Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Resurgence of Natural Hair in TV, The Last Five Years


Natural hair is slowly picking up the pace, especially on most streaming platforms. 

Lately, natural hair has been having an incredible renaissance. 
Shaved heads, teenie weenie afros (TWAs), full blow outs, locs, box braids, cornrows, and more are being worn by many Black women characters on television. They are showing off their versatile creative expression of beauty— head first. This thrilling ride gives Black women viewers the extra courage to celebrate themselves in the mirror, to value what’s already there, and also provides immense inspiration for hair salon visits. For so long, the audience had to settle with the ironed image— the straight haired Black woman fitting in with her non-Black counterparts, hiding her roots to impress the masses. Although the straight hair image remains prominent today, actresses are letting their preference shine bright. In the past, nappy, coils, kinky hair was viewed unkempt, unprofessional, unruly— and this would be included in a televised storyline. 

Taylor Bryant’s article, The Problem With Natural Hair On TV, closes with this:
“Hopefully, these shows will act as inspiration for more Black actresses to feel comfortable shedding their wigs before the camera starts rolling. With more women embracing their natural hair IRL, it’s only right that this be accurately — and positively — reflected on the shows they regularly watch.”
One show Bryant highlighted was How to Get Away With Murder. Annalise Keating originally took her makeup and wig off after a hard day’s drama in earlier episodes. This stress related unmasking revealed a secret few were privy to know about her. Except the hair she hid from her workplace was gorgeous— always well moisturized and trimmed. Why cover such perfection? By the final season, however, Annalise wore her natural afro with pride and power; enhancing the strength and dignity of her character’s phenomenal growth. Natural hair is beautiful, resilient, and authentic. 

While characters like Florida Evans in the classic Good Times are still remembered, modern contemporary shows such as Insecure, Black Lightning, Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, and Blood & Water feature the flawless elegance of Black women’s natural hairstyles, a limitless range that was historically vilified (still is in some instances). This new wave of a positive intentional approach to Black women’s beauty— a validity growing from small screen to film— seems a form of activism that speaks volumes— “this is me, this is us!” 

Let’s keep the momentum going so that the next generation will continue seeing themselves reflected onscreen. The color of their skin and their texture and style of hair deserves recognition. 

Here are Black women television characters from various series in the last five years sporting natural hairstyles:

Our Kind of People’s Angela and Nikki Vaughn (played by Yaya DaCosta and Alana Bright from 2021-2022). 

How to Get Away With Murder’s Annalise Keating (played by Viola Davis from 2014-2020).

Black Lightning’s Lynn Pierce (played by Christine Adams from 2018-2021).

Insecure’s Issa Dee (played by Issa Rae from 2015-2021).

Insecure’s Kelli Prenny (played by Natasha Rothwell from 2015-2021).

Queen Sugar’s Nova Bordelon (played by Rutina Wesley from 2015-present).

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s Sarah Wilson (played by Adepero Oduye, 2021).
Wandavision’s Monica Rambeau/Geraldine (played by Teyonah Parris, 2021).

Cherish the Day’s Gently James (played by Xosha Roquemore, 2020).
I May Destroy You’s Arabella (played by Michaela Coel, 2020). 

A Black Lady Sketch Show various characters (played by Ashley Nicole Black from 2019-present)

All Rise’s Lola Carmichael (played by Simone Missick from 2019-present).
Random Acts of Flyness’s Najja (played by Dominique Fishback, 2018).

Star Trek:Discovery’s Commander Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green from 2017-present). 

Van Helsing’s Doc (played by Rukiya Bernard from 2016-2021, also presently recurring on Yellowjackets).

Blood and Water’s Thandeka Khumalo (played by Gail Mabalane from 2020-present).

Blood and Water’s Zama Bolton (played by Cindy Mahlangu from 2020-present).

Blood and Water’s Wendy Dlamini (played by Natasha Thahane from 2020-present).

Greenleaf’s Kerissa Greenleaf (played by Kim Hawthorne from 2016-2020).

Greenleaf’s Zora Greenleaf (played by Lovie Simone from 2016-2020).

Run the World’s Ella (played by Andrea Bordeaux 2021-present, image is from her guest starring on NCIS, 2013).

P Valley’s Mercedes (played by Brandee Evan’s from 2020-present). 
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency’s Farah Black (played by Jade Eshete from 2016-2017).

Harlem’s Tye (played by Jerrie Johnson from 2021-present).

Harlem’s Dr. Elise Pruitt (played by Whoopi Goldberg from 2021-present).
Harlem’s Angie (played by Shoniqua Shandai from 2021-present).

Sunday, January 16, 2022

An Everlasting Appreciation For Daniel King

Daniel (Y’lan Noel) and Issa (Issa Rae) had an undeniably special bond.

Issa Dee and Daniel King were high school friends sharing a common interest in music. Although they did not pursue a romantic relationship back then, Daniel remained Issa’s secret crush. Other than sending each other messages on Facebook, their paths rarely crossed. When things became unbearable for Issa with her boyfriend of five years the utterly depressed Lawrence Walker, Issa tracks music producer Daniel down on an open mic night. Daniel encourages Issa to spit to the young crowd and Issa does so, dropping the epic classic Broken Pussy, embarrassing her best friend Molly in the process. Something brews between the two— something new and refreshing. Yet after their first kiss, Daniel implies he’s not looking for anything serious. It sucks that he considers her an object to lust after. Certainly a fine, established producer could have anyone else. The awkwardness comes and goes. Once Molly bails out of the We Got Y’all Career Day, Issa invites Daniel to speak— at Frida’s request. The kids were not initially impressed by him, but Issa certainly was charmed the whole way through. The moment leads to a hilarious appearance by Mirror Daniel and Ty Dolla Sign. 

Just Daniel. 

Crushes are normal. Crushes form everyday. Issa was not free to be keeping contact with Daniel whose interest was not an “in it” like Lawrence. By episode five, Issa chooses to go to Daniel’s studio and stay well past his musicians and guests. She chooses that kiss to go further. She chooses to have sex all over that studio. While Guordan Banks’ “Keep Me In Mind” plays in the background, one wonders if the song is intended for Daniel or for Lawrence. The aftermath is worst. Issa lies to Lawrence and avoids Daniel. She shirks all responsibility— as though not talking about it or addressing the person with whom the mistake was made erases that night. Yet it is not rocket science to figure out what happened. Issa trashes Daniel and Lawrence dumps her. 

Y’lan Noel made Daniel. Cannot imagine anyone else in the role.

Daniel portrayer Y’lan Noel (who originally auditioned for Lawrence) spoke to Essence on his character. 

“I see him as being somebody who follows through with what he’s interested in, whether it be music or, obviously, Issa,” Noel said about Daniel. “He’s sincere. He doesn’t sit on his emotions —which I think is incredibly inspiring. He’s also very single minded. Not selfish, but single minded. He doesn’t know Lawrence or anything about that guy. He’s just concerned about him and Issa’s relationship.”

By season two, post-breakup Issa has reluctantly let Lawrence live his life separately and wants to obtain sexual liberation. Issa meets her friends and Felix (an asinine jerk who brushes her off) at the Kiss and Grind. Daniel is also there and Issa exchanges words with him, strangely highlighting that she is single. At a diner, they share a plate of fries as Kelli enjoys her new boo’s finger talents. However, Issa should not have put Daniel in her “hoe-tation”— a hoetation that only consisted of her Dunes neighbor and Daniel. Daniel seems to no longer consider Issa a mere fling. Who can forget that smile when Issa came by with a special delivery? His smile spoke volumes as did their introductory kiss. He drops everything for her— even coming straight to her aide after her lil car accident. In the next episode, she shows him vast appreciation. Sis should have moved. That is all there is say. But later Daniel speaks inexcusably over the phone. 

The eye incident will go down in Insecure Hall of Shame forever.

Eventually, Issa must leave the Dunes Apartments due to the raising rent— gentrification is evil. She has the option of Ahmal, of Molly (whose vase she broke—we’ll never know). In the end, who does Issa choose to stay with rent free? 


Issa and Daniel at Kiss and Grind. 

Season three allows a small glimpse into Daniel’s life. Lilian, Daniel’s sister can’t part hair well and is curious about why Daniel let Issa stay at his place. Jada, Daniel’s niece loves the ratchet music, but appreciates that her uncle’s music makes her think. Studio buddy Brett (Issa Rae’s real life bro Lamine) never brings Daniel a decent artist and rarely shows up when Daniel needs him. Vanessa, Daniel’s critical, “lightskin love” cheerleading bedmate sees him overcrowding her space. Music takes Daniel to places. It is his true love, his vital passion. Although the industry shuns his independent style, he is able to return to its nature, to its instrumental roots. It comforts him, soothes him despite the limitations to true success. With Issa, however, he is unsure. 

Daniel was so unsure to meet Spyder, but Issa pushed him in the right direction. 

Issa stands correct on the tiptoeing. She was nervous about asking Daniel for more time. Daniel was confused by her being there yet obviously wanted her to stay. They were dancing around the chemistry. It was in the air. Issa is at her most awkward, her most vulnerable. She pushes him away repeatedly. When Brett cancels on a meeting with hot act Spyder, Issa—after kindly cleaning Daniel’s apartment—offers to come support Daniel at the club. Interestingly, Daniel appears more and more unsure of himself. Issa uplifts Daniel much as he did her before season one’s open mic. Even in a dimly lit crowd, Daniel and Issa’s undeniable chemistry is charged— further still when he beatboxes in her ear and then shields his body over hers once gunshots fly. Then, they come back home to a peace offering. Issa listens to his new track, pleased. Daniel and Issa obviously care deeply for each other. The stain of their intimacy wounded what could have been a bonafide pairing. Plus, Daniel looked down on Issa and Issa gave Daniel very mixed signals. 

There were terrible aspects to Daniel— no doubt about it. He showed up to Issa’s job twice coming across as thirsty as Darius Lovehall impermissibly taking Nina Mosley’s address off a check in Love Jones or Jason following Lyric’s bus until she got off in Jason’s Lyric. The kicker— Daniel enjoys playing Issa’s “hero” so much that the thought of her leaving his apartment hurt that sensitive ego. It hurt below the belt. Still, if Lawrence can be forgiven for calling Issa a “hoe” to her face after bringing Aparna to the birthday dinner of Derek (husband of Issa’s friend, Tiff) in season two, why is it harder to allow Daniel that same space to grow? After that particular dinner, Lawrence and Aparna have sex for the first time and not under Issa’s hearing. In the season three opener, Daniel had the galling audacity to have loud sex with couch crashing guest Issa present— although, yes, she could have easily stayed with Molly or Ahmad. Both men have crushing temperaments in regards to Issa. Lawrence is verbally cruel and Daniel is passively vindictive. By the series finale, most characters grew from their childishly immature behaviors. They treated each other with intended care and respect. Who’s to say that Daniel has not also matured someplace, leveled up, and took Issa’s advice? 

Daniel and Issa, the possibility could have been amazing. 

Daniel fans did receive closure—though at the time it did not seem so. When Issa moves out and rummages through her old belongings, she eventually tosses away the rap journals and CDs. She says goodbye to her younger self, says goodbye essentially to Daniel. Openings arose for his faithful return— Issa’s Bloc Party certainly needed a special musical producer’s helping hand. That voyage sailed with Daniel’s previously harsh “I’m always having to save you.” Instead of reaching out to her old friend/lover, she chooses her BFF’s new man to save her event. Issa uses people, but her intentions are for her people. Eventually, she needs no savior. She becomes someone to rely on. 

Daniel and Issa hug goodbye.

Insecure is no Jennifer Garner movie called Confessions of Girlfriends Past. Issa was moving forward, moving past the past. With the shadow of Lawrence always bound to lurk in the picture, Daniel and Issa never had a real chance to blossom into their potential together. It would have been nice to see them dating, being truly honest with each other, maturing and keeping off stubborn ground. Still, fans received sweet takeaway moments— the shared silly smiles, the songs they made, the constant flirtation, the steamiest love scene on television, and a final embrace. Some favorite doomed couples never even kissed— so the Daniel Hive was generously lucky in that. Issa Rae and Y’lan Noel crafted in these two connected characters an aesthetically pleasing onscreen match in a world still making couples contrast—skin first. They proved that two dark skinned people could create a scorching irresistible fire that remains burning in memory. 

Daniel King may not have returned in the last seasons, but he sure did leave a memorable impression. 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Looking Back on ‘Last Holiday,’ It Just Turned Sweet Sixteen

Last Holiday film poster.

When considering the role capitalism plays in a modern day employee’s life, Last Holiday highlights how insignificant employees become. Jobs can turn into one’s entire being, so much so that paused dreams may never form into reality. Founder and CEO salaries make beyond a living wage, but rarely step foot into the office or factory for extended long hours. Although worker strikes against problematic conditions like racism, sexism, and time off have forever existed, the current pandemic brought forward countless discrepancies— bodies severely overworked among rising death and ultimately replaced.   

Georgia (Queen Latifah) allows her voice to be drowned out in the church choir.

The sixteen-year-old Last Holiday is a remake of the classic starring Alec Guinness as a lonely farmhand equipment salesman. In the later rendition, Georgia Byrd, a humble department store sales lady has big chef dreams kept secretly inside a Possibilities scrapbook. She also nurses a huge crush on her co-worker Shawn Williams— a salesman in appliances. Georgia dissolves fully into her work; finding joy in preparing gourmet meals for the customers. Yet the belittling store manager berates her for giving out free samples. Georgia’s daily hell is the typical societal norm: take the verbal lashing, perform your duties and the duties of another due to understaffing, and most important of all— try not to sustain work related injuries. At home, Georgia cooks exceptional meals for Darius, a little boy neighbor and his grandmother— but rarely indulges. Also, her sister— a single mother— often needs Georgia to babysit. Georgia, essentially a caretaker to everyone but herself, keeps working time clock or no time clock. 

Pre-Instagram foodie culture—Georgia enjoyed recreating Emeril Lagasse cuisine with her soulful twist and taking photographs. She put them in her Possibilities scrapbook.  

While Darius eats an original Georgia Byrd creation over Coke, Georgia (wearing a track suit) has microwaved Lean Cuisine and a Diet Coke.

After a small incident at work turns into a largely unexpected health scare that HMO won’t even cover, Georgia decides to live life by her terms. A workplace that doesn’t ensure the well-being of its employees deserves no staunch loyalty. Georgia’s boss offers her as far as a pitiful dollar raise— all while listening to the company CEO Matthew Kragen dish advice to being “young, rich, and hip.” Narcissistic Matthew broadcasts his wealth on the cover of his magazines and ensures that his words will motivate others to the top. Georgia had given herself to his company for fifteen-years. She shouldn’t have to wait until society’s privileged doors opened up. No one should wait to turn possibilities into realities. But under capitalism.....

Saw this trending on Twitter and imagined Georgia’s boss writing an email this insensitive.

Before the doctor (who may or may not be a quack) gives Georgia a cat scan, he does mention that the machine came “new to them.” A used, likely faulty problem means Georgia will receive what her corrupt and cheap workplace can afford. And it will not be accurate.

A brave Shawn (LL Cool J) finally asks out Georgia (Queen Latifah) to a sports event happening weeks away. Thinking she won’t be alive then, Georgia sadly declines. 

Georgia mulls over taking the “good and faithful” path and still being punished. The truth is no matter how straight a person chooses to live (especially a Black person and a Black woman at that), the system has been designed to fail many regardless. Georgia learns this the long and hard way. You give a job most of your “good years” and the rewards are often more detrimental to the body and mind than not. Georgia’s boss did not even want to tell her that she was the reason their branch thrived. He paid her little compliment. Imagine fifteen years of that! 

After quitting her toxic job, Georgia empties her bank account and finally flies to Europe. On the problematic flight, however, she goes off— rightfully so— and switches to business class. Yes! Georgia treats herself repeatedly and it’s well earned. Obviously, she should have taken prior vacations and not allow work to become her life. She turns regrets into overdue fun and enjoyment. When she learns that her layover is delayed, she takes a helicopter and arrives early to her destination—Grandhotel Pupp Hotel in Karlovy Vary. A very tired Georgia will not wait for her room to be ready and upgrades to a suite! She is truly carefree— with her money, wardrobe, and personality! It was time. 

One of the best parts— Georgia’s montage of wearing luxury clothes that were made for her. This purple dress was a stunner. 

And that luminous smile made it everything. 

Georgia is having a ball, a real Cinderella moment. She indulges in every massage perk— even those healing spa waters— at the hotel. She’s skiing, diving off passes, and gambling— just checking her bucket list right and left. Unfortunately department store CEO Matthew is also vacationing there. Immediately, he is rattled by the attention Georgia receives from everyone including a charmed Senator George Billings and impressed Chef Didier. Heck, another sprouts out how awesome it would be if Georgia bought plates at his campaign fundraising dinners as well. He saw her as a dollar figure— not a person. Unbeknownst to Matthew, it is due to Georgia coming out of her shell, taking life by the bull horns. Matthew— accustomed to attention mainly due to his wealth and not that personality— lets his envy grow like a weed. His competitiveness does not phase Georgia at all. In fact, she is rather entertained by it. 

Also Matthew happens to be racially insensitive— as rich white people often intend to be— implying that Senator Billings must know Georgia (they are the only brown skinned people at the hotel). In a hilarious yet genuinely amazing reply Senator Billings says, “I don’t know every Black person.” Yet, when Matthew sees Senator Billings and Georgia talking and swimming together in the spa, Matthew still insists that they know each other— blindly dismissing that Senator Billings finds Georgia attractive. 

Unlike Shawn, the very smitten Senator George Billings (Giancarlo Esposito) who also lives in Georgia’s town, approached Georgia (Queen Latifiah) with the quickness. 

And Chef Didier (Gerard Depardieu) also enjoyed Georgia (Queen Latifah)— a no substitutions kind of a woman!

Matthew—who has had enough of Georgia spreading positive energy— decides to humiliate her in a toast.  

“You made us think you were somebody.” 

The kicker—Georgia is a somebody! She may not have been born rich or hung around in upper crust circles. She may not travel the world every day. Georgia, like the rest of lower middle class, poor, and other disfranchised people, is a human being worthy of compassion. Everybody should live how they want without judgement. Matthew’s “how dare you think you’re better than me” demeanor enhances his evil smirk during his backfired foolishness. Georgia owed him nothing because she never put on airs for anyone’s benefit. This scene showcases the contempt affluent people can exhibit over someone else’s happiness, over someone else’s inherent wealth. By trying to humiliate Georgia, Matthew thought everyone at the table would join in his distasteful open mockery and his disdain— his power over being a boss and her being his employee. She rightfully usurped his “mastery”completely. So what if she worked for his company in her past? Her department performed the best anyway. He does not own the world. He is not entitled to how she spends her saved money. This woman thought her life was over. 

When Georgia leaves, everyone also follows suit— leaving Matthew to his bottle of expensive champagne. 

Senator Billings shoots his shot…

But Georgia was looking for “realities not possibilities” in her choice of romance.

Last Holiday provides the proper curvy Black woman representation. Queen Latifah— thirty-four years old at the time— puts on a startling, multifaceted performance as a plain, reserved, church-going woman slowly breaking free from the chains of work. She doesn’t talk about her weight in self-hating fashion and she is no Mammy figure. Not only is she desired by several suitors, Georgia loves what she sees in the mirror. She dresses up in expensive, designer clothes and eats whatever she wants at the restaurant. Yes, she physically changes from her frumpy attire, but the most genuine element to her transformation is that smile. Georgia smiles more and that enhances a beauty that was already present. Thus, if Georgia Byrd can exist, surely other curvy Black women don’t have to become stuck in a tired trope.

Matthew tried to humiliate Georgia. He tried. Pitiful effort though. 

Georgia didn’t have to explain anything to Matthew, but her speech was beautifully said and portrayed.

With the exception of the alleged abuser, it was great to witness two phenomenal real-life hip hop MC’s falling in love; a little part squealing at the thought of LL Cool J’s Shawn rapping I Need Love to the Unity Queen Latifah’s Georgia. Plus, the excellent addition of Giancarlo Esposito as the polar opposite of Shawn— a man going after what he wanted full force. Although there were not many scenes of Georgia and Shawn in Europe together, which left a huge opening for Senator Billings to smoothly sweep in, Georgia knew who her heart wanted. Those many miles apart did not change her feelings. And what made this wickedly delicious  triangle successful—these three incredibly gifted individuals. 

A kiss on the ledge is a nice start to for two people who were too shy to speak about feelings at their former job.

Happily ever after for restauranteur Georgia and her love, Shawn. 

Last Holiday may have turned sixteen, but several parts ring true now. Georgia continuously makes light of dying and people think her to be joking. Or they’re not listening to her altogether. The woman is suffering. No one is paying real attention. Our jobs should not define who we were. We have something more to offer besides manual labor. Most importantly, paid vacations are necessary. Paid vacations can be staying home a week or traveling off to another country. Georgia Byrd shows the validity of experiencing just a piece of what Matthew types experience everyday. Also— misdiagnosis is a huge reality for the Black community. Always has been. 

For a sweet, feel good movie with humor, warmth, and inspiration, Last Holiday has the key.*

*if your job is no longer serving you, quit if you can.