Sanaa Lathan is good. She’s really good. Ever since she cut off her signature bob, the actress, who’s currently starring in Netflix’s Nappily Ever After, isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She’s even sounding off on rising in the ranks of a Hollywood that at times can be unfriendly.
“Just coming up in the business, I have been treated just horribly by some women that you may know,” the 47-year-old actress said Monday in a room full of women at the New York City premiere of her latest rom com inside The Wing Soho.
“I won’t call any names,” she said, “but when you’re working with somebody who’s maybe a little older than you — now I’m the older one — you don’t expect to get competition, and jealousy, and weird vibes on set. And I was very hurt, very early on in my career by a couple of different women.”
Thankfully, Lathan said that while portraying Lynn Whitfield’s onscreen daughter, who’s obsessed with being perfect — even down to the hairs on her head — for her boyfriend, she didn’t have to worry about bad vibes. It was all love between her and Lynn, whom she called “a light.”
“You can tell that. She’s so beautiful inside and out,” Lathan added.
Whitfield, who portrays Paulette Jones (the kind of mother who loves to put you in between her legs for a good press right near the kitchen stove), returned the love.
“You’re only as good as the moment you create,” she told Lathan. “You can’t create the truth by yourself.”
In Nappily Ever After, we see Lathan’s Violet Jones breezing through life thanks to a high-powered advertising gig and a fine as hell live-in boyfriend. And it helps that she found a little blue box in her boyfriend’s pocket. With wedding bells ringing loudly in her ears, Jones tries to keep her hair laid, in an effort to secure the ring. Don’t worry feminists. Eventually Jones comes to her senses.
“I love the fact that this is a romantic comedy, but I call it the fairy tale for the modern woman,” Lathan said of the flick directed by Haifaa al-Mansour, known as the first female Saudi filmmaker. “It’s a romantic comedy about falling in love with yourself.”
“When I was coming up, we were read fairy tales, and fairy tales is kind of what helps us determine what our values are as little girls. And when you read Cinderella…and you don’t see yourself reflected, what does that do to you on a deep unconscious self-esteem way?” the actress asked.
Lathan said she’s proud Nappily Ever After represents “the beginnings of inclusivity.”
The actress famously cut her hair off for the film, shot in Atlanta. The move created headlines last fall, when Lathan showed off her big chop on the ‘gram. Initially, Lathan admitted, she didn’t want to go there.
“In the beginning, [I said], ‘I’m not cutting my hair.’ I said, ‘You know, this is the 21st century. We have technology. We can do a bald cap,” she recalled to laughter.
But after talk with a “couple of people,” including producer Tracey Bing and celebrity hairstylist Larry Sims, who made his film debut in Nappily, Lathan decided to just go for it.
“I said, ‘It’s just hair,'” she said. “If I don’t like it I can just throw a wig on.”
Similar to how the women reacted in The Wing Monday night, the glam squad and crew on set were “transformed,” Whitfield said, after what will become an iconic scene of liberation and freedom.
Because for many women — even though we know better — too much value and worth are wrapped up in the strands of our hair.
“This is still an issue. It has not gone away,” Whitfield said. “So I felt completely free to be this mother…who was so frightened by what this bold move would do to her daughter’s life — what it would cost her.”