are, in this case, deep brown with natural hair. If you don't think it is "that serious" consider the fact that even the original version of the video went viral -- then take a moment read the comments grown women left as a result of seeing the video; it's pretty poignant. If you do this, you will find that it is "that serious" for many who have endured teasing for years because these god-given characteristics. As a result, many women go and “fix” (as though it’s broken) their hair by chemically altering it. Just because you didn’t (don’t) live a particular portion of our experience, doesn’t mean you can’t be sensitive to it.
It is great that you work with young girls personally, but you missed an opportunity to impact the much larger audience of your listeners. We will just have to “agree to disagree” on this issue because I still feel your comments were irresponsible…
HER APOLOGY!!! (yey)!
i understand and you're right, I dont have the same perspective at all about that particular subject.. and I deeply apologize if i was being insensitive.. I know the subject of self love was and is very poignant and my life as well as a black woman in schools w/ no one that looked like me, with hips like me and curly (they consider nappy..lol) hair.. and I spent a long time hating myself too.. because I flet like I had to be something I wasnt.. and I struggled until my 20's w/ it.. So if thats how many women also felt about their hair then I feel terrible for even crackn a joke at it! I do! And I'm very thankful for your comments in a nonaggressive way.. Like I said, I love debate and I can admit when I'm wrong.. I'm sorry and again.. you shed some perspective.. I thank you

Anonymous said...

How can I get in contact with this guy over this...

https://welovefine.com/shop/CHARACTER/Sesame-street/Love-My-Hair.html

I'm pretty sure it's illegal.

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