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What Does Chris Rock Know About "Good Hair?"

What Does Chris Rock Know About "Good Hair?"

A mention of Chris Rock's name doesn't exactly conjure up thoughts of heartfelt documentaries, but that may change soon. Premiering at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival this week is a project close to his heart. Inspired by his daughter Lola, Good Hair exposes his discoveries while trying to answer the question: "Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?” If you've never heard it yourself, labels of "good hair" and "bad hair" are often provided by strangers, stylists, and even loved ones in the Black community based on the texture, thickness, and the styling ease of one's hair. Even though it's not always said in a derogatory way, Chris Rock gathers stories and observations to find out exactly what this is, why it is, and what it means for the esteem of the people who receive these unwanted titles.

What's your take on this phenomenon? Watch a Sundance "Meet the Artists" clip where Chris Rock discusses his reasons for making the film and then share your thoughts when you



Gamine Gamine 8 years
I agree with much of what's been said by NaturalFields and others, but I just had to add my experience with the good hair/bad hair dichotomy. I didn't grow up with the good/bad hair categories or colorism in my household. Growing up in suburban VA, in a predominantly black community, I never really heard such ideas expressed except by a few friends who I felt had picked up these antiquated notions from the grandparents who lived with them. Not until I moved to rural Georgia, did I realize that this mindset is still pervasive amongst black people. When I taught school there, both black and white children wanted to touch my hair which I wear in two-strand twists. My mom also taught there and had the same reaction to her dreadlocks. Fortunately, seeing positive examples of African-Americans with natural hair encouraged some of the kids to grow dreads and wear twists, but they've all been male so far. A few women in my mom's church have gone natural and everyone now comes to her for hair advice or dread-maintenance. That was a mere 5 years ago and even though this town is just 40 miles outside of Atlanta where tons of people have natural hair, including the mayor and one of the most popular local news anchors, I guess people just have to see it (and touch it !) for themselves before they're willing to change their views. I don't say this as a slam to those with relaxed hair, but I believe those who'd denigrate natural hair are denigrating it as an embodiment of their blackness. One could choose relaxed hair for aesthetic reasons--not to tame it--and still have a de-colonized mind. Either way, acceptance of our particular as beauty-- period--is what it's about.
NaturalFields NaturalFields 8 years
The good/bad hair myth still exists. Not only do I still hear it often but it has taken several different forms that even we do not recognize. 1. Our hair is CURLY, not kinky, nappy etc. Simply because the curl diameter may be smaller and we may deal with extreme frizz does not mean its anything outside the norm. 2. Why do we feel compelled to attack our hair with damaging chemicals and processes that DESTROY it so that we can BLEND in with EUROPEAN American Culture? 3. Why do we refuse to admit #2 and hide behind the excuse of straight hair just being easier to manage? See #4. 4. We have been misinformed on how to take care of our hair. We are using sulfate shampoos that have drying effects that are good for European hair but detrimental to curly hair (which is drier). We use things like brushes and fine tooth combs to tear our hair up. We attempt to wear styles that are not condusive to our hair type (tight ponytails etc). Then we wonder why our hair constantly breaks and very few AA women can get past shoulder length hair. 5. Don't be decieved, there are tons of hairstyles for natural hair besides the afro, we have just been closeminded about our hairs possibilities. If you search, you will find great styles that are neat and professional for those with that concern. 6. Our hair only needs to be TAMED if you are trying to get it to do something other than what it wants to do naturally. You only need to tame-i.e. change-things that you are not satisfied with. And we must admit from wear that dissatisfaction stems (i.e. having been told all of our lives and in the media that our natural hair is bad). Its your choice if you decide to relax your hair but I wish we were more informed about our decisions instead of giving in to the hype. I've done all of the above in the past and have decided to release my hair from the pressure to conform (And I had long thick relaxed hair) and I find it much more freeing to be natural the way God made me.
siditty siditty 8 years
In terms of being professional and having natural hair. I am college educated and work in a "professional" position at a Fortune 500 company. I have since I graduated. I have natural hair. I have another co-worker who wears locs and she has a master's degree. You can be professional and natural. That is a myth. White people seem to be open to the concept of natural hair than black people sometimes. My husband was the person who encouraged me to go natural, and he is German and Irish.
siditty siditty 8 years
You can manage natural hair. My hair is more manageable now, than it was relaxed and it is cheaper too.
siditty siditty 8 years
I grew up thinking my hair was so horrible, as I grew up in a predominantly white area and the ideal was straight hair. Around black folks I was told I had "good hair", it is thick and wavy/curly. I even now amongst other black people get asked what I am mixed with, even though I am dark skinned because of my hair. I have over the last few years embraced my natural hair, and I can say I have been relaxer free for almost 10 years, and I don't think I can never go back to straightening. People often ask me how I was able to get my hair so long, and I tell them genetics and not chemically altering my hair, it makes it stronger and healthier. Our hair doesn't have to be tamed, we just have to treat it differently than other races of hair typically. Weave and perm aren't the answer to the ills of our hair. Learning to accept and know how to do african american hair is.
leanneluvsu leanneluvsu 8 years
Some of these comments mirrored my issue with the "Good/Bad" hair argument. Some of the others, I smh head at. A history lesson will indeed suffice. The whole premise of categorizing and judging black people on the basis of the texture of one's hair is indeed divisive and detrimental to the black community. There's no "ands," "if's" or "buts" about it.
Shleebs Shleebs 8 years
Being African-American, I'll echo the comments of others and say, yeah, it's an issue for most of us. I've never really had any complexes about my hair, but then, I've always had very thick, healthy hair. The only inner conflict for me, I think, is when I got to college-- all the other black girls, it seemed, were cutting their permed hair off, renouncing the "white ideal...." And I didn't. I got into a discussion with one of my friends, a Dominican girl who has the same exact natural hair texture as me (before I permed), and she shared the sentiment. But for me, I don't straighten my hair to look pretty, I straighten my hair so I can manage it. We all want what we can't (or don't) have.
belladande belladande 8 years
I'm going to agree with bastylefilegirl that natural means no restructuring of the hair. That includes chemicals and extreme heat, such as the hot comb. But while on television a woman wearing her natural hair is rare, in the real world there are plenty of lawyers, doctors, writers, teachers, judges, engineers, bus drivers, police officers, movie producers/directors, dancers, professors, IT specialists, and so on who do not straighten their hair. I mean, how does Tyra Banks not represent me? Let me count the ways.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I'm going to go even further and say there is nothing natural about a hot a** comb being run through the edges of your hair, but that's because I hate getting my hair pressed ahaha :) I remember getting my ears and forhead burned as a child :|
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I didn't know Kerry Washington had a press? And while the hair may be "natural" as a press, the fact that women have to look "more white" is a bigger issue.
ambitious ambitious 8 years
I am an African American and I started wearing my hair natural about two years ago. It was the best thing that I've ever done for my hair. I don't consider my hair bad or good. I've learned how to maintain my texture. The only time I use the word "bad" is if I am stating that I am having a "bad hair day". Someone stated that there aren't professionals wearing their natural hair. That is so not true. There are several people who have natural hair...Michelle Obama(flat iron), Kerry Washington, Jill Scott, Keisha Cole and India Aire. some may say that some of the people listed hair is straighten. To be natural, means no chemical products to straighten the hair (relaxers, permed, texturizer).
Frank-y-Ava Frank-y-Ava 8 years
I have been teased since middle school about my hair. Girls would say my hair was like a brillow pad even though I already had a perm. In high school it was mostly by this biracial girl with green eyes and light brown hair so that was tough. I would sometimes call her "in house" and say that "everyone's momma can't be white." I'm in college now so i hardly give a fuck and everybody else doesn't either (thank god). When I have girls I'll try my best not to give them a relaxer.
nguidjol nguidjol 8 years
Can we just stop the good hair vs bad hair crap now? It just sends the wrong message to our daughters and little sisters. I know this issue has been around for a long time, but let's just put it to rest and focus on the real problems we have in the black community.
lady_jade lady_jade 8 years
I think women of every color should be watching this film, because beauty ideals impact all women. I hope this movie will be opening a dialogue among those who are not aware of the implications of "good" hair and "bad" hair. Also, I am loving the conversations going on in this post.
Kelliegrl Kelliegrl 8 years
I think a lot of this good hair vs. bad hair has to do with what your family teaches you about beauty. As I said in my earlier post, my friend who is as dark as I am with virtually caucasian hair w/a slight curl was told she wasn't as beautiful because her hair was as straight or her skin wasn't as light as the rest of her family.
Kelliegrl Kelliegrl 8 years
I'd like to see this movie because I think it will be interesting to see how the issue is portrayed. When I was growing up, I was always told by stylists and my mom that I had good hair because my hair is thick and healthy. It's not based on curly vs. straight, b/c naturally my hair is curly. However, my friend who is also African American has hair that is fairly straight and to be honest with you doesn't need a relaxer was told by her mom and family that she had bad hair because her hair wasn't as straight as the rest of her family's (in fact, the words that they used to use are to hurtful for me to repeat). Now of course she has all these complexes about her hair.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
OH and the statement that "good hair" "bad hair" has nothing to do with race is completely false. The mere face that anything bad or unpleasant is typically associated with all things "black" or dark i.e. black monday, dark and gloomy day, field slaves are darker than house slaves, black face etc. The work black and bad have always had a close relationship both inside and outside the African American community, it doesn't help that the more "white" we look the more succesful we become. How many sisters with dreads, fros, braids etc do we see walking around hollywood, running business, or modeling? Same goes with other ethnic groups Asian women "opening" there eyelids etc
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
While the non African American women in here may be very accepting of our natural hair texture, it has been shown that women with natural hairstyles don't rise as fast professionally. It's also telling that most black women in power positions choose not to wear there natural hair, or even there own hair i.e. Tyra Banks ( I hate her wigs HATE), Oprah Winfrey, Michella Obama, Naomi Campbell, Kamala Harris etc etc
ramyah90 ramyah90 8 years
Our adopted daughter is AA. She has beautiful hair that is tightly curled and wavy when smoothed back into a chignon. I straightend her hair once and was disappointed and didn't do it again. We were both surprised and delighted to discover that her hair could be relaxed without being straightened. The learning curve has been ongoing. From the time she was a tiny baby I had stangers approach me wanting to give me hair tips. There were times when I had to hold my tongue. That stangers would walk up to us and put their hands on the head of our fragile daughter was disturbing. We recognized for the most part that their intentions were good, however, if the condition and styling of some were any indication of their knowledge and ability, well, we were wise to just offer our thanks and quickly move on. We have been fortunate to have two wonderful people to teach and guide us in the proper care and styling of our daughter's magnificent head of hair and maintenance of her exquisite complexion.
belladande belladande 8 years
I'm not sure that "good hair" or "bad hair" are ever mentioned in anything but a derogatory way. It's basically saying "less African" (good) and "more African" (bad) as the very tight curling hair people are referring to is most common to Africans. For both those of us with hair labeled bad and those told we have good hair it can affect our sense of self-worth. I keep wanting to be shocked that the terms are still used because I thought enough was done by people in the 60s and 70s to put the issue to rest and that the people I run into who say it are anomalies who didn't get the memo. But I've run into enough of them by now that I should know better. I'm looking forward to seeing this documentary. I've seen Rock's wife Malaak speak and know that she is committed to public service for women and children, so I'm not surprised that Chris would have an interest in opening up this topic. And dealing with any fallout from American slavery is pretty timely right now.
DivaDivine DivaDivine 8 years
First let me start by saying I. Love. Chris. Rock! Second, I don't like this whole notion of calling African American hair pejorative names like "difficult," "bad," "kinky," or "nappy"-- even in jest. This leaves open to interpretation that other hair types are better or "good." Why not call a spade a spade and say that our hair is naturally curly? I don't see women of other races (even curly headed Jewish or Hispanic girls) using these terms. Let's leave them where they belong in 2008.
apandalee apandalee 8 years
"As an African-American woman I do feel like there are black people who have good hair and black people who have not so good hair. I don't think that it has anything to do with racism or anything like that, its just a fact of life." I think the fact that, as plasticine pointed out, people of all races have difficult to manage hair, but a white girl with extremely curly hair will never be told her hair is "bad" negates the above statement and definitely points to the role of race in the good hair/bad hair issue.
plasticine1 plasticine1 8 years
let's stop saying "good" or "bad" hair, and just say difficult. some hair is just hard to tame, but it doesnt mean that it is "bad", unless your stylist is lazy :D also, i have seen a lot of people of all races with difficult hair
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