Hello Beautiful recently sat down for a round table interview with Chris Rock and Nia Long to discuss their upcoming documentary, “Good Hair.” In the no-holds-barred interview, the dynamic duo discussed topics ranging from black entrepreneurship (Chris: “What business do we run? Where should I go and get a job besides the NBA and Tyler Perry?”) to LisaRaye and Al Sharpton’s sex life (Nia: “He strikes me as a bottom guy. I’m not saying anything about LisaRaye. She could kick my a**. I think Al wants to be served.”)
In Part 1 one of the interview, Chris and Nia dish on black people, the African American experience and, well, good hair:
So, what is “good hair”?
CHRIS: Good hair is whatever hair works for you, because the same hair doesn’t work for everybody, you know what I mean?
NIA: Like I was rocking [a wig] last week. It didn’t work for me. I would say healthy hair is good hair. You know, whatever hair you don’t have, you can go buy. A weave can be good hair too.
We at Hello Beautiful went on a field trip and got some hair and we wanted to know if you really think that all hair is good hair considering this? [I reveal a $20 black wig from Ricky’s NYC]
CHRIS: Well, that’s synthetic, and it looks like a Halloween wig.
So then there is some bad hair?
CHRIS: Well, no. You don’t know. On the right person…
NIA: It could be hot.
How about for someone whose natural hair looks like this cheap wig?
If they’re happy with it, if they like it, if they’re comfortable with it, it’s okay.
So it’s all about your perception of your own hair?
NIA: Yes, your self esteem, how you rock it. If you have swagger, you can rock any kind of hair.
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You mentioned in the movie that men cannot touch women’s hair in intimate moments. Does it bother you that men have limitations?
NIA: I’m free from my weave now. So bring it on! You know what? It’s every woman’s comfort level. I didn’t care really if someone touched my hair when I had my weave. You know it’s weave brotha. You might call me and I might say, “I’m getting my weave done; it’s gonna be a couple hours, I’ll call you back.” That’s just who I am.
But when things get a little wild, guys don’t say, “Okay, time out here; don’t touch this.”
NIA: If I’m sleeping with him, then he’s gonna know that I have a weave. If it’s just heavy petting perhaps I’ll just stay on top and sort of control the whole situation. And he’s gotta be weave-worthy.
In the documentary, Al Sharpton made a comment that it’s all about whether or not he is going to let his woman touch his hair. So we’re just wondering, when things start heading towards “heavy petting,” who do you think fights to be on top?
NIA:He strikes me as a bottom guy. I’m not saying anything about LisaRaye. She could kick my ass. I think Al wants to be served.
What process did you use to pick the actresses that you used in the film?
CHRIS:We talked to a lot of actresses. So for every one that you see, two got cut out of the movie. They were interviewed and got cut out just because they were holding back a little bit, or just weren’t funny, or their topic didn’t make the movie.
NIA: It’s interesting that we did the premiere in LA and every single black actress that was there had the same hair. Immediately, I took my weave out the next day and said “I’m done.” And not because I’m anti-hair weave. I just was like, “We cannot all represent the same image.”
CHRIS:You didn’t know you had a uniform on.
NIA:Yeah, I realized, “Wow, we all have the same hair.” No wonder when it comes time for casting, they think we can all do the same thing. And we’re all very different.
Does Hollywood pressure black actresses to not only straighten their hair and process it, but around length and bounce and fullness?
NIA:No one ever says, “Okay, in order to get this job, you need to go get a hair weave and relax your hair,” because quite frankly they don’t even really understand what that means. They don’t even know how to articulate it. They just want to see an image that is relatable.
So it’s implied?
NIA: It’s not implied. They want to see an image that’s relatable and fits into the whole scheme of the show. So, you’re not going to really see me with an Afro playing opposite a mainstream television show. When I was on “Big Shots,”I worked in an office and my lover was white. I’m sorry, I couldn’t really come in with dreads and get that job. But that also represents corporate America. You know, getting a job with dreads would be challenging in some situations. It shouldn’t be, but it is.
When Chris & Solange Knowles were on Oprah she was telling him that she had a bad experience with a french perm. Have you ever had a bad experience?
NIA: Well, my grandmother owned beauty salons in Brooklyn. She used to perm my hair when I was 15 or 16, and do it so straight that I thought, “Oh my God, my hair is going to fall out.” And I worked in salons in high school before I was an actress. I was an assistant in a hair salon in Beverly Hills, and I learned about white hair and black hair. So I kinda have trained my own self to do my own hair whether its straight natural, weave, no weave. I’ve had a couple childhood experiences, but in my womanhood I think I have figured it out. I figured out the formula that works for me.
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In the movie, Nia, you mentioned the connection between good hair and complexion, but you (Chris) didn’t delve into that in the film. Why not?
CHRIS: I mean, it’s just a whole other movie. Twenty years ago Kool Moe D had an album and inside it had a “rappers report card” and it had all these grades like vocabulary, originality, and number 3 was “sticks to theme.” And I live by that. You have to stick to theme, you can’t get persuaded.
NIA:A lot of those things are really obvious to us, so when you want to have a different perspective on it you kinda can’t repeat the stuff that we already know because it is the obvious. We know where those issues come from in our own community.
CHRIS: I think that’s kind of dead anyway. Especially with guys, my God, the whole light skin thing is just over.
NIA: That’s because all of the light skinned girls are married. No! I’m just kidding.
CHRIS: Even my friends that are light skinned that have curly hair, they cut their hair down, because they don’t even want their hair to be curly.
NIA: We all want something that we don’t have. Girls with naturally curly hair constantly straighten their hair. Girls with coarser hair are constantly perming their hair. We just get bored, too.
What things can women do to make themselves more attractive to men besides wearing a hair weave?
CHRIS: Pay your bills.
NIA: I would say, it’s not about your hair. It’s not about being beautiful for anyone else either. Go work out. Take your vitamins. Go to church. Work on what’s on the inside, because really, if you’re doing your work internally, that’s going to come through.
Chris, did you feel sympathetic or empathetic for women because of the lengths that they go through to be beautiful?
CHRIS: No. And I don’t mean in a bad way. It’s like, this is a choice, this is not like someone is making you. I never saw an ad in the paper saying, “We’re hiring a straight-haired lawyer.” It’s like, you’re choosing to do this. I’m not judging it one way or the other. I don’t know what you’re doing it for. There was no era in the history of man, from the first man landing to now, where men did not sleep with the women in front of them. The birth rate has never gone down. No matter what the hair was, no matter what the dress was, men slept with women.
So it’s self imposed? We worry about it too much?
CHRIS:I mean y’all [women] compete with each other. So y’all are like, “Her hair is this long, my hair ‘gon be this long!” What we like is up here (points to his head).
So Chris, what did you learn from doing this film?
CHRIS: Um, don’t touch a black woman’s hair! No, I learned a lot. I learned about the finances of hair. I learned that I couldn’t afford to be single right now, it costs too much. Sike. Um, you know, I learned about Indians. The whole movie has been a journey. Even doing the press has been like, you know, you get a lot of people…being emotional about it.
Did you think it was going to be like that when you started? From your daughter’s question to now?
CHRIS: You know, I wanted to get it made. I thought I could get it made, and we did. It’s coming out! But there’s a very ego-ed out part of me that goes on stage, and then there’s the me off-stage that’s amazed that anything happens. It’s like sex. Like, I can’t believe anyone would have sex with me. It’s always surprising like, “Wow, somebody wants me!” So I feel that way about it, like, “Wow, somebody likes the movie? Get out of here!” http://cdn1.hellobeautiful.com/external/js/gallery/515737
Check back tomorrow for part 2 of the Chris & Nia Interview!
Here are photos of the NYC premiere of “Good Hair:”