Thinking back over my favorite Christmas movies, I realize I never saw anyone who looked like me. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Grinch, Home Alone — nary a Black character in sight. But this year, there’s a new Christmas classic and it’s all Black. Netflix’s Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey offers Black women and girls representation in a genre of film that is usually reserved for white leads and characters.
The story of Jeronicus Jangle — a toymaker who loses his desire to create — comes to life in the fun holiday film with all the trimmings. Dance scenes, festive clothing and a lead character played by a stunning young actress in her natural hair. All of the Jingle Jangle characters have natural hairstyles, a very intentional decision by Lyn Sisson-Talbert, producer on Jingle Jangle and wife of director David E. Talbert.
“They were inspired by my family and friend’s own hair journeys,” Lyn Sisson-Talbert said in a e-mail exchange. “I wanted to showcase and highlight natural, textured hair styles. Madalen Mills hair was inspired by my own go-to when I want to take it up a notch — I will pin my hair up into a mohawk.”
Anika Noni Rose and Phylicia Rashad bring their melanated regalness to the film alongside Madalen Mills, Forrest Whittaker and Keegan Michael-Key. Each one of them, a unique hair story buried in their characters.
Talbert revealed she weaved “elements from our ancestors” into the different types of braids using hair jewelry. “With Phylicia Rashad I wanted to present her like she had never been seen before. She is a living legend and her beauty, grace, elegance, and intelligence is what I grew up with, watching her on TV when I was a girl,” she explained. “I wanted to honor her the best way possible in this character because she has helped pave the way for this Jingle Jangle opportunity. I called her to do a zoom with her to share my idea for her hair. I told her I wanted to put her in Toni Morrison style lots with a Lena Horn shape. The shape was of the 50’s but the locs made it edgy, and again ahead of her time.”
One of the other standout aspects of Jingle Jangle is the aristocratic fashions. “During the 1800’s you were only one or two generations from where you came from, so any traditions, fabrics, rituals, that were passed down from your grandparents would be very prominent and layered in your current style,” she said. “Fabrics from all over the world especially places in Africa like Nigeria and Ghana were woven in. I had a dream team with Michael Wilkinson, our costume designer and Sharon Rose our Make up/Hair department head and her team including Kat Fa, and Angela Appiah and they were all very open and excited about the world we wanted to create.”
While hair is one star of Jingle Jangle, Madalen Mills brings an effervescent energy to the film with her whimsical portrayal of Journey.
“We did a worldwide search for Journey and when Madalen came in that New York audition she wasn’t coming in to audition, she was coming in to take what was hers. She is Journey. She is extremely delightful and an amazing talent.”
Talbert understood how important it was for little Black girls to see themselves in the warm film. “I feel grateful,” she said.” I am the little girl that always wanted to see something like this. This was for the little black girl in me and I felt if it touched her it would touch all little black girls and boys, at the same time sharing a universal message for all children and adults alike, including my 7 year old son, Elias, who was a huge inspiration. I want them to see themselves as magical and know that they too can fly. I want them to find their square root of possible.”
Watch Jingle Jangle on Netflix now.