With the release of a new Netflix original movie focused around Black women’s hair and conforming to society’s standards, Black female students at the University of Texas at Austin realize how the film speaks to their problems surrounding their hair choices.
Story by Ceinna Little
On Sept. 21, Netflix released Nappily Ever After. This movie follows Violet Jones, who was brought up by her mother to assimilate to White society in order to become successful and marry an affluent man. She straightens her hair and puts on makeup before her boyfriend wakes up in order to convince him that she is always “perfect”. After two years of her relationship fail in the result of a proposal she has a breakdown and undergoes a “big chop” and impulsively cuts all of her hair off. The movie is broken down into stages: straighten, weave, bald, new growth and then nappily ever after.
The movie is overall entertaining and raises a lot of important points about today’s culture. Jones has two love interests —her boyfriend Clint and a salon owner named Will. Clint thinks Jones is initially “too perfect” but once she embraces her new growth, asks for her to straighten her hair for their engagement party. Will, on the other hand, makes his own natural hair care line and has a daughter who he will not let straighten or relax her hair. He falls for Jones but they eventually get in a dispute that calls their relationship off. However, instead of ending the movie on a cliche “Violet finds a man who loves her with her natural hair”, the movie ends with her being single but finding acceptance for herself. The movie’s main theme is self-love, which is a refreshing take. This is a romance movie, but the main romance is between Jones and herself.
With the main topic of the movie being Black women embracing their natural self even in predominantly White spaces, Nappily Ever After made me think about the comfortability and confidence that Black students feel in their natural hair on a predominantly white campus like UT.
Linda Hamilton, a first-year journalism major, says that UT is doing okay in embracing diversity; however, Black UT contributes the most towards her confidence. “As I saw more and more Black people wearing and embracing their natural hair, I grew more confident wearing out mine,” Hamilton said. “Without Black UT, my confidence would not be the same. They have really made this campus a home. The fact that we are only 5% of this college campus contributes both towards my confidence and insecurity. There are less of us, so we stand out.”
Although some students feel very confident about wearing their hair down, students such as business honors first year Eri Adepoju are a bit more apprehensive. She says, “I feel confident wearing my natural hair, but I know I will get stares. “Although there is nothing UT can themselves do to make me feel more confident because it is on the individual, I see people walking around embracing their natural hair which makes me more confident. Being in business honors, I do feel more pressure to be professional and decent, especially since there are less Black people in this major, but I know that I am not limited to wearing a bun.”
Nutrition third year Julliet Ogu says that she is used to to stares she receives when wearing her natural hair. “I am comfortable wearing my natural hair, but the staring is annoying. I’ve become numb to it, though,” Ogu said. “Some people who attend UT are not used to being around Black people. There is nothing UT themselves can do, or have done, to encourage or discourage this behavior. I do have to be mindful when going to office hours, like, yeah maybe I shouldn’t wear a huge afro today.” Ogu shares the same sentiment as Adepoju and Hamilton. The main thing causing insecurity is the stares they get from strangers.
Jones had the same experience when she first cut her hair off. Business people in her office would look at her with curiosity and confusion, while the lawn men who would usually lust over her with straight hair completely ignored her. Her own mother had a strong distaste for her with short hair, even accusing her of being lesbian. It all came down to Jones having to build up her confidence, like the UT students above have. Confidence and self-love are key in the journey to discovering and embracing one’s self.