By Atika Aliyah
Sanaa Lathan gives a raw and riveting performance in the Netflix original movie, Nappily Ever After as Violet Jones. The film is centered on a black woman’s quest and inward journey for self-love. The audience is most certainty in for a bumpy ride as they go along with Violet, peeling back the many layers that make up a black woman.
Based on the introduction, this movie may seem like the perfect chick flick melodrama, where the successful woman gets the perfect man. However when Sanaa’s Violet receives a tiny Chihuahua, instead of the marriage proposal she had everyone expecting. The movie stops becoming a love story based on a man and a woman, into a love story about falling in love with oneself.
There is quite a bit to unpack in this film, but all the messages are delivered and imbedded in a way that is both impressionable and relatable. Violet’s image obsessed mother Pauletta, played by Lynn Whitfield. Gives life to the stigma that black women and girls’ hair must acclimatize to European standards of beauty, in order to be considered attractive. Even if this means having your mother come to your house in the middle of the night while your man is sleeping. To put a flat iron to your head, that sizzles with ever pass. Causing not only damage to your hair but also underlying psychological damage, just for you to return back to bed before he wakes. Giving the illusion that the first thing he sees in the morning is what he thinks is perfection.
A bit extreme, but an actual representation of the lengths woman go in the black community, by sacrificing and manipulating themselves to maintain someone else’s standard of beauty. This film gives women of color the opportunity to look in the mirror and start embracing their true authentic selves. It took Violet multiple identity changes before the clippers came, where she was able to finally start stepping out of the box that she and other woman like herself, had been placed in for so many years. Violet experimented with different hair colors, lengths, and styles, and with everyone she adapted a new persona.
When the time came for the big chop Sanaa Lathan opted out of utilizing a bald wig cap and took the plunge for real. In an interview with CNN Entertainment, Lathan stated that she was in a place where she was ready to do the big chop. Lathan went on to tell CNN about her role, “It came in my life at a time I was kind of rethinking beliefs and desires, and actually my hair was a big part of that,” she said. “I felt like it was definitely the stronger choice, it was committing to all she (Violet) was going through.”
The transformation that developed on screen was empowering and emotional. Violet begins mentoring the young black daughter of the single father. That owns the hair salon where her natural hair journey began to take root. Through Violet and young Zoe’s relationship, you can see the same challenges that Violet faced as a little black girl, coming of age in a society that constantly puts an emphasis on appearances. This particular kinship on screen makes this a perfect film to sit down and watch with adolescent black and brown girls. It could positively impact their outlook and ideas of the meaning of beauty.
Nappily Ever After unifies women of color by paying homage to the natural hair movement that continues to grown day by day. In the movie we have a women re writing her own narrative, while we also have woman and girls all over the world that have the courage to do the same. There is a strong connection between hair and identity in the black community and we take pride in our roots, literally. The film is liberating and affirming; yet it is important to understand that this is not a call only to black women, but a call to all genders and ethnicities. To begin defining themselves on their own terms, and re defining this thing called beauty to be all-inclusive and unconventional.