Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews

Good Hair Roundtable with Chris Rock and Nia Long 




photo - Chris Rock and Nia Longreported by William Gooch

published October 9, 2009


Good Hair is now playing nationwide


What is ‘good hair’?


Chris Rock: Good hair is any hair that works for you.


Nia Long: I would say healthy hair is good hair. And whatever hair you don’t have, you can go buy. A weave can be good hair, too. If you have swagger you can rock any kind of hair.


Chris, what is the most money you’ve ever spent on your hair?


Chris Rock: It’s not really a question of how much I have spent on my hair at one particular time, but it is the amount of money I have spent flying barbers on location to where I was shooting a film or performing because there were no black barbers in the area who knew how to cut my hair.


Nia, have you ever had a bad perm experience?


Nia Long: My grandmother owned beauty salons in Brooklyn so I have always been around the hair industry, so to speak. Before I became an actress, I worked in a hair salon in LA. I trained myself to do my own hair, so I figured out the hair formula and maintenance that works for me.


What process did you use in choosing the actresses who talk about their hair issues in Good Hair?


We asked a lot of actresses to be in Good Hair. For every actress that you see in the film, two didn’t make the cut. Some were holding back too much, others weren’t funny or the hair topic that they wanted to discuss did not fit into the storyline.


Nia Long: We did the premiere of Good Hair in Los Angeles and I swear every black actress at the premiere had the same hair. I mean we all looked too much alike. So, right after the premiere, I took my weave out. I didn’t take it out because I am against weaves, I just don’t believe that black women should represent the same image.


Is there pressure in Hollywood for black actresses to relax their hair and have length, bounce and fullness?


Nia Long: No one in Hollywood directly tells you to relax your hair. Most producers and directors want to see an image that’s relatable and fits into the image of the show or movie. When I was on Big Shots, I worked in an office and my lover was white. I wouldn’t have landed that part if I had gone on the audition in a natural or dreads. It’s unfortunate, but that is the way it is.


Chris, how much coaxing did you have to do get people to openly talk about their concept of ‘good hair’ or their own hair issues?


Chris Rock: I gave them some red wine. [Lots of laughter]


Nia Long: You didn’t give me any wine. [More laughter]


Chris Rock: No, it wasn’t that hard; people like talking about themselves. Interviewing people is like going on a date, you have to assess your date; what does she do, what does she look like, what kind of questions is she going to respond to? The key to any date or interview is not to ask questions or have a conversation that the young lady is used to having. You have to be original, so you can get unique responses and keep her open.


Nia Long: So, you basically seduced us. [Lots of laughter]


Chris Rock: No, it wasn’t a seduction. It does help that I am celebrity and get asked questions by the press all the time and I know the type of questions that turn me off and send me into autopilot. So I tried to avoid those types of questions.


picture - Good HairYou did not discuss hair texture as it relates to complexion in Good Hair, why is that?


Chris Rock: We felt that that discussion was a whole other movie.


You mention in the film that a man cannot touch a woman’s weave during intimate moments. What are the rules around touching a woman’s weave?


Nia Long: It depends on the woman’s comfort level. I didn’t care if my man touched my weave. My man always knew I had a weave. Because he was ‘weave worthy,’ so to speak, we would have had conversations about my hair before we got intimate.


Chris, were you shocked to find out that black manufacturers do not make most of the black hair products?


Chris Rock: No, I was not shocked at all to find that out. What businesses do African Americans run? Where can I go and get a job outside of the NBA and Tyler Perry? [Lots of laughter]


Was the Indian government receptive to you documenting that Indian hair from temple ceremonies is bought and marketed in the US for hair weaves?


Chris Rock: We did have to sign some release papers. This movie is not the first time this subject has been discussed; it is just the first time that this subject has been handled in a funny and entertaining enough way to go into movie theaters.


Chris, how hard was it to be objective when you were interviewing parents who were putting lye relaxers in the hair of their young children?


Chris Rock: I thought it was wrong that these folks were relaxing their children’s hair, but I am not Bill O’Reilly screaming and telling folks what to do. Do these parents even understand the ramifications of what they are doing? Maybe the parents had relaxers in their hair when they were young. I didn’t know enough about these people to judge them. You can judge them in the body of the film, but not at the moment I was interviewing them.


Chris, did this documentary make you feel empathic or sympathetic to the lengths women go through to make themselves beautiful?


Chris Rock: Not really. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It is a woman’s choice what she does with her hair. I am not judging one way or another. There is no era in history where men have not slept with the women in front of them. And women’s hairstyles do not encourage or deter that. So this constant quest for hair beauty is somewhat self-imposed.


Nia Long: Weaves are trendy right now. Everyone is getting weaves, not just black women. In the early 1980s everyone was getting curly perms because Madonna styled her hair in a curly perm. In the 1970s black women were wearing braids and Bo Derek copied that look in the movie 10.


Did you think the response to Good Hair was going to be as good and far-reaching as it’s becoming?


Chris Rock: No. I thought I could get it made. I really wanted to do this documentary and we did it. There is a part of me that is amazed that anything significant comes of anything I do. You know, it’s like sex; sometimes I can’t believe anyone would have sex with me. [Lots of laughter]


picture - Good HairWhat did you learn from doing this documentary?


Chris Rock: I learned a whole lot by doing this movie. I learned about financing, I learned a lot about Indian culture, I learned a lot of different things. The whole movie and even doing these press junkets has been a journey. At press junkets journalists are always asking why I didn’t put certain things in the movie. People are really emotional about this film.


Did your perceptions about ‘good hair’ and issues around hair texture change by being a part of this documentary?


Nia Long: I have a love/hate relationship with my weave. I love my weave because it so convenient. I love it because I go run around all day, go to the gym, go to a PTA meeting and still look fly by the end of the day. But watching this documentary made me want to take my weave out. I was getting a little tired with it before this film, I was kind of ready to take it out and style my hair differently. But watching the film confirmed that it was time for a change. Now, I am not saying I might not pull my weave back out, but for right now I am wearing my hair short.


Chris Rock: This documentary highlights that there are so many different types of black folks in this country. In most movies, you only get to see one type of black person. This documentary shows the range of our experiences around a single issue.


What’s next for both of you?


Chris Rock: I have Death at a Funeral coming out April 16, 2010 with Martin Lawrence and Tracey Morgan and Grownups with Adam Sandler and Kevin James on June 25.


Nia Long: I have some projects up in the air. I am so pleased that this documentary is getting the proper attention. Right now, I am living in the moment.


williamgooch @


photo of Chris Rock and Nia Long by Casey Rodgers/WireImage


read William Gooch's review of Good Hair


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