It's time for a YouTube pop quiz...
Who is Antoine Dodson?
If you answered "Mr. Hide Ya Kids, Hide Ya Wife," you'd be correct.
Too easy? Let's try a more difficult one.
Who is Joey Mazzarino?
Not so sure? ...
The beautiful star of the "Sesame Street" I Love My Hair video.
Sure! A year ago, when my daughter was four, I started to notice that she wasn't happy with her hair. She repeatedly expressed a desire to have straight hair like her mother's. She wanted to be able to toss it, and flip it back and forth. Like most girls her age, she has a collection of Barbie dolls—a mix of African-American and white ones, and unfortunately only three of them have curly hair. It's incredibly difficult to find Barbies with curly hair! One day, while playing with one of her white dolls, she said, "I'd like to have long, blond hair like her." I thought the problem was unique to us—being two white parents raising an African-American daughter. But then when Chris Rock's movie "Good Hair" came out, I realized that it was a much larger issue. I spoke to my executive producer about it and asked her if I could write a song that touched on hair and self-esteem. We were just finishing the writing season for the year, but she gave me the go-ahead, anyway. I wrote the lyrics and we got Chris Jackson, a wonderful composer and Broadway star, to do the music. He turned it around very quickly and we were able to shoot it!Was the song particularly difficult to write? Was it hard finding the right words?
Not at all. I would always tell my daughter, "I love your hair! It's great! It's so beautiful and curly! Plus, you can do so many great things with it!" And she would always respond, "But I want hair like yours, I want hair like Mommy's'!" So I found myself reflecting on the stuff I told her while I was writing the lyrics, and it was actually one of the easier things I've ever had to write.
I took it to her the day we taped it. This was at the end of last year—we didn't air it until now because our new season didn't begin until the end of September. It wasn't edited at all, so I just showed her the first take we did, and she absolutely loved it! She was dancing around and singing; it was great! Time passed and she sort of forgot about it. Now that it's aired and getting all of this attention, she's been asking for it again.
The other day, she was looking in the mirror and bouncing her hair up and down and smiling. My wife asked her, "Are you looking at your curls?" and she said, "Yeah!" She loves her hair now. I don't think it was just because of the song… I hope it has more to do with our parenting and the excellent African-American teacher she had last year. I'm really happy that she's loving who she is.Will this new character appear as a regular in future shows?
Initially she was just for that sketch, but I think we will have to resurrect her, give her a name, and have her tackle some other issues.Maria G asks, 'I've been watching Sesame Street since the early '70s and I have never seen a video such as this one. It brought a tear to my eye. Will the show add more segments on self esteem?'
I think we will. I think we've always done it, but may not have touched on it in a while. After reading some of the comments on the boards and Facebook, I actually remember a character from childhood, Roosevelt Franklin. While I don't remember all of the stuff he said, I can recall some great songs, one was called "The Skin I'm In". I went back and listened to it, and it was wonderful and talked about having brown skin specifically. I think there is definitely room to tackle some more self esteem issues.Do you see anywhere that websites like CurlyNikki could help be a resource to parents like you—is there anywhere earlier in the process that we can provide information and support?
Luckily on Sesame Street, we have this guy Gordon Price, he's a wonderful member of our crew, and his wife is Lisa Price, the creator of Carol's Daughter. So when we adopted our daughter, I knew it would be different taking care of her curly hair, but he told me not to worry, and that Lisa would hook me up with a bunch of stuff and teach me how to do everything. So luckily I had them as a great resource. With the popularity of the video, I've been getting so many tips and products that I'm like, "Whoa, I only have one!" The wealth of info and help has been great. I'm definitely going to check out your site and others, especially when it's Dad alone and I have to do her hair, so that will help to do it better.You're good! My dad didn't touch my head... that was all Momma. [Laughter] Jasmine A. asks, 'What are your daughter's favorite hairstyles? What products are you guys using?'
She loves braids and she does what Willow Smith does and she 'whips them back and forth'! She whips them around like crazy.
On Halloween, she went as Princess Tiana. So we found a picture of her and created a similar hairdo. She loved that. She was too cute. Favorite products? Carols Daughter Princess Tiana line is our current favorite, mainly because it has Princess Tiana on the bottle and my daughter loves her. We're also loving the Loc Butter, so yeah, we mostly use a lot of Carol's Daughter in my house.Naterra asks, 'If your daughter gets older and asks for a perm, how will you and your wife react to that?'
That's an interesting question, and I honestly have no idea. I take it day by day and I want her to love who she is. I don't know how I'm going to handle any of the tough questions that will come up, like "can I pierce my ears?", "get a tattoo?"... I don't know what I'm going to say! I just want her to love herself and respect herself and be proud of who she is and hopefully she won't ask me that question. What would you do as somebody that is a big advocate of natural hair? What would you say?Wow. I guess I'm in the same boat as you. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it! I just had a baby about 9 weeks ago. Growing up, relaxers weren't allowed in my household, so my dad made it easy [laughter]—it wasn't even an option. I guess all I can do is educate her and hope she makes good decisions.
My wife is very careful about what she puts on our daughter's skin and hair. So I think we would definitely use education—explain that the chemicals aren't good for her. She might be old enough to make her own decision by then, but we'll definitely educate her about chemicals and make sure she has the skills to care for her hair in its natural state.What message would you like to send out to the curly community?