Introducing Texture Talk, a column that dives deep into the dynamic world of curly hair, from crowns of free-flowing curls to locks that are tucked away in protective styling.
2012 Oscars Red Carpet Flashback: Viola Davis, who was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her portrayal of Aibileen Clark in 2011 Ugly, stunned in a long flowing emerald green Vera Wang dress and oversized earrings to match. But her vibrant ensemble was far from attracting attention that night. After years of donning an array of wigs on red carpets, the veteran actress decided to ditch her hairpieces for the glamorous ceremony and show off her natural hair for the very first time. For Davis, kissing his afro that night was more than just a style choice. The decision was liberating and became a teachable moment that gave a wide audience a crash course in the ever-complicated politics of black beauty in the face of Eurocentric standards.
“It’s been projected into the culture that the black woman is not pretty, and we carry that mentality as black women,” she says. “At that time, I was exhausted. Every time I was on a red carpet, it felt like a weird mix of my belonging on a red carpet because I was dressed appropriately and trying to be myself — and I could never find the balance. When I took the wig off, I found the balance.
Davis’ reels would go on to turn heads again during a first-season episode of his hit ABC show How to escape murder. As she prepared for bed, high-powered lawyer Annalize Keating, played by Viola Davis, stripped off her makeup and took off her wig, revealing a compressed head of curly hair that had been tucked underneath. The powerful scene instantly went viral – it was a remarkable moment that showcased the behind-closed-doors beauty prep process of so many black women to the rest of the world.
But for the Oscar, Emmy and Tony-winning performer and L’Oréal Paris ambassador, her most pivotal Hollywood hair moment came with her 2018 film widows, a lead role she performed while wearing her natural afro throughout the film. The hair experiment, which came at the suggestion of director Steve McQueen, helped break Davis’ longstanding blocks in an industry where the beauty of black women on screen has often been measured by the looseness of their curls. and, as a result, highly textured hair has rarely been given the airtime it deserves.
“Any time you get an acting role, your hair is the number one thing you think can turn you into a character, but I never felt like my own hair was an option,” Davis says. . “There’s something about connecting natural hair that’s frizzy to ‘what isn’t beautiful’ – and not just what isn’t beautiful, but that natural hair isn’t even in the conversation. about beauty. What matters now is that at least I can see my hair as an option.
Whether on red carpets (like the 2022 Cannes Film Festival) or on the big screen, Davis’ evolution of public hair has been neck and neck with her long road to self-acceptance, she says. It’s a journey that found the 56-year-old trying to erase her natural beauty when she was younger: “from my lips to my nose to putting lots of products in my hair to straighten it, which totally destroyed,” she recalls. .
Davis’ current makeup choices also reflect this inner growth. “The makeup that gives me the most power is the makeup that enhances what I already have; especially as I get older, I want to be the palette,” she shares, adding that red lipstick holds special status in her kit. “I spent a lot of my youth feeling like my lips were too big,” she says. “Then one day I loved my lips, and now I want to show them off. That’s what rouge does: I feel like my lips walk into the room before me, and I love that !
Ahead, check out more of our favorite Viola Davis curly hair moments in the gallery below.
This article first appeared in THE FASHION April 2021 issue. Learn more here.