Akilah Davis, the first Race and Culture Reporter for local ABC affiliate ABC11 in North Carolina, has been wearing a wig over her microlocs since she went natural in December 2021. But this year on Juneteenth Davis decided to reveal “the big transition on TV.”
Davis is ecstatic to finally be “celebrating the hair freedom she’s always wanted,” declaring “Juneteenth as her natural hair liberation day.”
Davis, hoping to inspire young girls and other women to embrace their natural hair, “chose Juneteenth to share her journey to hair freedom because she wants to be true to herself on TV.”
Earlier this year, broadcast journalist Brittany Noble recounted how she went viral in 2018 after being fired for wearing her hair in its natural state. A month after getting the approval from her news director that she could refrain from straightening her hair, she was reprimanded. Noble was told that her “natural hair is unprofessional and the equivalent to him throwing on a baseball cap to go to the grocery store. He said ‘Mississippi viewers needed to see a beauty queen.’ He even asked, ‘why my hair doesn’t lay flat.’”
Like many women of color, Davis and Noble have talked about how their internal struggles with accepting their natural hair and societal standards of beauty began at a young age. Davis’ mother Debra said that she opted to straighten her daughter’s hair to make it “more manageable.” This caused Davis to internalize “the idea that straight hair was good hair and afro hair was not,” which was only exacerbated by the Eurocentric ideal permeated by the media, “that only straight hair was beautiful.”
As Duke University’s Jasmine Cobb, a professor of African American studies, says this “message really stayed with a generation of Black women in particular who really had to work to overcome the idea that something about their hair was inherently inadequate.”
Following the television debut of her daughter’s natural look, Davis’ mom commented, “I’m just proud of you doing what you’re doing and being brave by presenting yourself how you want to present yourself.”
Amidst the racial reckoning after George Floyd’s murder, “a quiet movement among Black women was also growing.” In the aftermath, conversations about discrimination and race were amplified and “One way we’re redefining and reclaiming our identity is through our hair,” said loctician Maya Anderson.
One of the most memorable moments from the Shonda Rhimes’ drama, “How to Get Away with Murder” occurred in a scene from season 1 where main character Annalise Keating, played by Viola Davis, “bares her soul by stripping away her public persona,” and removes her wig on camera. Davis had personally requested that this scene be incorporated into the show.
When Cory Booker introduced the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair), he said “[i]mplicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large and continue the legacy of dehumanizing Black people.”
Although the bill has not yet become federal law, 22 states have passed versions of the CROWN Act, and 23 have pre-filed or filed legislation.