In the latest episode of my digital series, Get Your Life, the lead character finds herself at an audition with a number of other black women. Stuck in the waiting room together, due to a scheduling error, things get heated when they start bickering about everything from who’s being “extra black”, what is considered “attractive”, and of course, hair. Barbs are thrown and the catty convo culminates in a church sequence where the lead character poses the questions to her fellow blacktresses:
How many times have you wondered what wig will I give em today?! I give em kinky, will the think Kunta?! If I give em bone straight will they say, ‘Well, them edges is too laid to lead a revolution!’
In the episode, it’s hilarious and meant to be over the top, but the question it’s based on, is rooted in reality. I had an audition the other day and the role was described as “Upscale, fit and over- achieving. Mean, never pulls any punches. Attractive, wealthy, sharp tongued.” When I read this, I immediately started putting a timetable together to straighten my hair. Then I caught myself and realized there was something more to explore. What in that description made me immediately feel like I needed to straighten my hair? I won’t front, it wasn’t about her being mean, or attractive. It was, ‘upscale and wealthy’ that took me there. In that moment I realized, dammit Amanda, you been brainwashed too!
Y’all curly girls know about it. When you straighten your hair people act like you’re a magician who did some mind blowing trick! They treat you with a bit more reverence, more “seriousness”. Kind of like, “oh, this is a look that means business!” I remember once, I had walked in the studio with my hair straight and T.I. said, “I see you done got your hair to lay down.” I won’t lie and tell you I was offended. It was coming out that immaculate face of his, but it did give me pause and stuck with me since, because he had the same tone that I get all the time in this business when I unkink the curly. It is no question that when I straighten my hair I am treated with an elevated status that says, “this is what success look like.” Which is bullshit.
But what’s a girl to do? Because even if I am enlightened enough to know that colonialist and European standards of beauty do not determine or indicate one’s wealth or social status I can’t possibly assume that the casting directors I’m going in for do. Most aren’t even looking at it that deep. They’re simply looking at an aesthetic that matches a character that matches a script and since wealth is still associated with whiteness, a black character possessing wealth is still generally envisioned as one assuming that aesthetic. Case in point, I was brought in the next day for the role of the head servant of a household. At the audition, it was a room of curlies as far as the co-wash can see! It’s no coincidence none of us felt compelled to “dekink” for this role.
Is this just another example of the Hollywood homogenizing of black women? Yes. So are we brainwashed, or just accommodating the Hollywood that is? It depends on the person. Leading my own mini revolution, I decided to go into the audition for the “upscale mean black woman” (I’m paraphrasing) with my hair curly. Ya know, take my own little stand. This is also affluence! This is also upscale! This is also over achieving! After, I mustered up the nerve to just straight up ask the casting director, does she equate this type of role with straight hair. Surprisingly, she said, “no.” But followed with, “but that’s just me. It’s all subjective.” And that’s the point. It shouldn’t be. (We keep saying this, but I’m a say it again for the people in the back) It should be factual that black women’s hair is not a reflection of their status but their style. I’m a businesswoman whether my hair is curly or straight. Curly is not synonymous with low income. I mean, hell with all the products available to keep that curl lustrous this look ain’t cheap!
I didn’t get a call back, and I like to think that was simply because the role wasn’t right for me, but a lil birdie in the back of my head can’t help but wonder if it was also because my hair wasn’t right for the role.
Another day being black & curly in LA!
Amanda Seales is a comedian/host/writer. From her work as host and commentator on MTV, VH1, CNN and more, to her many digital (TIL This Week, AOL’s The Spark), stage (Mo Betta Wu, It’s Complicated, Sideye Seminar) productions, and more, she is a force of nature creating smart content that keeps it funny while keeping it real! Check out her latest project, Get Your Life, a scripted series about her unscripted life on Youtube.com/IssaRae and check out more of her hilarious work at www.AmandaSeales.com. Follow her on Twitter/IG/Youtube @AmandaSeales
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If the grass is greener on the other side, work on your own lawn!