A new docu-series interviews stars like Oprah Winfrey and Issa Rae to explore the history and shared experiences of Black hair care.
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By Kalia Richardson
When Carri Twigg was a child, her father styled her hair. Every Sunday, he would wash Twigg’s mane in the kitchen sink, and every morning before school he would divide her unruly curls into six, slicked-back braids. The neighborhood knew whenever her father went out of town.
Her mother, whom Twigg described as a hippie, left her hair in a teased Afro or a chunky side ponytail most times. Although Black women undergo differing hair journeys, said Twigg, an executive producer of the new six-episode docu-series “The Hair Tales,” it is a shared experience, like the hiss of a hot comb or the banter in a beauty salon, that unites them.
“Hair is an external reflection of our interior world,” Twigg said.
Hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross, “The Hair Tales,” which debuted last week on Hulu and OWN, seeks to explore those experiences. Guests include Black women from across the worlds of media, entertainment and politics, among them Oprah Winfrey and Issa Rae (“Insecure”), as well as the rapper Chika, the actress Marsai Martin (“black-ish) and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, all of whom relate their lifelong journeys to self-acceptance by telling stories about their hair.
Michaela Angela Davis, the series’s creator, said she first came up with the idea several years ago after noticing that Black hair was an underexplored subject on TV. An activist, a former editor at Essence and a CNN contributor, she felt drained by all her reporting on Black calamity and death; the experience made her eager, she said, to tell stories of Black joy, resilience and beauty.
In 2016, Davis released a more modest video series, “Hair Tales,” in which notable figures like the actress Regina King and the Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors shared childhood anecdotes along with a range of their hairstyles. The series caught the attention of Tara Duncan, the president of Freeform and Disney’s Onyx Collective, and soon the production company Culture House, where Twigg is a founder and the head of development, was on board.
Together they pitched the idea to stars like Ross, Winfrey and others, who proved eager to join as well, Davis said. (Ross and Winfrey, who declined to comment for this article, are among the executive producers.)
“It would behoove America to know about us better,” Davis said. “And our hair is a way to get there.”
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