If you haven’t yet heard of Nathalie Emmanuel, I’m sure you have heard of HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones, where Nathalie plays Missandei, Khaleesi’s right hand. Missandei joined the cast in season 3 and quickly became one of my favorite characters due to her honesty, complexity, and the fact that she is one of just a few characters of color in the cast. Additionally, there are limited characters on mainstream television that wear their hair natural onscreen.
While representation of Black people in the media has seen a rise recently, representation of Black women wearing their hair in natural styles is still not common.
“I think my hair is the first thing people recognize me for” Nathalie says in a recent interview with Byrdie, where she opens up about embracing her natural hair.
Wearing my natural hair wasn’t really allowed when I was in primary school
"Wearing my natural hair wasn’t really allowed when I was in primary school," she said and recalled an incident where her school called her mother and demanded that Nathalie’s hair be put in braids because it wasn’t safe. “So my hair was always slicked down or put in braids, sort of hidden away,” she continued.
This kind of discrimination oF Black hair in schools is something I have written about before, and for many children, getting past that opposition to wear their hair natural does not come easily. For Nathalie, going to visit her family in the Caribbean, helped her feel more connected to her roots.
Something about being there and embracing the culture made me realize for the first time that my hair is a part of my mixed-race heritage. It’s a part of me.
Nathalie goes on to tell Byrdie that ever since her trip she has experimented with different styles and hair care routines, even picking out her hair and wearing an afro to school.
It’s ironic that Nathalie’s character Missandie has become so recognized for her beautiful curls on the show and yet she was discouraged from letting her curls out when she was younger. Today, it is clear that Nathalie no longer succumbs to the pressure of "taming" her hair, and Nathalie hopes wearing her curls onscreen and in real life will help the world catch onto the beauty of natural hair.
Representation of Black women is important in the media; and if you have ever felt insecure about wearing your naturally curly or coily hair to work, formal events, school, or just outside of the house - then you have felt the effects of that lack of representation. And while I have a lot of opinions about Game Of Thrones casting choices (you can have dragons and white walkers but melanin only makes sense in the form of slaves?) I’m glad GOT at least features Missandei and her beautiful hair.
You can catch Missandei and her natural curls every Sunday night on HBO.