On the night that Hollywood’s most famous women wore black in support of each other, Viola Davis’s red carpet appearance was perhaps the most thrilling of all. Of course, Viola, who presented an award alongside Helen Mirren, is both preternaturally beautiful and talented, but seeing her bouncy afro hair in all its glory catapulted her to the top of our favourite looks of the night.
Davis has long been vocal about the importance of representing natural afro texture on and off screen. Who could forget the moment in How To Get Away With Murder, when her character, Annalise Keating, removes her wig on-camera to show her hair underneath in an intimate moment of distress? It’s a truly powerful moment usually not seen on mainstream TV, as Keating battles with personal and relationship demons.
Davis has also discussed the alopecia she suffered from in her late 20s following a bout of stress, and the dependence on wigs and extensions she developed as a result.
“I had a wig that I wore when I worked out. I never showed my natural hair. It was a crutch, not an enhancement,” Davis told Vulture. “I was so desperate for people to think that I was beautiful. I had to be liberated from that to a certain extent.”
It’s clear that for Davis, like many black women, the decision to wear her hair natural had more to do with self-acceptance and casting off societal pressure than it did style. Women from Maya Angelou to Solange Knowles to Lupita Nyong’o to Angela Davis have all spoken out on the discrimination and erasure women with natural afro hair face, and just how much society ridiculously the afro as ‘unkempt’ and ‘unprofessional’.
Just a few months ago, US-based creative Momo Pixel invented a game to show people just how much harassment women with afro hair go through. To win ‘Hair Nah’, you have to successfully bat away all the Caucasian hands trying to touch the heroine’s hair as she boards as a flight – something that countless black women face every day.
Plus, a clip from VH1’s Love & Hip Hop Miami of Amara Le Negra, an aspiring musician, being told that her afro hair “isn’t elegant” has been gaining heat all weekend. In the clip, Producer Young Hollywood tells Amara that she needs to be “less Macy Gray” and that an afro is “more of a seasonal thing”. Come again?
MP Diane Abbott told Stylist in a past interview, “Sometimes you have a hairstyle because you like it, and sometimes it’s a statement. My decision to cut my hair off and have an Afro was political – it was about celebrating black power.”
Of Davis’s red carpet appearance, Stylist’s junior beauty writer Ava Welsing-Kitcher says: “What an absolute queen, rocking her crown. Yes, we’d hoped that we’d already be past that stage where a red carpet ‘fro creates such a buzz, but we’re talking about hers for all the right reasons.
“It instils a strong sense of pride in me to see such a prolific black actress to make such a statement with a hairstyle that’s so unapologetically noticeable, especially considering the recent attempts to censor afro hair and make it fade into the background – literally. More afros, please.”
Editorial assistant Moya Lothian-McLean adds: ‘Viola Davis: natural hair, don’t care. It’s not the first time she’s gone natural but it’s certainly the most regal. Seeing her full fro out in force felt all the more like a milestone coming when it did; at the first post-Weinstein, post-entertainment-industry-reckoning major awards show.
“On a night where women in Hollywood started work on (hopefully) turning the tide of sexism permanently, Viola’s fro was an unapologetic statement about being true to oneself – whatever form that takes – and reminding everyone how important it is for black women to take their seat at the table.”
We can all agree that Viola Davis looked truly incredible at the Golden Globes, and while it may be frustrating that sporting a natural afro out is still seen as something exceptional, such a decorated actress wearing an afro proudly will help overturn the bigoted beauty standards that still pervade Hollywood.
Want to know more? Here at Stylist, we launched our Hair Equality Pledge, where we urge salons to commit to serving women with afro hair the same as any other clients.
Our tenets of visibility (encouraging the salon to make it clear they treat all hair types), price (ensuring women with afro hair aren’t charged more) and diversity (promising communications on social media and style menus are ethically diverse. Lots of top salons, including Larry King, Gielly Green and Aveda are on board. Check out more here.
Images: Rex Features