A movie that goes far beyond the exterior of the “typical” corporate black American woman and peels back the layers to reveal a story of self-love and unapologetic confidence... Nappily Ever After takes it there. Comical yet very heavy in unfortunate truths, if you haven’t seen the Netflix adaptation of the novel of the same name by Trisha Thomas, it is a must-see.
What does happen when you toss “tradition” out the window and really start living for yourself?
Venus (played by Sanaa Lathan) is the golden girl of her corporate marketing office and seems to have it all. She has a great job, a beautiful home, and a loving live-in boyfriend named Clint, who happens to be a drop-dead gorgeous doctor. Sounds just about perfect right?
Raised to follow the playbook of standards to look and play the role of the perfect woman to attract a husband and obtain certain advantages in life. When a milestone birthday hits, she expects a proposal from her long-time boyfriend to polish off her accolades. But when Clint, who's been reluctant to commit over the past four years, brings home a puppy instead of an engagement ring, Venus decides to give it all up. She trades in her long hair for a dramatically short, natural cut and sends Clint packing.
But why did it have to come to this? Why are so many black women holding themselves up to this imaginary standard of what the perfect black woman looks and acts like?
From TV ads, billboards and the treatment you get when you walk into a room full of men. Society has programmed us to what it feels we should look like and aspire to be. It’s the validation a woman gets when she’s rocking her natural fro to when she steps out in a straight sew-in or wig. The two reactions from people seem to never be the same. Constantly throwing at us that this is what “real” beauty looks like, which typically reflects straight, long hair, a thinner nose, and lighter skin, is in-directly telling us to be more like white people.
Our mothers, grandmothers and sisters have passed down expectations of how we should act, dress, and style our hair for years—and it’s not their fault. Growing up in America, away from their homelands of Africa, our ancestors had no choice but to adapt. Adapting meant to straighten your hair if it made you “blend” and feel more comfortable in the presence of white people. By being stricken with stereotypes since we step foot on the soils of America, there has always been a constant uphill battle to just be treated and seen as anybody else, of any other color.
Your mindset can speak volumes without you stating a word. You may despise the lily-white girl sitting next to you but something in you still craves the understanding of why have they been picked to cover fashion magazines around the world. Are they prettier, more attractive and valued higher? You scan their face, hair, nose and lips to see that nothing between you two could ever be the same. Thus, self-doubt sets in and before you know it, you’re getting a nose job, changing your eye color, then even lightening your skin. It’s honestly scary to see the transformation, but we all have seen this and it still continues til this day.
Let’s be honest, no one wants to be constantly provoked by questions of why their hair looks different every day, or the typical “oh, I didn’t even recognize you”. When you play it safe, no one takes the time to question it. But is that the answer? Going through life merely blending and playing it safe so people are comfortable interacting with you? Is seeming to be “perfect” in their eyes worth your true happiness?
If you do decide to go against the grain, or in the case of Nappily Every After, the strand, it's certainly a bold declaration of independence. There is no such thing as perfect anyway. Where in the dictionary does it say perfection entails chemical burns from straighteners and changing how God made you? With self-love, patience, and a lot of resilience, you can define your own definition of perfection that brings you what true happiness is on your own terms.