I dislike even writing the term "good hair." The implications are so loaded. When I was growing up, in our house, my sisters and I weren't even allowed to use the term. "All hair is good hair," our parents would say. But "Good Hair" is what Chris Rock's new documentary is called so there, I said it. Rock felt moved to do something on the topic after his daughter, Lola, came to him crying one day and asked, "how come I don't have good hair?"
Rock told Reuters, "She was about 5. Kids say all sorts of things that you don't know where you got it from. I'm the dad and I'm basically her assistant, and any time she's not pleased with anything I have to react. So I made a movie for my baby." Even though this is Rock's project, it's serious stuff. The film, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, goes from neighborhood hair salons to Indian temples to delve into "the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people."
"It's this whole thing about approval. That approval is not simply, `I want white people to love me.' It's like, `I need a job. I want to move forward, and if I have a hairstyle that is somewhat intimidating, that's going to stop me from moving forward,'" said Nelson George, executive producer of "Good Hair."
Rock interviews women who undergo hair-relaxing treatments with chemicals that burn their scalps and others who pay thousands of dollars for hair weaves. Along the way, he trades witty, insightful observations with such figures as Maya Angelou, the Rev. Al Sharpton, actresses Raven-Symone and Tracie Thoms, and singers Eve and Ice-T.
(Nia) Long talks candidly in the film about her own perms and weaves, but in the interview with Rock, she also speaks hopefully about how Obama, his wife and their two daughters can help blacks overcome the cultural inferiority complex that prompts them to change their hair.
"Just seeing that family photo and seeing the daughters with their hair in cornrows sometimes, it resonates for me in such a huge way," Long said. "I just feel finally we have an image that's the most powerful image in our country that actually is a part of who I am."
And along the way, Rock discovers that in the end, the business of black hair care is big business. The movie was produced by HBO but it may be released in theaters before the cable network airs it.