Tomorrow night promises to be the biggest night of your career. The world waits with bated breath to see if you walk away victorious in your showdown against Meryl Streep for the Best Actress Oscar. It’s been a helluva journey; you’ve been grinding away in this business for almost 20 years, and finally you be could rewarded for all that hard work. I know you’ve been in warrior mode the last few months having to defend your role in The Help, the most polarizing movie in the African-American community for 2011. I’m not going to lie to you; I wasn’t crazy about the movie. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that I respect your immense talent and support your bid for Oscar gold.
That being said, I hope you win. Let’s face it, this is a business. The Oscars are far from being a meritocracy. The rule of thumb is, “The studio with the biggest awards campaign budget wins.” You happen to be part of a small percentage of actors who actually have genuine talent, so you should use that award however you can to your advantage.
Let’s end this terrible track record of black actresses winning Academy Awards, only to have their careers flame out quicker than a wet firecracker. We can start with one very simple thing. Your hair. You need to strut down that red carpet tomorrow night with that fabulous ‘fro you’ve been hiding for all these years. The Viola Davis I saw with her natural hair at The Essence Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon, the one kicking up her heels in that game changing spread in L.A. Times Magazine–THAT Viola is the one who’s going to rule Hollywood.
For extra incentive, here are three reasons why you should consider leaving the wig at home come Oscar night:
To F*ck With the Academy
Aside from Whoopi Goldberg, hardly any black female Oscar winners (or nominees) have attended the ceremony with their God-given locks. We all know Hollyweird has a bizarre standard of beauty that the average woman can barely maintain. It’s even tougher for black actresses; our skin color, our hair, even our curves are clearly not welcomed in this industry. To quote comedian Paul Mooney “When your hair’s relaxed White people are relaxed. When your hair’s nappy, White people ain’t happy.” With this whole nostalgic (and unoriginal) slant that the Oscars are going for this year, why not shake up the status quo with a fashion forward statement? Let’s drag these old farts kicking and screaming into the 21st century! And let’s keep it real–once you win that Oscar, it’s yours.
Do It For Every Little Black Girl in America
There’s a reason why the black hair care industry is a nearly billion dollar business; as black women, a lot of us just aren’t comfortable with our kinks and curls. From the blowy hair we see in the latest shampoo commercial, to every beauty supply store stocked with 16″ Remy Indian, the message is clear: natural Black hair just isn’t attractive. There’s a problem when mothers are buying kiddie perms, using toxic chemicals to straighten their 6 year old daughter’s hair. Little girls shouldn’t have to spend their childhoods suffering from scalp burns or spending 2 hours a week at the beauty salon for a wash and set. How powerful an image would it be for brown girls around the world to see one of the best actresses of our generation stand on that podium, Oscar statue in hand, just happy to be nappy? Let’s show our precious mamitas we can win in any arena just being our beautiful, phenomenal selves.
It Will Take Your Career in a New Direction
I’ve read in several interviews that you’re frustrated with filmmakers who seem to put you in a box as the “dignified, long-suffering” black woman. Which is really a shame, because you are so much more than that. Have you noticed how the media goes bananas whenever you step out in your ‘fro? There’s a reason why, dear Viola–because you look absolutely stunning! You’ve been killing it on the red carpet this past awards season, showing off that killer bod (and that divine cleavage) in a dazzling array of haute couture. You’re an ebony goddess and Hollywood needs to take notice. Let’s put a moratorium on these stuffy tragic roles for like, ever. The L.A. Times shoot showed a playful, femme fatale that’s just bursting to come out. Let’s put you opposite some of our hottest black actors (Idris Elba, Chiwetel Ejiofor) perhaps in a steamy psycho-sexual thriller and see you finally cut loose.
I know the naysayers will tell you that you must conform in order to succeed in the business, “You better slap on that wig girl!” Don’t listen to them–they lack vision and imagination. And really, who needs to be around people like that anyways? History’s trailblazers have always been the ones to buck tradition. I know it won’t be easy, but you’ll be in very good company: Adepero Oduye, Kim Wayans, Tracie Thoms, Yvette Nicole Brown, Tanika Ray, Tracee Ellis Ross. They’re all natural curly girls and loving it!
Let’s start a “Free Viola’s Hair” campaign. We can rock out to India.Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” playing on blast and toss back some Patron shots. We’ll gather up all those wigs and burn them in a bonfire. I’ll bring the gasoline and matches.
ReBecca Theodore-Vachon is on Twitter: @FilmFatale_NYC
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