Thursday, 29 October 2009

has women talking, Chris Rock’s ‘Hair’ documentary

For black women, hair has always been a don’t touch, don’t tell subject.
Comedian Chris Rock turned up the volume in his movie “Good Hair,” pondering why black women spend a fortune for straighter hair, dismissing their natural curl as inferior.
Fallout from the film has sparked a dialogue that brings the controversial subject the costs! the chemicals! out of the salon and onto Main Street.
“I found it a little disturbing,” said Tamara Buchanan, a Suffolk University graduate student.
Buchanan, who is working on a master’s in women’s health, went to look the film expecting Rock “to just make fun of our secret.”
“But I’m a little more educated for seeing it,” said the Roxbury resident, adding she was stunned to learn that the expensive weaves black women spend entire paychecks on are a product of a Hindu haircutting ritual in India.
Buchanan’s pal, Codie Anne Crew, agreed, “It makes you wonder.”
Larry Hamilton, a stylist at Patrice Vinci Salon on Newbury Street, who specializes in relaxers, said hair is a loaded topic for his clients. “It’s a self-esteem issue,” he said. “Coarser, curlier is bad.”
Hamilton, who charges $100 to $120 for chemical straightening, hadn’t seen “Good Hair.” Many of his clients wish they could wear their hair naturally, but get caught up trying to emulate celebrities, he said.
“In some places, if it’s natural, it’s not acceptable,” he said. “There are stigmas to it.”
Buchanan, who currently spent eight hours and $170 on synthetic twists at Helen’s Hair Connections in Roxbury, said the plastic extensions are easy to manage. Her pal, Crew, who had perms during high school, said her current style - natural - is more authentic than ones she’s had in the past.
“You grow into it and you grow into your own self,” she said.
Black hair’s only going to get more attention with the early December release of Disney’s first black-princess movie, “The Princess and the Frog,” and Lisa Price thinks that’s a good thing.

Price is the founder of Carol’s Daughter, a natural line of hair products, and earned Disney’s approval to market the official line of “The Princess and the Frog” shampoo, conditioner and detangler to stores such as Macy’s.
“It’s an honor,” said Price, who counts her 3 year old daughter among the impressionable audience that is hungry for a black princess role model.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Chris Rock's: Twist on a cultural craving

'Hair is a woman's glory," says a wise and worldly Maya Angelou in Chris Rock's greatfully funny, probing coif-doc, Good Hair.
A thoughtful examination of African American women - and African American men - and their feelings about follicles, Good Hair has the comedian and acerbic social commentator trekking from Atlanta to New York to India, asking the tough questions of singers, actresses, high schoolers, and kids, moms, dads, and businessfolk. And business it is: Black Americans spend $9 billion annually treating and straightening - or "relaxing" - their hair, and account for 80 percent of the country's hair-product sales, according to the film.
"You get up and comb your economic exploitation every morning," the Rev. Al Sharpton half-jokes, his trademark James Brown pomp slickly in place for Rock's camera. (And Sharpton explains how the soul singer came to literally shape Sharpton's hairstyle - on a trip to the Reagan White House.)
Good Hair is certainly no arid anthropological study. Rock's queries are loose and quippy, but his instincts are as sharp as an investigative journalist's. If the 1960s gave African Americans a new sense of heritage, a renewed pride that manifested itself in the natural 'do of the Afro, why do so many blacks so many decades later subject themselves to painful and costly chemical treatments to straighten their hair, to make it "lighter and brighter and better"? Implicitly, to make it whiter?
Good Hair, then, is about black identity and self image as much as it's about commerce and cosmetics. Eve, Melyssa Ford, the duo of Salt-N-Pepa, Nia Long, Vanessa Bell Calloway - a host of smart, beautiful African American women muse about their weaves, wigs, and extensions, and their essence.
Speaking of extensions, Rock sojourns to a Hindu temple in India where women shave their heads as a form of sacrifice to the gods, and canny entrepreneurs at the temple's back door scoop up the silky tresses and export them to America, where they're sold in beauty salons and hair supply shops for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars.
Rock also heads to the Bronner Bros. International Hair Show, an over-the-top annual trade event in Atlanta, where hair products are on display and a wild and crazy stylists' competition combines technique and artistry with a cheesy Vegas aesthetic.
Although its tone is generally genial and jovial, Good Hair touches on some tricky issues, at times complicitly. When Rock enters a Korean-owned hair-supply shop in California that caters to blacks, his condescending questions point to the friction between African Americans and Asians in ways that aren't altogether amusing.
But Good Hair is better than those few shaky moments; it's a documentary that has a lot on its mind as well as a lot on its, er, head.