A few years ago, my best friend Lola turned to me and said, “I don’t know why you don’t just let your hair go natural and not put any chemicals in it. I’ve seen your hair before you get it permed, and you have naturally wavy hair.”
Mind you, Lola has beautiful, thick, bouncy hair that she only has to wash to get it looking good. So my first inclination was to look at her as if she had asked me to kiss the grand marshal of the Ku Klux Klan.
But then I realized that she was trying to understand. See, I thought about going “natural,” i.e., not perming my hair. But that would constitute my cutting off all my hair to start over, locating someone in South Florida who can take care of natural hair well, and then ponying up the money to get it done, because it’s not cheap.
That seemed like a far-fetched idea.
Most of you have never seen me before, but my own hair is down my back, and I get it permed every six weeks to keep it that way. I wrap my hair every night, and I spend about $60 a month on hair care in total. Compared to women who spend hundreds of dollars on weave, I’d say I’m not doing too bad.
But I’ll get to that in a moment.
In the movie Good Hair, Chris Rock explores black women and their hair. The catalyst for this experiment is the 50th Annual Bonner Brothers Battle Royale in Atlanta, Ga., where four hair stylists put on skits to illustrate their talents.
During the film, Rock addresses perms and weaves. He even does a stint on natural hair.
The scariest parts of this film, written by Rock, Lance Crouther, Paul Marchand, Chuck Sklar and Jeff Stilson, are the six-year old girl who is shown getting her hair permed, a scientist showing the effects of sodium hydroxide on cans of soda, and the revelation about where a lot of the Indian weave originates.
In the film, directed by Stilson, it is found that a can of soda, left in a tube of sodium hydroxide (the main ingredient used in relaxers) for three hours will disintegrate into nothing.
In other news, Coca-Cola is used to clean corroded batteries. My point is: Yes, the chemicals used in relaxers aren’t healthy to leave in the hair for long periods of time, but they only stay in there for 15 to 20 minutes.
I see where Rock’s heart is in showing this experiment: in a good place. But 90 percent of the time, relaxers don’t get to that point.
Moving on, many high-end Indian weave salespersons get their hair from Mr. Esp. Murali, known as the Hair Entrepreneur of India. He gets his hair from temples, which perform a sacred rite called tonsure. Tonsure is what happens when a person sacrifices all of the hair on her head to her god. Most of the people who practice this rite do it at least twice in their lifetimes.
The rest of the hair is stolen from unsuspecting women while they sleep or watch a film in a movie theater. The hair is then taken to affluent places such as Los Angeles, and sold to hair stylists. Apparently, a lot of well-to-do people, including celebrities, pay top dollar to have their hair weaved. When I say top dollar, I mean $1,000. So, my $60 a month in total hair expenses doesn’t seem so bad.
Rock, taking a journalist’s approach to black hair, objectively travels the world, from Atlanta to India to Los Angeles, to find out what black hair care is all about. When I think about it, if Rock and his band of men had not gone through the trouble to showcase this industry, would black people actually pay attention? Sure, there are people like me who read about this stuff in Essence magazine, but there aren’t too many of us.
Rock also uses star power for his message, i.e., Maya Angelou, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Sandra “Pepa” Denton, Eve, Melyssa Ford, Meagan Good, Andre Harrell, Ice-T, Cheryl “Salt” James, KRS-One, Lauren London, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Faheem “T-Pain” Najm, Raven-Symoné, Sallie Richardson-Whitfield, Al Sharpton, Tracie Thoms, and Kerri Washington to grab his audience’s attention and take an honest look at black hair care.
I would tell you which actresses wear weaves and which types, but I think you readers owe it to yourselves to watch the film. It’s educational, funny, and makes me think about my own hair care.
Who knows? I may decide to go natural, after all. It would be nice to go swimming and not have to deal with three hours of washing, conditioning, greasing, drying and flat ironing.