A year after she revealed the big chop of her hair, actress Sanaa Lathan’s new Netflix film Nappily Ever After has premiered globally. We chatted to her about the movie and its importance.
What about the script made you realize you wanted to be a part of this movie?
I am a real romantic and I have missed the genre. I have also had great success in the genre. So that was the one reason. The other is I loved Violet’s journey because it’s funny but is also about a universal theme that will resonate with women everywhere, and that is the theme about our relationship with our hair and ourselves.
In your personal life, have you ever felt the way Violet feels about her hair?
What I loved about the story is while it is about hair, hair is a metaphor. Our hair is about so many other things: our self worth, ideas of what and who is beautiful, who is worthy of love. I have had many hair stresses in my life and career. When I was starting out I was told I needed to change my hair and if I didn’t it would affect my ability to survive and make a living. Like every black girl in the world, I had internalised the idea we hear and see everywhere that my hair is not okay, is not beautiful which also meant I was not beautiful. So Violet’s story is about the story of women everywhere, the story of women trying to find and be our true selves- outside of our what our families, partners, society thinks. The real love story is really about Violet falling in love with herself.
Violet cuts her hair in the film and initially you weren’t going to cut your hair, why did you decide to cut it?
I got to think about the script for a while, right from the beginning of the film and initially I wasn’t going to cut my hair. Then I thought “why not?” I also had hair exhaustion, I was tired of the merry-go-round and effort of having and looking after hair. And I was fearful, because of what hair means, it’s never just hair. Our hair is so tied up with our self esteem as women and the reaction has been interesting: the overwhelming reaction was positive and complimentary, but of course there were people who asked “why did you do it?” But it’s been so freeing, energy and time wise, and I have discovered a whole new community of natural hair care as my hair started growing back.
What do you have to say to young girls in South Africa and other parts of the world who feel restricted by their hair?
The world is slow to catch up but changing is happening and it’s coming. Images and representation in TV, movies, culture are changing and I’ve seen it change drastically in my lifetime. So while there is still a lot to be done, I am very optimistic about the future.
Nappily Ever After is out on Netflix. You can watch the trailer here: