“I Did Not Want To Walk Outside” Actress Teyonah Parris Recalls Her Natural Hair Transition

July 17, 2014  |  

Actress Teyonah Parris’ star is ascending in Hollywood right now. While many of us know her from the hit show “Mad Men,” it’s not the only credit she has under her belt. She’s going to be starring in three movies including They Came Together, Dear White People and A Picture of You and also a new project, executive produced by LeBron James called “Survivor’s Remorse.”

And in addition to being exceptionally talented, Parris has also been a hair crush of ours since she stepped out on the red carpet at last year’s SAG Awards. And though she’s been shouted out by several women and black women’s websites for the beauty and versatility of her afro, Parris told Marc Lamont Hill, of Huffington Post Live , that the transition was anything but easy for her. In fact, it was such an emotional journey that she cried and had to have a friend help her show her newly natural hair to the world.

Read what she had to say about the experience in the transcript below and then watch the video at the very bottom of the page.

You know when I first started in film, and I don’t want this to sound the wrong way, I very much tried, and not consciously, but I tried to be what I saw because that’s what I saw growing up. And I wanted to be beautiful. Who doesn’t want to be beautiful? And so consciously or unconsciously you try to mimic what you see. And I just had this moment where, I was actually in Harlem, and I was walking with my girlfriend and I saw this girl and I was like ‘I wish my hair could do that.’ And my friend was like, ‘It can.’ And I was like no, no it can’t. And I was like ‘Girl when I wet my hair, it just gets so straight.’

And she really looked at me like ‘Are you serious?’ She said, ‘It’s because you perm it.’

And I guess it was like, as Oprah says, an aha moment and I realized ‘Oh, I have no clue what my hair does naturally.’

So going natural was just a challenge to myself because I wanted to see what it did what it looked like because I hadn’t seen it since I was a little girl and even then I didn’t do it.

So it started off as a challenge to myself and I transitioned by wearing weaves and then every few weeks, I would take it out and see how much was afro and how much was still straight and then put it back up and cut off some as we went along.

And then it came the time when it was time to wear it out because it was all transitioned, all the perm was off.

Marc Lamont Hill: Were you nervous?

I cried. I cried. I was not used to seeing myself like that. I did not want to walk outside. I literally…I had to have… *pauses* oh goodness. My girlfriend, the same one who’d said a year or so before ‘your hair can do that’ she had to literally come over to my house and walk me outside because it was such an emotional experience and it wasn’t just about hair. It was about what my perception of beauty was and had been for all of my life and then I look at myself in the mirror and I’m like ‘That doesn’t look like what I thought was beautiful.’ And we literally held hands walking down 135 and Park Ave. And so that was my first moment in the world with my natural hair. And I know it doesn’t matter but that day, I got so many compliments on my big afro and I was like ‘Are they talking to me? Oh, ok.’ And it was really that moment of ‘Ok, I can do this.’ That was just my beginning of my journey into being natural. And since that day, it’s still been hard at moments. It wasn’t like ‘Oh, I was fine after that.’ No. It takes time.

At this moment, it’s not like I’m standing on a soapbox like it’s a mission but I really am personally, beyond what anybody else thinks or cares about, am trying to live in my truth and change the way I view beauty. And if other people’s perceptions change while I’m trying to work on myself, then that’s great. And hopefully a few little brown girls out there will look and say, ‘Oh, look I want my hair like that.’ And hopefully sooner than me, the age I was when it happened to me.

You can watch Teyonah Parris’ entire interview with Huffington Post Live in the video below. The part where she speaks about her natural hair starts around the 18 minute and 15 second mark.

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