Advertising exec Venus Johnston was tired of her long, straightened hair. So one day, on impulse, she cuts it short.
But she is unprepared for the reactions of her friends and co-workers, who all have an opinion about her new 'do.
Trisha Thomas' book 'Nappily Ever After' may sound like a familiar story for many African-American women who have decided to go natural. The book—and its protagonist Johnston—especially resonated with curly hair expert Angela De Joseph, creator of product lines such as African Wonders and Naturalaxer.
'I could relate to it so much,' says De Joseph. 'As a child, I felt that if I was able to have perfection on the outside, everything else would work. You were taught you have to get rid of your natural curl. It creates a certain type of insecurity for people without straight hair. You live in fear that your hair will revert back to its natural state. Your hair becomes your enemy. It also becomes your barometer of your self esteem.'
'What you discover is that self esteem is not based on looks and what your hair is doing,' De Joseph says. 'Venus' journey is a universal journey.'
So De Joseph is helping to bring tale to the silver screen. Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry has signed on to play Venus, and Marc Platt, producer of such films as 'Philadelphia' and 'Legally Blonde,' will be the film's lead producer. Patricia Cordosa will direct it. It will be put out by Universal Studios. De Joseph is a producer and also is working on the script.
'It's really a remarkable project,' De Joseph says.
The book, which has been called a cross between 'Bridget Jones's Diary' and 'Waiting to Exhale,' is about a black woman's journey to self-discovery.
'It's the kind of movie that will make people laugh and cry,' De Joseph says. 'People will really cheer for her and respect the woman she becomes.'
De Joseph's involvement with 'Nappily Ever After' is a natural for a woman who has spent her life working in the entertainment and hair care industries.
Her mother, Pearl, was a cosmetologist and beauty school owner on the island of Trinidad in the West Indies. She didn't believe in damaging hair in the name of style. The De Joseph family moved to America in 1958. De Joseph grew up in Los Angeles, where her family worked as a hairdresser.
After dabbling in acting and modeling, she pursued writing. Her first article was an 8-page pull-out guide in the January 1979 issue of ESSENCE called 'Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Hair.'' In addition to working at such publications as ESSENCE and Sophisticate's Black Hair Styles, De Joseph's extensive resume includes jobs as creative director of Johnson Products Co. (Ultra Sheen, Afro Sheen, Classy Curl) and as a fashion and beauty reporter for such television shows as 'Live with Regis and Kathie Lee' and 'AM Los Angeles.'
In 1993, she completed film school, writing, producing and directing an award-winning film called 'It's in the Bag,' a movie about a homeless woman who finds a coupon for a free beauty makeover at a Beverly Hills salon. It was in film school that she met Halle Berry.
In 1996, De Joseph launched the African Wonders Botanical Treatment line. Four years later, she launched Naturalaxer, a hair relaxer that combines African shea butter and Amazonia nut oil with an alkaline mineral relaxer to loosen curl - not straighten it. She opened the fist African Wonders hair Care Store in Inglewood, Calif. in 2002. This summer, she will launch The Curl Shop, a line for all ethnicities and hair types.
De Joseph's involvement in 'Nappily Ever After' began when Thomas contacted her about African Wonders sponsoring her book deal. She read the book and loved it.
'I was in tears,' De Joseph recalls. 'The journey so closely paralleled my own personal life.'
It wasn't difficult to get Berry interested in the film, De Joseph says. In addition to acting in the lead role, she also will be a producer.
'She comes to this from a biracial background,' De Joseph says. 'She has dealt with a lot of issues about where you fit into society. And dealing with her hair has always been a big issue.'
The film currently is in the pre-production phase. After the script is completed, casting will begin for the other actors. It potentially could hit the theaters in 2006.
'When Venus goes all natural, her world is completely different,' De Joseph says. 'Her world goes through this shift. She begins to develop that inner woman. That's a strong, positive lesson for young women.'