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Annie in a twist in whirl of curls

Monday, January 26, 2015
Caribbean mothers prefer to plait the hair of their children with naturally curly locks.

The new must-have look for black girls in movies is a politically-correct headful of curls. 

They are rocking “natural’’ curls in the commercials too. You can hardly settle down to your bowl of cornflakes or oatmeal without the cutest little girls with bouncy mop-tops grinning back at you.

Fifty years after the afro became a statement, movie producers want the real thing. Sort of.

I should be happy about this black hair presence because I have been rebelling half my life against the demands of peers and parents who want girls and women of The Fro to fight their hair’s natural tendencies and make their crowning glory so flat and depressed that it would need valium and a box of Kleenex to get through an average day.

But, you guessed it—I am not doing somersaults yet. 

Because it’s all lies, I tell you, lies.

What, you think real little black girls go skipping along with their hair all wiggly and wind-assisted like they do on TV? 

Take Quvenzhane Wallis in the new Annie, produced by Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, and starring Jamie Foxx as Mr Stacks, a better-looking but germophobic obsessive-compulsive Daddy Warbucks who can sing and dance. Quvenzhane’s Annie hair was all free and cute and bopping along with her every hop, skip and jump. 

When Annie sees herself on TV as Stacks makes her the centre of his campaign for mayor, she exclaims: “My hair is huge!’’

How adorable! Yeah, In Movieland! You think any real black child was going to be allowed to live with hair like that? Even a little it’s-hard-knock-life-orphan-foster-kid? Black hair takes lots of loving care—and time. We don’t just wash and go. That carefree Annie movie look takes hours to get camera ready. No neglected foster baby could afford the maintenance for that hair. And alcoholic foster mother Ms Hannigan (Cameron Diaz happily attacked the role like a butcher at the beef market) would have taken a razor to that story a long time ago.

In the real world, that hair would have been twisted and polished with some good dollops of pomade and confined to neat cane rows or plaits with big red ribbons or a bunch of coloured plastic hair clips. Even baby celebrity Blue Ivy was rocking little pom-poms (called afro puffs by the non-Caribbean hair illiterate) at the premiere of the movie which she attended with power parents Beyonce and Jay Z. Further proof: Quvenzhane herself at the premiere had ditched the Annie look and was her real self with baby-doll drop curls, the result of a hot iron, no doubt.

Shamelessly, the director had Rose Byrne (somebody hand this woman a sandwich, please) say, as she helps Annie get ready for a big event: “Let’s fix your hair.” My heart fluttered—what was this woman going to do to this child! 

“Fix,” however, meant meekly sticking a decorative pin in there, and Byrne then let her hands hover over the crop of curls as if touching it might set off a bomb. 

Look out, by the way, for the hair scene in Black or White in which Kevin Costner attacks the hair of his bi-racial granddaughter, played by Jillian Estell. All the promotional pictures show Jillian with a bunch of softie curls, which would appease movie producers and charm audiences—except real mothers will know the truth. 

Before, little black girls who were abused by stereotypes used to secretly wish they had straight or wavy Barbie hair. Now they have a new stereotype to live up to—black intermediate movie hair—not fried and laid to the side, but not the real thing either.

All my life I have had this responsibility to educate fools about what it means to have hair that does not conform to stereotypes. 

Now, the image-making mafia is kind of getting the message, though late, and is telling us it is okay by for black chicks to own their hair—in a politically correct Hollywood kind of way.


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