On Wednesday night, black-ish won a 2020 Creative Arts Emmy Award for outstanding contemporary hairstyling. And while we were thrilled for the series and the hairstyling team, led by Araxi Lindsey, we also expected it.
The win was specific to an episode titled “Hair Day” in which Diane (played by Marsai Martin) is faced with the decision about what to do with her hair after she decides she no longer wants to use chemical relaxers. The episode is equally interesting, important, and entertaining. It thoughtfully discusses a Black woman’s decision to embark on a new hair journey, and it beautifully illustrates a plethora of hairstyles worn in the community.
But if you’ve been playing attention, then you know that the show has been an exploration in Black hairstyles since it’s first season. Every style isn’t elaborate, complex or even show-stopping, but they highlight an important part of our culture. It may even be the first time we’ve seen this many different braid and natural curl styles on a network television show in a primetime slot.
Black women are hair chameleons, and the show emphasizes that. The characters go from straight back cornrows to silk pressed curls to Afros. Even in bedtime scenes Diane is wearing her protective silk scarf. And like most Black grandmothers, Ruby (played by Jenifer Lewis) has wigs and elaborate headwraps for every occasion.
And what lies beneath those styles and head coverings is the affirmation that it’s okay (even welcome) for Black women to wear their natural hair exactly as it grows out of their heads, and any other way that they want.
So here’s to the hairstyling team and it’s much deserved Emmy win. And here’s our brief highlight reel of some of the styles we’ve loved to see on our small screens over the years.