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Chris Rock

Chris Rock

When Chris Rock’s daughter, Lola, came up to him crying and asked, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” the bewildered comic committed himself to search the ends of the earth and the depths of black culture to find out who had put that question into his little girl's head!

Director Jeff Stilson’s camera followed the funnyman, and the result is "Good Hair", a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about African-American hair culture that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this month. An exposé of comic proportions that only Chris Rock could pull off, "Good Hair" visits hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people.

Celebrities such as Ice-T, Kerry Washington, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Maya Angelou, and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter’s question.

What he discovers is that black hair is a big business that doesn’t always benefit the black community and little Lola’s question might well be bigger than his ability to convince her that the stuff on top of her head is nowhere near as important as what is inside.

While the flick is "loaded" with Rock's "wisecracking humor," he reportedly takes a grave and honest look at the cultural pressures and identity issues that come with having "black hair." Rock explains: "I have daughters, and I'm really dealing with them and their hair a lot, and my friends have daughters, and we talk about our daughters' hair issues."

In a Reuters Q&A, Rock adds: "I had no idea of the business of hair. I had no idea that it was as organized as Apple or Microsoft or General Motors. I had no idea the chemicals could be scary and damaging."

The film, which is being produced by HBO but may get a theatrical release first, shows "neighborhood salons, businesses dealing in hair-care products and the streets of India, where human hair is a huge export industry for hair weaves." In addition, Rock examines why some African-American women feel they need long, silky, straight hair to fit into white society.

Executive producer Nelson George says: "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."

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To the last comment...you made some good points, but you also stereotyped black men to some extent. Not all black men appreciate a certain body type, as you put it. Some black men like thinner girls too. Some white men like curvy women or even very big women. It depends on the individual. And not every Black woman has a big booty. Women of all backgrounds come in different shapes and sizes. Most of the "curvy" white girls that I see with black men are really just overweight or average in body type. I'm not trying to be rude but that is what I've noticed. Maybe you have observed something different, though. As to Samantha...I know my response is about two years late, but I would recommend some education on this matter. You could start with books like "The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison. It explains how painful it can be to live in a White-dominated society that promotes Eurocentric beauty ideals. While it is true that Jewish people were persecuted and murdered in the Holocaust, they have generally not continued to endure the kind of hatred that African-American and Caribbean people deal with in this country, even in 2011. I don't know about Jews being slaves, but I know that they were also victimized and discriminated against, as were Native Americans and other indigenous people. Black women have always been told that we are ugly and inferior because we do not have straight hair for the most part. I'm biracial but I know how it feels to be a woman of color. I've been called racial slurs because of the way I look. And yes, it can be hurtful when a Black man prefers a white girl or Latina over a woman of his own race, because these men will sometimes make excuses and they will disrespect Black women. There is nothing wrong with Black men dating non-black women, but it is a problem when they put Black women down. Interracial love is beautiful but some people have issues with internalized racism and self-hate.
I am a white girl with 3b's, but two of my best friends are Somali (and recommended the movie to me) because I always thought we were all curl sisters until they tried to explain some of the differences. I feel like I get it, but I know in actuality, I never will. Although white girls get chastised for not being tan enough (and I wonder where my compulsion to always tan came from...) for most of us, even those of us with tough curls, we can never comprehend actually feeling like a lesser human being for the way our hair looks. This is probably the fundamental difference, I never felt like I was less than human because of the way I looked, only that I was less attractive. And that is an epic difference when you really think about it. As a flipside and an irony, my younger sister (who has natural Gisele Bundchen waves and endless eyelashes that I've always envied) also has a booty like a black girl. You can imagine the type of response she got. Although we grew up in predominantly white neighborhoods, almost every single black guy that ever encountered her growing up was constantly on her case. She took this as extreme flattery and began to date a succession of them. I know tons and tons of white girls with incredible curves that have consistently chosen to date black men because they know how to appreciate a certain body type. So in a way, those of us who have the extra parts on our bodies, know what it's like to feel rejected by our own kind based on how we look (the white boy preference for skinny model looking girls is well known and does not need to be reiterated). Back on topic, the issues surrounding Black women's hair are something far more complex than the rest of us curlyheads can imagine. We need to accept that, but I agree that opening up the dialogue can only be beneficial. The things that I learned from my friends have been incredibly eye opening and every time I see a black girl rocking her natural curls now, I can't help but cheer her on. Having even a small understanding of that struggle is something everyone else should strive to achieve. Ok I've rambled on enough......
Hi Ladies, I think our sister Samantha is being very genuine. Ladies, we cannot be upset at people for not understanding the intricacies of the black experience. It is unique. I applaud her for putting it out here and asking questions. These are the types of dialogues we need to celebrate. How else will people understand? There were so many great points made in the comments above. I'd like to try to answer some of the questions asked. I think if we get caught up in the history of black denigration we will become tangled in a web and lose sight of the issue at hand. How does slavery have to do with the way your hair is? Is it like a self-esteem issue? Jews were slaves many times in history as well, so why aren’t they affected in the same way? This would take way too long to answer. Perhaps, you should do some research on slavery. Take into consideration ethnic background and culture. Do some research on some of the racial slander and negative depictions. Why is it a big deal that you’re turned down by African American men because of your hair? Are you just as offended when a white man turns you down because of it, or does it hurt more when an African American man does it because you feel like you own race doesn’t appreciate you? This is such a deep issue. If you lived in a culture that celebrated whiteness as beautiful and you were the complete opposite of that beauty standard, you could understand. I wonder if it would be possible for a non-black person to understand. Imagine the tables being turned like in Primary Colors with John Travolta. You have a man of your same ethnicity, hair texture, and cultural background rejecting you. There is something to be said for a message that is so prevailing that you cannot pinpoint the source. I thought I could add some clarity to help you understand how it is not the same, but I don't think I can. I'll leave you all with this one last comment because I don't feel like I provided any more clarity. When people refer to my hair, they call it a name, "Afro". Afro is not my hair texture, nor is it a hair style. It is a name that is associated with black hair that makes it "other". When people refer to your hair, I'm pretty sure they don't call it a name. It is defined by it's texture. Straight, curly, wavy. Oooh, I doubt that helped either. LOL. Ok, I'm out. Maybe naturallycurly.com can have an open forum on the issue.
This is a trully devastating topic. For those who share the joy of curls but are not African-American, yes the issue may be similar but the emotional and historical backgrounds are nowhere near the same. I am a young (16) black girl.Chocolate colored skin, dark eyes, and happily nappy hair define me.Only recently did I go natural and it wasnt because I wanted to. It was because I wanted my hair to grow long at which point I would then go back to pressing and maybe even relaxing my hair. For months I scoured the internet(found this great site) trying to figure out how I could take care of my hair. Clearly this is unnatural. To take care of what I was born with, to take care of what my ancestors were born with I had to google to figure out my own natural hair. For years I straightened my hair and tried EVERY single growth product to have longer hair. When I went natural in June at first I was very self-conscious. I had no idea what I was doing and this in part was because of the lack of natural women in the African-American community.This is where whites and blacks differ. Blacks mainly change their curl because of a lack of self-esteem and ignorance of their natural hair. Whites,hispanics or any other curly ethnicity usually have longer yet curly hair. So although the pressure to straighten may be there it is also easier to handle. Other ethnities wish for straight hair and African -Americans damage themselves to get it. Last fall I transeferred from a predominantly black school to a predominantly white one. Sadly on the first day, after going months with a fro and really figuring myself out, i walked in that school with pressed hair. Of all people my mom suggested it. However within three days I washed it all out. Today all my white friends are astounded at the length and how it can change from short and curly to longer and wavy. I laugh at this who can blame someone for admiring the beauty of black hair.I strive to be different. My hair makes me just that. Ever since I went natural tons of guys approach me and mention how different I look and of course something about my hair. I love this. I love me and I wouldnt straighten my hair for the world.
I'm very happy and greatful that Chris Rock made this film. It's about time. I've been aware for several years that the hair industry is and machine that is fueled, in large part, by African Americans. I'm also happy that the issue of children getting relaxers is finally being exposed. When I was a kid I wanted a relaxer so badly that I would beg my mother to give me one. To which she always replied, NO. I wanted to wear my hair in one ponytail like the other permed girls. I wanted "Shirly Temple" curls and finger waves (thank goodness all of these looks are out of style)and my mother continued to give me multiple ponytails with ballies and barrettes. Back then I had thick, full, long, healthy hair with no split ends or shedding. If i had known then that my mother was just protecting my hair from chemical damage... Finally, when I was 14 I gave myself a relaxer and I thought my life had finally changed for the better. My wrap was flowin' like no other. It was bouncy and shiney and everyone commented on how good it looked. But that didn't last. By college my edges had started to thin and I knew I had to do something. So I decided to stop relaxing. I started looking for more options. Then I noticed that the natural women on my campus had the answer. They were the ones who read original poetry and actually came out in the rain. They were free. So I decided to fake the funk. I rolled my hair with tiny perm rods and made a curly fro. After that I cut off my hair and started all over. I got negative comments from guys that I dated. My own sister hated my natural mane and called me a bald-headed boy So much so that I became frustrated and got a relaxer. Then everyone thought my (Halle Berry)hair looked great again. I went through this two more times and am finally natural and free again. My friends are making the transition too. I suppose black women are just getting tired of "having" to relax. The African American hair story is at once glorious and tragic. We are so creative and artistic, yet so imprisoned by our own prejudices and stereotypes. I wish black women would learn to understand that we were born beautiful, kinks, curls, zig zags,or what have you. Take care of what you have and don't waste your money on weaves and products that can never really give you what you're looking for.
Oh, Samantha. Get a clue. Have you even bothered to read or look up anything that was sugggested to you?Blacks were kidnapped bought and sold in this country. We have always been told that we are ugly and black and that our hair was ugly. We were treated as less than human,worse than animals, and at one time were considered three fifths of a man. At this point, since you are not interested in learning more, just accept that certain people's hair struggles have nothing to do with your own. And yes, it hurts if you're not accepted by your own men, because this is where you come from. What if you were rejected by your own, and were encouraged to chemically alter it to be considered acceptable not by just your own, but the world? You're offended by the fact that you feel this movie has nothing to do with you and your struggle. And your right, it does not. If you want to make a movie about Jews or other Caucasians hair struggles, go ahead. That is your right as an Ameriacn to do that. Someone has made a movie about a specific people's hair type. You may never understand. I don't think you even want to. That's your right too. Another thing, even if Jews were enslaved in their history, it was never to the extent that Black slavery took place. Blacks have been stripped of language, history, culture and a country. Everyone can trace their history here but us. The Jews still have their language, culture, customs and religion. So that is NOT a fair comparison. I'm done for now. Before you make a judgement next time, try to look a little deeper before you do that. Don't be angry that it does not concern you. Have a nice day.
May I just ask a serious question? How does slavery have to do with the way your hair is? Is it like a self-esteem issue? Jews were slaves many times in history as well, so why aren't they affected in the same way? I also struggled with hair as a child, as my mother would have to braid my hair every day or else the other mothers would ask her why she never combed my hair. Even now, I am discriminated against because of my hair. My sister, also a curly haired girl, got permed and relaxed as a child as well, but most of her hair fell out because of it so my mother decided not to do the same to me. Also, I wasn't saying that blacks as a people didn't struggle. Of course they've struggled, I'm not dumb, and I know that. I apologize if I offended anyone, because in my mind I see everyone as equals. I also wanted to ask another serious question. Why is it a big deal that you're turned down by African American men because of your hair? Are you just as offended when a white man turns you down because of it, or does it hurt more when an African American man does it because you feel like you own race doesn't appreciate you?
Well said, TQ. After reading these comments I felt compelled to register and leave one. Some of the people commenting who have curly hair and have questioned why this is a focus on blacks, have no clue and really need to read some history. Even my white friends who have curly hair do not spend the time and money on their hair like black women have to in order to feel accepted. Not just by white society, but by our own people!! Our own men!! I have type 4a with some 4b areas and I started getting a relaxer at 10 years old. Before that, I used to cry endlessly when it was time to wash my hair. The process of washing, conditioning and styling was so dreadfully painful that I would need a tylenol and a nap after each time-no exaggeration. I was happy at first because I didn't have to get headaches any longer, but as I grew older, I became lost in the inner struggle of what it means to have "nappy" or "bad" hair. I got tired fo spending 8 hours in the hair salon every saturday instead of out having fun and enjoying my weekend. I got tired of not being able to exercise because I would sweat out my $55 hairdo. I got tired of getting up an hour earlier every morning before school or work so I could make sure I could work out my bedhead. Finally, I got tired of the chains that we as black people have been brainwashed to put on ourselves and in 1999, I went natural much to the dismay of my ENTIRE family. Most of them have stopped making negative comments, but my grandmother still hates my hair. Mind you, it's been 10 years. Granny, I'm not changing it to a perm so GET OVER IT and let it go!! When I first went natural, little black children (whom I did not know) ran up to me on the street and told me my hair was ugly. They made a song about it and sang it as they ran away. I felt sorry for them because they were caught up in the self-hatred just like me at such an early age. A man in a department store (whom I did not know) came up to me and asked me if I planned on wearing that "wool hat" all summer long. People everywhere I went gave me strange looks and made rude comments because they found MY hair offensive to them! Through all that I persevered and refused to go back to a perm. Now it's more accepted and I am the envy of a lot black women who tell me they don't have the same courage and will to do what I did. However, the people on here with CURLY hair, have no idea what it is like to have your very existence be disgusting to people you don't even know all because of your hair texture. While other cultures want straight hair too, they don't start at the kink like many black people do. To all the posters who feel left out of Chris Rock's movie...Please understand...It's about SO MUCH MORE than hair.
I am just glad he made a movie and as a father he was so impelled by his daughter's hurt to make a movie about African American hair issues. Well next stop a documentary on CURLY hair issues? Gretchen Michelle you listening? ;) Relax everyone please it is just a movie. But I must admit the black community has some serious hair issues when it comes to the children. My mom slapped a perm in my head at the age of 8yrs old. I thought for years (until I was 23yrs old) that I HAD TO relax my 4a/b hair because my natural hair was bad, unacceptable thus making me in some way BAD or unacceptable. My daughter has 3b/3c hair and I can see her still being stigmatized but now she has a momma that glorifies curly kinky coily hair of all types. With my support she will grow up knowing that she is beautiful unconditionally. I hope this movie is all about the children and helps parents realize that relaxers are off limits until 18yrs old and that children need to be loved no matter what they look like or how hard it is to comb their hair.
Wow, reading all of these posts shows how emotional this topic is. I’ve been natural for two years after relaxing consecutively for 27 years. I am bi-racial with 3C/4A hair. I too cringe when I see little girls with receding hairlines and broken and uneven hair because of relaxers, or women with thin mushroom style hairdos who go back to the beauty salon every 4-6 weeks to maintain that look. It’s been ingrained in us, by our own black community, that straight is better, even if you’re hair is damaged. Thankfully, I see natural hair being more widely displayed and accepted, but I can’t say it’s the norm for most black women. My hairdresser is natural and even though she says many of her clients have gone natural, the majority still come for relaxers. We as parents need to learn as much as we can about natural hair, how to take care of it, and pass that knowledge on to our daughters. Will they stay natural? Probably not. There will always be a fascination with straight hair for those of us with curly/coily/kinky locks, just as straight is fascinated with curls and texture. Educating our daughters on their natural hair gives them options so they don’t have to cling to a relaxer, especially if their hair is becoming damaged, due to fear and not knowing how to take care of their natural hair.
In response to Samantha:It is naive and sad when people cannot appreciate the collective struggle of a group of people. It is really a reflection of the lack of education in this country about how slavery affected and still affects Blacks and whites. Within the Black community, Nappy hair, not curly, not kinky or other words we use to "beautify" what some consider our "shame" is not a good thing..in fact it is downright negative. No other group of women have caustic chemicals marketed to their little girl children telling them from the time they are getting out of training pants..You need to "bust those naps"..tell your momma to get you some "Just for Me"! I see little black girls running around in playgrounds with "eat up" [sic] hair lines & bald "kitchen" areas because their mothers were to lazy, ashamed and/or minsinformed so they straightened the life our of their baby girls heads. "Nappy" is one part of the negative duo that many Black folks have used to describe perceived undesirable ethnic traits that many of us have. The other would be Black, but I am not going there today! I look forward to seeing the documentary.
I never knew I had curly hair until this year. I grew up believing I had "nigger napps" and the famous "bad hair". Growing up with natural hair, I didn't have friends and didn't fit it. So I permed my hair at 14 and I became popular. Then I went back natural at 16 and boys that liked me didnt. People told me I needed a perm and I felt bad about myself for never really fitting in as being me. I even repermed my hair afterwards because of struggling with not fitting in in my black (brooklyn) community. My own boyfriend and his mother thought my natural hair was ugly and he was hispanic. There are a lot of deep emotional and mental issues in the black community when it comes to natural hair. I only know 7 natural sisters, and have of them are related to me. 98% of my church is not natural and dont like natural hair.Natural hair isnt popular and its not cool. Also some people with straight hair think their hair is longer than ours since kinky hair is coiled up, and they snub you. Lately I've realized a lot more people have gone natural and are comfortable in their own skin. There are so many things I can say about black women and their issuses with natural hair but I'll say one last thing. My hairstylist I had since I was a child, told me my sister's hair looked bad because she went natural and said her hair resembled children's hair. She said she needed a perm to look her age. Im finally natural now, and Ive learned lots of cool styles and new ways to take care of my hair that I didnt know before. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Love you and be confident so you will change the world around you.
I concur.
http://www.miamiherald.com/multimedia/news/afrolatin/index.html Those articles pretty much say it all. I understand after coming to this site that cuacasion curlies go through a lot. I remember asking my white friends with curly hair why they wouldn't wear it down and now I realize it's becuase of how poofy their curly hair gets. Coming on here and seeing all the things that curly girls go through is an eye opener. I had no idea some people could not know they had curly hair until college etc. I don't live in their world. As Samantha clearly does not live in our world. This nappy struggle is very real and deep and rooted in slavery and it needs to addressed specifically to black audiences.
Amen j bailey and Tasha!!! I couldn't have said it better.
You guys just don't get it, Its not about being separate or racist Chris Rock has simply choosen to do a documentary based on the on the expieriences of people of african descent. Most persons of african desent are of mixed lineage though many of us don't have parents of separate ethnicites.I get tired of explaining what I go through with styling my hair to white people or white men that I date and them acting like my 3B hair (which a lot of my black counterparts consider to be mixed girls hair cause i have a heavy native american presence in my family) is the eighth wonder of the world. Hell, I didn't realize that I had curly hair and what my natural texture was until a few years ago , when I decided to grow my relaxer out. Did you guys realze that people of african descent spend about $9 billion a year on hair products(wigs and extensions included). You have no idea for african american girls how early the negative comments start about skin color and hair texture from both their peers and white children. I was one of those kids. I am light brown in complexion but have very full lips and that in conjuntion with my hair got teased often. Even in this day and age as evidenced by the media, any thing but black is beautiful and its trendy to be of mixed lineage. I get tired of people asking me what am I mixed with black or white. Yes curly girls go through their issues but with people of african descent having so many varied hair textures, Chris Rocks documentary is talking about expieriences that are unique to african americans and heavily rooted in slavery.
Being a 52-year-old white woman who's also gone thru years of chemical straightening and other tortuous procedures to try to fit in, I completely identify and agree with Notyouraverage curl, especially her last two paragraphs.
I see both sides of the story! I'm mixed, so I have gone through the pain of having chemicals put in my hair and have gone through the emotional turmoil of being the only girl in a class of white blondes (I lived Scandinavia for a while and much of Western Europe for the first twelve years of my life). In fact, I once asked my mom (who I got my Afro-Brazilian heritage from) if I could dye my hair blonde and straighten it. For this reason, I never grew up with Barbies, because my mother was dead set on changing my mind. I will never forget what she once said--"changing your hair doesn't work; self-acceptance does". But I believe at the same time that having curly hair as a light-skinned person is painful as well. I am quite light and have very dark black hair with an incredibly curly texture :). I was pretty freaky-looking to people of all ethnicities! I would get white girls telling me my hair was nappy and black girls telling me my hair was in no way as nappy as theirs was so I should feel lucky. Definitely a mixed message. :/ So while I understand that this film is a focus on the difficulties of the good hair/bad hair ideal among black women, I can understand why you would feel a little hurt, Samantha, and that you would feel as if your hardship was minimized. Either way, black or white, mixed or anything in-between, I think we as women--especially curly women--need to band together and be uplifting rather than being pitted against each other. <3
I'd like to add to that too. Samantha, the reason why it basically is talking about African Americans and their (our) hair also is because of the reaction (of Chris Rock, who is African American)to his daughter (also African American)who came in crying asking why doesn't she have good hair? No Caucasians I have ever met have dealt with the hair issues that we have on such a profoundly deep level. It's ingrained in us from a very early age that our hair is bad and the worst kind of hair anyone can ever have sitting on top of their heads. When someone puts caustic chemicals in a 2 or 3 year old child's hair and scalp, this is a serious problem. We were alway told that we were too dark, too ugly, too big, too black, too scary.. and the list goes on. You must understand that although we live in the same country, we ARE different culturally and in many other countless ways. I think that it's not racist to talk about the differences we have, because they do exist. It's what makes people special. I think because our cultural hair experience may be so different from yours, that you just really can't relate.
Wow, go j bailey!
Samantha,obviously you don't know the history of slavery and the lasting impact that it has had on women of african descent and their hair. When you get the chance do some research on post traumatic slave disorder and the willie lynch letter.The focus and emphasis of this documentry touches on that. African american women spend billions of dollars on products to maintain their tresses and confrom to a white societies ideal. Many of the chemicals in these products are toxic, disrupt hormone, and cause permannent damage to the scalp.In general we are perceived as being more attractive when our hair is straight or long. Our natural hair makes whites percieve us as militant or pot smoking rastas.As an african american child growing up everything seemed to circulate around getting my hair done because it was an all day affair with all the washing , conditioning, detangling and later relaxing. Everyone knows that whites have curly hair and that some jews relax their hair but it doesn't impact how they are perceived to the degree that it has and will continue to do for people of african descent. How african american women style their hair is a touchy subject and white people aren't sensitive to this and with the few white men I've dated all out disrespectful.
Hey, I'm all for someone exposing the hair industry for what it is, but why does it have to be centered around African-American hair, and also make whites out to all have straight hair as well? People of all races and nationalities have curly hair, and although I do understand that sometimes African-American hair is texturally different, I just wish that they wouldn't talk about it like it's only an African-American issue. Comments like "African-American women feel they need long, silky, straight hair to fit into white society" are offensive to both African-American women and white women! "'I want white people to love me.'" These sort of comments aren't really fair. Hair is a difficulty for all people!

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