Chris Rock’s comedy doc, “Good Hair”–and my 40 second Hollywood debut–are back on HBO for a summer run from July 12 through August 19.
In 2008, I was invited to sit down with Rock at HBO’s New York headquarters to talk about my great-great-grandmother, Madam C. J. Walker, an early twentieth century pioneer of the modern hair care and cosmetics industries.
During my hour long interview we covered everything from the history of black women and hair to the dwindling number of black-owned hair care manufacturers. In the movie, though, you’ll see that all my carefully accumulated expertise ended up being condensed into two 20 second soundbites. But, hey, as a long time producer myself, I’m just glad I didn’t end up on the cutting room floor! (though maybe these days with digital editing I should change “cutting room floor” to recyle bin.) Plus I truly enjoyed my conversation with this very smart, very funny man and with Nelson George, his producer on this project.
Lots of folks have said they wished there had been more historical context and more discussion about natural hair. I can’t argue with that, but my guess is that, while Rock was trying to “drop some knowledge” and get folks to examine some of our community’s “issues” around hair, he also wanted to make a movie that would get maximum laughs. He is, after all, a comedian. A socially conscious and politically astute comedian, but a comedian whose audience expects to be entertained.
I’m not mad at him for spending time exposing that horrible woman who rips people off with her lay-away hair weave business or that Hollywood hairdresser who bragged about re-selling used hair extensions. Of course Rock had to have a barbershop scene. And that bit with him trying to sell Afro hair pieces to the beauty supply store exposed a sad reality in a slightly funny but mostly ironic way.
As someone who grew up with parents who worked in the hair care industry–and who went to more than my share of hair shows–I probably have more tolerance than the average person for all the segments on the Bronner Brothers convention hair style competition. The movie is what it is. It’s funny. It exposes some uncomfortable truths. And “creamy crack” has become a ubiquitous phrase that always will be associated with Rock’s “Good Hair.”
Folks who are looking for deep meaning and analysis will be left wanting. For that–and for more of a woman’s perspective–there are other excellent, more insightful movies already out there by filmmakers like Regina Kimbell ( “My Nappy Roots”) and Ada Babino (“Middle Passage-N-Roots”). And there are more currently in production. We’ll keep you posted.