If you tuned in to “How to Get Away with Murder” recently, you know that Viola Davis has spent some screen time without her wig on. It proved not only to be a raw and emotional episode, but it displayed a rare moment: a Black woman with natural hair on a mainstream TV network.
Turn back the clock 20 years, and you’d be hard-pressed to see a Black actress with hair that was anything other than just-got-out-of-the-salon laid. Flip through the tube in 1995, and you might find: the ladies from Living Single, all with straight strands (with some weaves thrown in), the freshly blowdried ‘do’s of Laura and Harriette on Family Matters, and Gina and Pam’s permed-out hair on Martin. Fast-forward a couple more years, and there’s some more representation with a two-for-one curly appearance in the form of the Mowry twins onSister, Sister. But, even their coils were straightened later in the series. As writer, fashion expert, and image activist Michaela Angela Davis points out, non-curly hairstyles that dominated the small screen in the ’90s were very much a sign of the times. “We were in a very conservative moment,” she says. “Relaxers were easier to get, easier to use, weaves came in…and getting straight hair just got more accessible.”
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