I remember meeting Ashley Blaine Featherson for the first time at 21Ninety’s annual Summit 29 in Atlanta, Georgia. As a panelist, she opened up to the moderator — Shadow and Act’s Brooke Obie about her journey in the entertainment industry and the impact of Dear White People on the culture of Black entertainment. Nearly a year later, here I am interviewing her about her latest venture in Hulu’s latest addition, Bad Hair.
In the Hulu original film, written and directed by Justin Simien, Blaine-Featherson stars alongside Laverne Cox, Usher, Kelly Rowland and breakout star from HBO’s Insecure Elle Lorraine as they explore the nuances of Black hair in the 1989-based satire meets indie horror film. HelloBeautiful caught up with Ashley about her personal relationship with her hair, her day-to-day skin routine and when she feels the most beautiful.
On what makes her feel most beautiful:
“I feel most beautiful when I’m in the fullness of who I am and at my most natural state. I feel most beautiful when I am just at home, you know, no makeup on, hair natural [and] twisted – all of those things. I think that’s been a beautiful journey because I haven’t always been able to say that. I think years ago I would’ve said when I’m super glammed up and that makes me feel beautiful too, but I think now just hair tied chillin’ with no makeup on with my friends, my family, my fiance, that’s when I feel most beautiful because I feel like whoever I’m with, including myself, seeing me at the rawness and at the core of who I am.”
On the difference between her and Joelle’s style and beauty choices:
“Joelle and I differ a lot, [but] there are some similarities. I like jewelry, but Joelle wears a lot more jewelry than I do. Joelle and I are both kind of experimental with our hair – I like that. She has a little bit more of a relaxed, baggier style than I do although I like that too. I will say although our styles differ, I like everything Joelle wears. It’s things I would wear, just not things that I’d naturally gravitate to.”
On how the entertainment and beauty industries can do a better job at diversity and inclusion:
“The entertainment and beauty industry can do a better job by continuing to see us, realize and recognize that we matter, and that we make up the majority of the marketplace as far as consumership. Imagery really matters so continuing to have us in their marketing and advertising is really important.”
On her current relationship with her natural hair:
“I’ve never been someone that’s had a bad relationship with her hair. I’m going through something now where I want to go kinda short, but then I’m trying to grow it out more too so I’m kinda in between phases. I went natural in 2007 and I’ve loved being natural ever since then, but I also really love, as a Black woman, really embracing and leaning into the versatility that we have. Some days I’ll have a twistout, some days I’ll have a middle part and a bun, some days I’ll have a sew-in, some days I’ll have a wig. I’m all over the place, but I love that. Particularly being in entertainment and having people at times having to manipulate my hair often, I really am into protective styles which now are wigs or cornrows. I really love braids and I’ve been into braids since I was a little girl.”
On what she loves most about her hair:
“I love that it’s just mine. Again, that comes with age and maturity. I love that no two people have the same exact hair. I love that my hair in many ways reminds me and makes me feel connected to my ancestors and where I came from – Africa. Our families who were brought here unwillingly but started a life here in America. I feel very close to them with my hair in its most natural state. That’s something that’s very beautiful. We were more than taken unwillingly; we were stolen. It just makes me think of them, how strong they were, how strong our hair is and how beautiful our hair is.”
On how Dear White People is changing the conversation around colorism:
“I really think Justin [Simien] is just brilliant. Bad Hair and Dear White People are mainstays in the culture. These are movies and television shows that I hope that my children and their children will watch and reference because he really has his finger not only on the pulse of the culture now, but how the culture has evolved and where we’re coming from. Bad Hair, for instance, takes place in 1989 and in Dear White People oftentimes we’re going back [by] sometimes almost 100 years.
“That’s just really impressive and I love that Justin and the content he creates really leans into the beauty of Blackness and the unapologetic aura and heir we have to ourselves because we have to be. It’s all about being proud of who we are from whence we came and I’m really grateful to be part of both of these projects that I’m so proud of and I think are really changing conversations surrounding Blackness and beauty.”