Friday, 6 November 2009

The billion dollar black 'good hair' industry to the Chris Rock

Emmy winning comedian to a Chris Rock , devoted husband and loving father --but this funnyman it's time to get to know a new side. Meet Chris Rock, hair expert.
It's a detour he took after an innocent carpool ride left Rock with an idea he just couldn't shake.
"I was with my daughter one day, and we're in the car and she's with one of her friends in the back seat, a little white friend," he says. "She was just kind of raving about her friend's hair a little too much for my comfort [saying]: 'You've got great hair. Oh, your hair's so good.'"
Not wanting to make her comments a big deal, Rock says he tried to play his them off. "[I said]: "Oh, baby, your hair's beautiful. Come on,'" he says. "If I would have really reacted, then she would have a complex about her hair."
Still, Rock couldn't let it go. "It sparked something in me," he says. Oprah's hair throughout the years!
What Rock discovered is a $9 billion industry that affects the daily activities, wallets, self esteem -- and even the sex lives -- of black women. Because women spend so much time and money on their hair, Rock says men are forced to adopt a hands off policy.
If you've got a weave, your scalp's like a beat up highway--Chris Rock "You cannot touch a black woman's hair. You are conditioned not to even go there," he says. "When I was a dating guy, I dated women from different races. Anytime I was with an Asian or a Puerto Rican girl or a white girl, my hands would constantly be in their hair. Like my hands were thirsty."
One of the first lessons Rock learned on this journey was that women do their hair for one another. "They say it's for the men, but it's actually for the women. Because guys don't care," he says. "There's no point in the history of the world where men were not sleeping with the women in front of them. We take what we can get."
Actress Nia Long, who Rock interviews in the film, agrees. "There's always this sort of pressure within the black community like, if you have good hair, you're prettier or better than the brown skinned girl that wears the Afro or the dreads or the natural hairstyle," she says. Oprah's stylist reveals his hair secrets
Rock found the biggest moneymaker in the hair business to be weaves. Black women can spend six to eight hours getting their hair braided into tiny sections. Stylists then delicately attach tracks of hair -- which can be simple extensions or full wigs -- to the braids.
"If you've got a weave, your scalp's like a beat up highway," Rock jokes.
Women who wear weaves stop by the salon for regular washes, conditioning and tightening, but the real expense lies with the hair itself. Rock says he was shocked to learn that regular women spend thousands of dollars on weaves -- and even put them on layaway.
"Janet Jackson spends $5,000 to go to the Grammys on her hair. I didn't know Kiki was spending $5,000 to go to AT&T and answer the phone," he says. "That was disturbing."
Rock discovered the hottest hair on the market is found in India, where human hair is the number two export behind software. "This is some of the worst poverty in the world," he says. "I don't think [people] know they're walking around with $1,000 on their head."
While in India, Rock witnessed a tonsuring ceremony at the Venkateswara Temple. Every year, more than 10 million people cut their hair off as an offering to the Hindu gods. "In India, hair is considered a vanity, and removing hair is considered an act of self sacrifice," he says.
"These people have no idea where their hair is going or how much it's worth. The money made at this temple is second only to the Vatican. The hair collected here is auctioned off to exporters who distribute it around the planet."
Another staple of the industry is relaxers -- also called "creamy crack" by some. While women of other races use perms to add curl, black women use them to straighten their hair. "You name a black woman, any black woman," Rock says. "They've either had their hair relaxed, or they're having their hair relaxed right now."
The active ingredient in relaxer is a substance called sodium hydroxide. The chemical is so strong it can burn a woman's hair off -- which is why Rock is urging parents to stop the relaxing addiction now. "This kiddie perm has to stop, okay? They shouldn't have to worry about that till they're in their teens," he says. "Putting those chemicals in that child's hair is just not cool."
Rock says he tells his own daughters they're beautiful every moment he can --and has only one answer when it comes to questions of having good hair. "Whatever makes you happy is good hair," he says. "Do your hair for you, and you will be glad."

Monday, 2 November 2009

Documentary 'Good Hair' has roots in Birmingham to Comedian Chris Rock's

Comedian Chris Rock's newly released documentary, "Good Hair," has
some good connections in and around Birmingham.
Parts of the movie, which explores the lengths many African American women go through to change their hair, were filmed in Birmingham in 2007. Two Birmingham hair stylists are in the movie, and a Birmingham freelance film producer and a Miles College instructor worked as production assistants on the film.
"It actually puts us on the map," said independent film producer Jana Harris, who worked as a production assistant and showed Rock and his crew around the city during their weeklong visit. "People don't think of Birmingham as an ideal location (for filming.) But, I think having a movie of this magnitude shows other producers what they can do here."
Rock has said he got the idea for the movie, which was released nationally nine days ago, when one of his daughters asked him why she didn't have "good hair," referring to straight, long, flowing hair.
Determined to uncover why she would think that, Rock delved into African American hair culture with a documentary. He explored the multibillion dollar African American hair industry, and how African-American women have turned to relaxers to different their hair texture from overly curly to straight. Women also use weaves for convenience, to achieve different textures or to get a variety of looks.
While many African American women are content with the hair they were born with, there are still many, many others who seek to change it.
Rock interviewed everyday women and men in salons, barbershops and elsewhere in Birmingham, Atlanta, New York and Dallas. He also talked to several celebrities, including Nia Long, Maya Angelou and Raven Symone. Rock used humor to make people think.
"The movie deals with social issues in the black community such as economic empowerment and images of beauty," said Demetrius Newton Jr., a Miles College communications instructor who worked as a production assistant on the film. "Despite the fact that he presents it in a humorous manner, these are serious issues."
Part of Rock's research led him to Atlanta, where the Bronner Bros. hair company puts on an annual hair show competition. Birmingham stylist Tanya Crumel of Pedestals Salon was one of the four contestants.
Rock interviewed her and filmed her as she prepared for competition. Crumel's business partner, Kevin Kirk, is in the movie, too.
"I wasn't selected to be in the movie at first. They came there looking for Tanya," Kirk said. "They didn't actually know me. But, when they met me, and realized the history I had," he said they incorporated him into the story.
Kirk has won first place at three Bronner Bros.' hair shows, including in August when he took home $20,000 and a new Ford Taurus.
Since his third win and the movie's release, he's received requests to judge hair shows and teach classes; and a national magazine has asked him to review a hair product, he said.
Although Kirk and Crumel are happy about the movie's release, it comes at a time when they are in mourning. Crumel's 18 year old son and Huffman High School senior, Jeremy Crumel, was in a car accident on Oct. 25 and died two days later.
To give Crumel a break from everything, Kirk and others took her to see the film three days after Jeremy's death. who has appeared in a couple of episodes of Bravo's "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" to consult with one of the personalities about her wig line, is also in the movie as a contestant.
Harris said that while Rock was in town, they visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and restaurant Niki's West. She added that Rock interviewed Birmingham resident James Armstrong, the man who often cut the Rev. Martin Luther King's hair, but that piece didn't make it into the final cut.
The movie won the Special Jury Prize for U.S. Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It is showing at Alabaster 14, Summit 16 and Trussville Stadium 16.