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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. All Beauty Everything

    As a black woman who just doesn’t get it and really does feel it’s just hair, rock it the way you choose, I find it crazy that so many of us whittle ourselves down to hair. Hair! It is laughable. The debates I see online between natural women and women who relax are pure comedy.

    We can be so silly and focused on the wrong things. Hair is personal choice. I personally think Viola looks great with her wigs and she looked great last night. She didn’t look great because of her hair, she looked great because she was confident, she was nominated for a prestigious award, she’s happy, she’s extremely talented, she’s a new mom to a baby girl, she’s got the love and support of her husband, but black folks have side swept all that and made this about her hair. Wow.

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    • I got sense!

      Agreed. I just don’t get it.

      To Whom It May Concern,
      Regardless of how much emphasis each person DECIDES to put on hair, its importance is not the same to every man, woman and child. If your hair is everything to you and more important than your health, wealth accumulation, education, and future by all means worship your idol god but for many other women like me the DEAD fibers sprouting from my head neither make me nor break me. It’s an accessory that I adorn, care for, and change whenever I feel like it. I have more important things to worry about.

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    • Whatever

      Hair for women of all races is a multi billion dollar industry. It clearly isn’t “just hair.” While I agree it should be… it’s not. Hair will be just hair when a black woman can walk into any board room with Esperanza’s afro.

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    • @Whatever:

      I agree

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  2. isola

    You go Viola, stunning. Can’t wait for the day when not wearing a wig, not straightening your hair or rocking a natural is so newsworthy.

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  3. As sad as her hair was, we need to let that rest. As for Viola and Esperanza loved, loved their hair. Viola was beyond stunning. Viola deserves a win after 2 nominations for a meatier role. We need someone to write her a phenomenal script. Esperanza’s ‘fro was the boss and she sang beautifully.

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    • I agree on all fronts, including giving poor Gabourey a break.

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  4. Usagi

    Viola look fugly w/ short hair and she should’ve stayed a bruntte. It is just hair. I will NEVER understand other bp obsessing about hair. I find annoying and retarded. I just my eyes.But I’ve seen non-black(even white people) have hair issuses. But it tends to be geared more towards hair color. There’s this weird borderline self-hate thing with bleach their hair.

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  5. PeeWee

    Esperanza’s hair is always in a fro, so that ain’t news…

    Viola looked AMAZING to me, I absolutely loved everything about the way she looked last night, copper colored twa, green plunging dress and all. I hope she never puts that damn road kill on her head again hahah

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