“I was in a place where I was ready for the big chop,” Lathan recalled about her hair in a recent interview with CNN. In “Napily Ever After,” Lathan plays Violet Jones, a woman with a seemingly perfect life and coiffure who transforms mightily as her world starts to crumble. Part of that transformation includes shaving her head, something that Lathan actually did for the role.
Playing Violet Jones seemed ordained, Lathan told CNN.
Receive Fareed Zakaria’s Global Analysis
including insights and must-reads of world news
By subscribing you agree to our
“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.
Black women and hair is a thing.
From the debate over natural hair versus chemically treated, or wigs and weaves, hair is a cultural touchstone in the black community — along with a multibillion dollar business.
“Hair, in terms of women in general, is a huge part of what we’re told represents our beauty,” Lathan said. “Beauty obviously plays into self esteem and self worth. As black women in this culture…we’ve been told that our hair is not beautiful because it does not look like the European standard, which is long and straight.”
Lathan said a few years ago she started feeling like she was just over her hair.
“The whole thing about being a woman, being a black woman in this society and all the things we go through with having hair,” she said. “Then there’s the whole layer of being an actress on top of that, where you’re having to go from project to project and deal with different hairdressers and trying to protect your hair. It was just a whole thing that I was tired of.”
So is her character in the film, based on a popular novel of the same name by Trisha R. Thomas.
Lathan said she was in a space where she was ready for a change.
And change she did.
While Lathan had the option of wearing a shaved cap, she opted to do it for real.
Her new look went viral when she debuted it on social media last year.
“So light I could fly away,” she said in a video as she rubbed her newly shorn scalp.
The “Shots Fire” star said she was definitely nervous about changing her look, but felt she owed it to the character to go for it.
“I felt like it was definitely the stronger choice,” Lathan said. “It was committing to all she was going through.” Just like her character, Lathan said she underwent a transformation beyond her shorter hair. “I didn’t know the kind of spiritual and psychological freedom I would feel,” she said. “Not only do you feel free because you don’t have any hair on your head, it’s lighter and cooler, but there is something that’s psychological. It’s like ‘Ok, now I can start fresh.”
Her fallback, she said, would have been to don a wig in her personal life had she not liked the look.
And while she hasn’t, Lathan said she’s not taking a stand against wigs or weaves, as that’s not what the film is about.
“This is a love story through the lens of hair, a woman’s hair journey,” she said. “But it’s a love story about falling in love with yourself.”
“Nappily Ever After” starts streaming Friday
Written by: Lisa Respers France