Recently, we had the opportunity to talk to Chris Rock and Nia Long about weaves, wigs, and perms for the new documentary, Good Hair. Rock was inspired to make the film after his daughter asked him why she didn’t have good hair. In her case, she was referring to the European look of straight long tresses, but is that everyone’s ideal? The film features very candid interviews with many African American actresses, including Long and Raven Symone, who talk about the ins-and-outs of their hair.
Here, Chris and Nia talk about the surprising facts they found out about the hair industry, and some of the raw material that didn’t make the theatrical cut.
Check out what they had to say…
Chris, how did you respond when your daughter asked you why she didn’t have “good hair”?
Chris Rock: When she said it, I didn’t panic. It’s like when your kid falls down. They weren’t thinking of crying, but when you’re acting all crazy, then they start crying. It’s the same thing when they say stuff. If I overreacted at that moment, she would have had a complex about it. So, I just played it off. I was like, ‘Hey, you’re hair is beautiful. You wanna get some ice cream?’ But in my mind, I’m thinking, ‘Huh.’
If your daughter wanted a weave, would you pay for it?
CR: It depends on how old she is. I would make her get a job for it. She can work it off.
Nia, did you have any reservations about doing this documentary?
Nia Long: Um, Chris paid me so much money! I have a huge backend deal! No, I was happy to do this because it is an important subject. I think the more we discuss things that are taboo in the community, the more we understand one another and the more in touch we can be with who we really are as black women.
Did you find a difference among the women regarding the issues with their hair?
NL: I think we all shared a lot of the same feelings, which is why he was able to edit us so quickly on the same question. Even though our answers were different, the attitudes were the same.
What did you find most interesting while you were researching for this film?
CR: The money spent. I was shocked. The big thing really was how it’s not good for relationships. The money spent. It is almost like dating somebody with a drug habit, almost. You know what I mean? It’s like dating a guy who spent 10 grand a year on baseball cards. You know what I mean? It probably wouldn’t work, would it?
What was the experience like being on the other side of the table and interviewing people?
CR: I like being the interviewer. It’s fun. It’s like chess, man. It’s like speed dating with everybody that you have to talk to and trying to get them relaxed and say certain things.
NL: You saw what he did to me. All my business is out there.
CR: It really is like dating. You are talking to a beautiful woman, and a beautiful woman has been asked a lot. People talk to beautiful women all the time, so my job is to never ask her a question that will make her go into autopilot. Always avoiding that question.
Did you find that your comedic background was helpful?
CR: Being a comedian does help to keep it light, and you’re not worried about being funny. I’ll be funny. I ain’t worried about that part. I let the people talk and I can figure out where to be funny when I have to.
Did any filmmakers inspire you while you were figuring out how to make the film?
CR: Oh I love Michael Moore. There are a few Michael Moore people on the project. I am a big Michael Moore fan. I wasn’t thinking about it per se, but yeah, I’m not gonna lie and say that I didn’t watch all the movies before we started. Oh, and Super Size Me.
Was it difficult to sell this idea to the studios?
CR: It was oh so hard to sell this to the studios. It was hard to get HBO to give me money. Even after we won at Sundance, we were still sitting around for a month, almost two months, and nobody wanted it. It took us a long time. It was so hard.
Did you try to represent the male viewpoint or simply keep it neutral?
CR: I tried to keep it neutral. I tried to be a reporter, an unbiased journalist through the whole thing. I think I kind of succeeded.
Did you find that men had a preference for weaves or natural hair?
CR: Uh, you know most guys would rather natural. If you get a Black men’s magazine, the hair is all different lengths and colors. What is the most consistent thing? Ass. Hips. These are the deal breakers with black men. I never saw a black woman who has a problem getting a man because of her hair.
NL: It’s kind of an important thing. Maybe they do look at the ass first, but they are definitely checking out the hair at some point in the evening.
Were you surprised that women are still dealing with this in our era?
CR: I don’t think we are dealing with it. I think we are dealing with the fact that there hasn’t been a movie about it. That’s why we are here right now. I don’t think any of us are pained by our hair. We have had experiences, but those experiences were easily twenty or thirty years ago. Everybody in this film pretty much rocks the hair they feel like rocking.
NL: I think it is still a sensitive subject, but I think we are at a place now where the young girls are very proud of the choices they make. It is like, ‘I am going to get the longest, weaviest weave and I’m going to be proud because it’s like buying a new pair of shoes.’ What concerns me is that I don’t want Black women to lose their identity based on the images the media celebrates. I want us to still appreciate who we are in our raw state.
Nia, do you see a difference between the women you grew up around in the Caribbean compared to here in the States?
NL: Well in Trinidad, you see a lot of women that are a Black and Indian mix. There are women who look like me, where they are brown-skinned Black women, or you see women that are Black, Indian, Asian mixtures. I think to all West Indian women the looks are secondary to your sense of self and sense of pride. I don’t think you see a lot of women in Trinidad with weaves if that is what you are asking.
How did you do your hair when you were younger?
NL: I wore two cornrows forever. Recently I rocked them again and loved it. That was my hairstyle. It was parted down the middle with two French braids. I would do it myself.
Do you think this film is going to peak the curiosity of what women are doing to their hair?
CR: You know the First Lady is Black. I’m sure a lot of people are wondering what’s going on up there.
NL: That’s her hair though.
Will there be any special features or clips on the DVD version of the film?
CR: You are going to see the Jheri curl. The origins of the Jheri curl; everything about the Jheri curl. We combed LA and found 6 guys that still had Jheri curls and we had a Jheri curl roundtable. It was like a Charlie Rose interview.
CR: Oh, its great! It is great. It just didn’t fit in. We had a lot of male stuff, but when you start cutting, we realized, ‘Hum, women. Way more interesting. Way more sexy. Let’s keep this movie focused on the women.’
There you have it!
Good Hair will be available in limited release on October 9th, then a wide release on October 23rd.
Check out the trailer below…