Diversity in the fashion industry is making slow but steady progress. But when it comes to ideals off the catwalk, the beauty standard of straight, silky hair and fair skin is still hanging on tight.
So it's no wonder many black women have a complicated relationship with their hair. Growing up, they can be teased for having kinks and curls instead of "white" hair, but if they get it pressed, they can be traumatized by the breakage and heat damage endured by their hair. For many, it takes years—if ever—to become completely comfortable with their hair.
Of course, not everyone's experience is the same. Some women get weaves, others get relaxers, and some embrace their natural locks from the get-go. The point is: as a society, we aren't as familiar with black hair as we are with white hair. And the best way to learn about it is to listen to individuals' stories—of struggle, of acceptance, of pride.
For writer and cultural critic Michaela Angela Davis, that's the goal of her new video series: to bring the world hair stories from stars and influencers like actresses Kim Coles, Regina King, and Tasha Smith, Black Lives Matter cofounder Patrisse Cullors, writer and producer Mara Brock Akil, and more.
The series, called Hair Tales, is part of Davis' latest project, MAD FREE, which is dedicated to expanding the narrow female narratives—particularly those of women of color.
In the premiere video for the series below, actress Tasha Smith talks about how she "should have been in therapy" for growing up with her hair, constantly asking herself, "What am I going to do with my hair?"