Black women wearing Black hairstyles shouldn't be met with opposition. It's 2017, and the acceptance of Black hair on Black people is deserved — yet long overdue.
Still, powerful Black women in Hollywood are continuously being told they can't wear Black hairstyles. Solange Knowles, Lupita Nyong'o and Nicki Minaj have all had their hair altered *or* banned altogether on magazine covers.
Now, actress Gabrielle Union has come forward with her own story about having her Black hairstyle rejected for being "unprofessional."
"I was doing a project and with the character the producers were coming up with what they wanted to do for her hair," she described to Byrdie. "And they were like, 'She’s beautiful, sophisticated, and professional.' I was like, 'Well, I want to wear braids'. And and they were like, 'Well, I mean, she’s beautiful, sophisticated, and corporate America.'"
"I responded, 'Yes, and specifically I want twists.' And they went on to say, 'We just really want her to look more polished.' I said, 'You all really don't understand what are we talking about here?'
Union didn't name the movie, clarify if she ended up taking role, or say how long ago this happened — but it's still important to point out the pattern of Hollywood rejecting Black hair on Black women.
"The idea that how you wear your hair somehow relates to your character, your intelligence, or your wokeness is bullshit," Union continued.
The reality is white women are being booked, paid, and celebrated when they take on the cultural aesthetics of Black women.
Meanwhile actual Black women often have to alter themselves, watch themselves be altered, or risk their images being left out altogether. There is no empowerment or freedom in that.
For all of the "diversity" talk in Hollywood, too many people responsible for including black people in their films still don't get or value Black hair — which means they don't get or value Blackness as a whole either.
By insisting that braids and twists are not "professional," movie producers were telling Union that her natural hair was not acceptable.
You aren't truly celebrating and including Black people if we can only be included in ways that fit inside of white beauty standards. Instead, you're pandering to a demographic and/or filling a quota so you don't get dragged on social media.
That will never be OK — and it needs to change. Good for Gabrielle for speaking up about the ways racism impacts women, both in Hollywood AND in the wider world.