“Nappily Ever After” Exposes The Challenges of Satisfying Beauty Expectations as A Black Woman

Based on a novel by Trisha Thomas, the movie “Nappily Ever After” premiered on Netflix on Sept. 21, 2018. This romantic comedy focuses on the life of Violet Jones, who has struggled with becoming the “perfect woman” her entire life, and eventually shaves her head out of frustration.

Violet Jones, a successful business woman in the beauty industry, has made a living off of marketing products in order to persuade consumers to become what society deems as perfect. She embodies this ideal as well, waking up early before her boyfriend to have her mother straighten her hair, so he never sees her “flawed.”

This movie highlights an integral part of the life of black women that much of media tends not to linger on. Many African-Americans in America may feel the same way that Violet does about the amount of importance hair takes. As a black woman myself, I can relate. There are scenes that are somewhat comedic, but accurate. Violet has her assistant run off the state of precipitation and humidity to make sure her hair will stay in its straightened state and not “poof.” But while she is outside having a meal with her friends, she can barely enjoy it because she is nervous that a raincloud may appear in the sky. When a group of kids spray her with a water hose, she has a full blown meltdown.

For most, if not all, of a typical American black woman’s life, her hair can become an obsession. That is why it is uncommon to see young black women with their hair shaved even today. Hair is a aspect of many peoples lives that can be daunting to just take away, even if it is weighing you down. The original novel was published in 2000, and even almost two decades later, hair is still a hot topic in the community. When Violet’s mother found out she shaved her hair, she literally fainted. During multiple points across the movie, she questioned Violet’s sexuality, unable to comprehend why she would shorten her hair unless she was a lesbian. Some strangers even believe that Violet suffered from cancer!

Violet let her world revolve around impressing men in order to hopefully get married for so long. At the beginning of the movie, when she was just a child, she remembers going to a pool party with white kids and noticing how carefree they were, while she had to stay out of the water so her hair would remain straight. When she finally jumps in and her curl pattern is revealed, her peers made fun of her and said she looked like a Chia Pet.

When I shaved my head, much of my family didn’t understand and wondered why I made that decision. The difference is, I did it deliberately and not out of immediate frustration and drunkenness like Violet. Although it takes time, Violet is able to become comfortable in her own skin. An important message to take from the film is when Violet says “Women can wear weaves if they want to, they can straighten their hair if they want to. It’s a choice; there is nothing wrong with that. But we need them to know that there is beauty in their natural hair.”

The only critique I have for this flick is the fact that Violet’s character changes dramatically (and at times, unrealistically) from who she was at the beginning of the movie. But, “Nappily Ever After” serves not just a simple cinematic purpose of short-term entertainment, but inspires women to embrace their own natural beauty.

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