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Viola Davis on the red carpet

Last night at the 84th annual Academy Awards, the stars lit up the red carpet in true Hollywood fashion. While many oogled the designer dresses, jewelry, and stars, black Twitter (and the Negro-net) was steadily giving props to Viola Davis for her “bold” choice to rock her natural hair on Hollywood’s biggest night.

While white folks didn’t seem to care, Twitter, Facebook, and blogs lit up with stories about how FAB Davis looked in her emerald green Vera Wang gown and short TWA (tiny weeny afro).

To say she looked stunning is an understatement. Viola glowed! Her deep brown skin positively shimmered against the contrast of the green dress, and her natural ‘do was a welcomed reprieve from the (tired) wigs she usually wears. Although I have no problem with wigs, weaves, and adding a little something to what God gave you, let’s just say Ms. Viola doesn’t always choose the best hair pieces, and after showing off her curls in the LA Times magazine shoot, I didn’t see any reason to keep them under wraps any longer.

But the relationship between black women and our hair is….complicated.

For every person who screams, “It’s just hair!” there are 20 others who will tell you it is anything but. While I hope we get to the “it’s just hair” stage in my lifetime, I won’t be surprised if it goes the way of finding Biggie and Tupac’s killers, peace in the Middle East, and putting an end to global warning: It’ll never happen.

For centuries, our bodies, our hair, and our being have been up for public discussion and display and we cannot deny the fact that sometimes hair is political.

Viola’s choice to strip down to her natural ‘do was not only a triumph for her (because she looked banging), but it was a shout out to black women around the world. By showing up sans wig, Davis told the world that black women–however we chose to look–are JUST as amazingly beautiful as anyone else.

Seeing Viola Davis shining on the red carpet and in the front row made my heart smile. Even though she didn’t bring home the Oscar (peace to Meryl Streep), Viola made an indelible mark on the show.

And as writer and culturist Rebecca Walker put it, Viola used “her hair to say, ‘Don’t be confused. I am not who I play on TV or movies. I have left the plantation and wait for no one to tell my story.’”

Esperanza Spalding and Chris Rock at the Oscars

Along with Viola’s choice to rock a slightly chunky TWA, natural hair was also center stage throughout the night. Although some cracked jokes on Chris Rock’s Fredrick Douglas ‘fro,  I must say I thought he added a bit of much-needed “color” to the otherwise white-on-white affair (and his humor? On point). Perhaps it was a tad too high, but I was feeling Rock’s hair.  Like Davis Chris Rock showed that he wasn’t really interested to caving to the traditional standards in terms of his style. Bravo, Chris.

Esperanza Spalding also graced the show with her ‘huge 70s throwback, black-power-fist-in-your-eye afro. As she sang, “What A Wonderful World,” Spalding proudly showed off her signature hairstyle and didn’t try to “tame” her hair for such a prestigious evening. While many sisters would have been looking for the nearest pressing comb (or headband), Esperanza embraced her hair and let it shine almost as loudly as her voice.

Oscar night wasn’t a complete coup for black hair, though. While Viola Davis, Chis Rock, Octavia Spencer (her hair was LAID!), and Esperanza looked absolutely magical, once again, Gabourey Sidibe got played.

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57 Comments

  1. I am all for natural hair, but I did not like how she had it out and not neatly styled. She could have pinned it up or something and still be reppin natural hair but in a classy way after all this was a formal event. I think this is a reason why some women don’t go natural because of how other women portray it. Sorry but there was nothing flattering about that hair.

  2. I know this is a bit of old news now, but it’s still important. In a culture where the standard of beauty is still so narrow (pretty = light skin + straight hair), it’s really important for icons to help broaden this definition. Especially for impressionable young girls that need to see examples of different women in order to be more comfortable with themselves. Personally, I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that nobody who looks like me will ever be selling toothpaste on TV… And then I realized I was ok with that. http://fashionistalab.com/2012/01/31/the-great-hair-transformation-of-2012/

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