Viola Davis is still in the headlines. A pretty impressive feat considering that Meryl Streep finally won another Oscar after 12 consecutive nominations without wins and should be the talk of the town. It has to be a bittersweet moment for Davis because she and Streep are such good friends. Still, there’s no better actress deserving of acting’s highest honor and her record of nominations and wins speaks for itself. To think, the last Academy Award win was for Sophie’s Choice; a film that’s older than me. Who could begrudge Meryl an Academy Award even if this wasn’t the best performance of the year? (It may have been. I didn’t see either The Help or The Iron Lady.) Meryl Streep has given us Marvin’s Room, One True Thing, The Devil Wears Prada, Doubt and Mamma Mia! and countless other stellar performances without a win. For that, I’m genuinely happy about this win. She knows there aren’t an abundance of roles to choose from at her age and the opportunity for an Oscar worthy role might not come around again. As the best in the industry age out, the rising stars like Davis should have their fill of disappointment. It’s a cold world out there. Hell, a quarter of a century from now we’ll be having a conversation about Davis aging out of Hollywood.
But for now, we have to talk about Viola’s natural hair. Wasn’t she stunning? When did she make the big chop? How long has she been wearing such horrid wigs? Who is her stylist and why hasn’t she been fired? How many of you knew she was natural under there? How many of you are upset that the conversation has shifted to hair? Why is our culture so utterly ridiculous that we’re so concerned with Viola’s hair, Angelina’s leg, and Bradley Cooper’s mustache (the latter two now have their own Twitter accounts)?
I don’t have any answers. I’m actually more concerned with the conflict between Israel and Iran and the consequential backlash sure to involve the U.S. military than her hair. I’m more concerned that people are talking about Angelina’s dress and leg but not doing anything to help her when she’s clearly starving herself. So maybe the attention on stuff that doesn’t matter serves as a mask to cover the heartbreaking realities of life. Or maybe we’re all just really really shallow.
Back to Viola. She’s beautiful but hardly anyone knew until her spread in the LA Times Magazine because in every lead performance I’ve seen (Doubt and Antwone Fisher) she’s doing the ugly cry. Think back. Have any of her characters ever not been a hot sobbing mess? Why is she always snotting out the nose? That’s not cute. Who could ever see past the ugly cry? Luckily, she does. She owned that haircut, the dress and the spotlight. And when she stepped out on the red carpet, she forced the world to see past the ugly cry and hideous wigs she used to cover up what’s so beautiful in every woman. What I love most is that it is natural — that she owns her natural beauty and doesn’t buy into the hype that she has to straighten her hair or lose thirty pounds or dye her hair blonde or get a nose job to get closer to fitting the European mold of beauty.
Herein lies the double edge sword. First, none of us should actually be looking to celebrities or models as the standard of beauty. It leads to unhealthy comparisons, low self-esteem, eating disorders, etc. A&E even has documentaries on people addicted to plastic surgery and as much as we want to judge them, we fall prey to the same line of thinking but in a much saner way. Because wanting to look like people who are beautiful (and really, what is beautiful?) and who look nothing like you is a recipe for disaster. Yet, if we’re going to live in a society that objects people into body parts, hair textures, and skin colors then by all means, can we please live in a society that objects different sized body parts, an array skin colors, and more than one hair texture?
I’d like to think I’m above needing to see natural, beautiful women on-screen. I’m pretty confident about my own natural hair (est. 2006). I don’t walk around trash-talking African-American women who relax their hair. I don’t think they’re mentally enslaved by standards of beauty they could never naturally possess. I’m not making some big bold statement. I like straight hair. And I love running my fingers through my hair. I actually miss that the most. Still, I really love my natural hair. At the risk of sounding incredibly vain, I’m just going to say it because it has to be said. I’ve got really nice hair. Nice curl pattern — not too tightly coiled, kind of springy as it grows out in the back. Incredibly soft. Yes, people love to touch my hair and comment on how soft it is. Not at all like a Brillo pad. So yeah, I don’t need to see Black women with natural hair in Hollywood. But it still brought a smile to my face.
Am I off to Hollywood as the next brown skin natural Melissa McCarthy? Nope. I’ll stick to writing. But as the beauty on-screen grows to be more inclusive of diverse, natural, full-figured women, hopefully there will be less of societal pressure to look just one way. If everyone can easily find their beauty mark already on the screen, there’s no need to look like anyone other than our natural selves.