The Natural Hair specialist in me could not wait to see this movie. It has been roughly ten years since I have unlearned to hate my hair the way God made it. I’m not alone: Black American women are conditioned as little girls to hate their own hair. Nappily Ever After reveals where and how that conditioning starts…with mothers putting so much emphasis on straightening our hair that everything else—like being carefree and having fun—takes a backseat.

I took notes while watching this movie, because the hair issue drew me in, but the movement of the story made me hang in there. I’m writing this post under the assumption that my reader has already seen the movie. If you haven’t, I hope that my reader is motivated to give it a look.

  1. Mistaking relaxer for conditioner? Impossible, unless you’ve never, EVER smelled the inside of a Black salon. I’m a licensed cosmetologist. Before that, I’ve worn my hair relaxed for 30 years. Sodium hydroxide (the active ingredient in relaxer) has an unmistakable smell, and you can’t massage it into hair like shampoo or conditioner. If relaxer was applied to the hair the way that conditioner is applied, you wouldn’t be sitting under the dryer talking about a “tingle” or a “slight burn”. Your head would be on fire like the Ghost Rider, and you would be writhing in agony, not throwing a fit on your feet. Social media, please stop perpetuating this myth.
  2. Too many of us women end up crying in the ladies’ room. Can we break down in the car or at home, for a change? Just saying.
  3. Why does “perfect” mean “as close to Caucasian as possible”?
  4. Why does “perfect” mean “straightened hair”?
  5. “You gotta own it, girl!” Yes, if you’re going to shave your head—or do something equally radical to yourself—then don’t walk around like somebody else did it to you. Square those shoulders back, lift that chin, and make them double-take!
  6. Why do we still let men call us “girls”? I haven’t been a girl since I got my period, when the women in my family announced that I “could get pregnant”. Try calling a 30-something man a “boy” and see what happens. Aging is not a sin, ladies, and Black doesn’t crack. Stop allowing men to demean you just because you don’t want to be perceived as “old”.
  7. Why do mothers push their daughters to live the lives that THEY’D rather live? Daughters are not your “second chance” or even your first. We are individually created women. That is why we have our own separate brains. And desires. And destinies.
  8. Black love is a beautiful thing. Not Black sex. Not “the game”. Real. Black. Love.
  9. Lynn Whitfield is forever playing that mother that needs to be slapped, blessed out, and prayed over with holy oil. I’d like to think that she’s a nice lady in real life, but this is her fourth go-round as That Mother. She’s too good at the part. She should take a break.
  10. “You taught me how to be the girl that the guy wants, but not the girl I want.” That line was worth waiting the whole movie for.
  11. And finally….a movie that’s NOT about “getting the man” but “becoming the better woman”! I admit that I can do without romantic movies, rom-coms, and even kissing in an action movie. The ending? THAT was perfect.

Nappily Ever After gave me a lot of what I expected: the pressing comb scenes, the Big Chop, the mother-daughter dynamic. It also gave me a lot of what I didn’t expect: a compelling story about a woman going from “perfect” to “better”. Great job, Sanaa Lathan!

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