Good Hair – a DVD review

“Hair is a woman’s glory,” says poet and author Maya Angelou in Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair. While this may be, the effort and expense many African American women go to for the sake of self image is the subject of Rock’s film. Inspired by his 7-year-old daughter Lola’s plaintive question, “Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?”, Rock set out to learn just what good hair is and just how women get it.

The answer involves several humorous interviews with such persons as Nia Long, Tracie Thoms, Ice-T, and even the Reverend Al Sharpton, who explains why he once fashioned his hair after James Brown to go to the White House. Everyone seems to have a perm horror story, relating the sensation of fire and burning on their scalps. Salt N Pepa relate how a hair mishap became their signature look.

Rock spends a lot of camera time in beauty shops, interviewing stylists, patrons, and the men waiting for the women. Some of his funniest footage is of men discussing the cost and effort of their high maintenance women.

Where does this hair come from? India, which exports hair by the kilo – “like cocaine.” The first time I heard of this documentary was when Rock was on Oprah. He told her that in India, if you tell someone about to have her head shaved for religious reasons that Americans will pay big bucks for her hair, she will react as skeptically as if you had told her people will pay for her toenail clippings.

Some of the most entertaining bits of this very entertaining documentary are clips of the Bronner Brothers Hair Show in Atlanta, a city, Rock claims, “where all major Black decisions are made.” While it is interesting that blacks purchase 80% of the hair products and services sold, it was the Bronner competition that fascinated and repelled me. Winning the hair show competition is serious, if farcical business.  Competing stylists must style hair on stage, but it is timed and it must be entertaining. Everything but the Rockettes seem to be included in some of the numbers. Particularly fun was white competitor Jason Griggers, who takes Rock’s camera crew with him when he goes for a botox treatment.

While Rock may or may not answer what good hair is, he certainly answers how much it costs and how essential it is to the women with which he speaks. And while Rock is a funny man who presents a documentary full of comedic moments, the main feeling I came away from it with is just how serious this issue is.

Special features on the DVD include a humorous if no more enlightening full-length commentary by Chris Rock, and a short featurette, “Afro to Jheri Curl.” Good Hair is available for rental and from Netflix.

by Heather Craig

Good Hair movie poster

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