Nappily Ever After
Like most women, I struggled with the way I looked growing up. For a long time, I didn’t like my wide nose; I wished I had a smaller, more refined one. I hated that my hair was frizzy. I blow dried it every day, wishing I had straight, beautiful hair and I looked for products that could tone down the frizz.
I really saw myself in the main character of Nappily Ever After, Violet Jones. I am currently on my own self-love journey and watching this dramatic comedy made me feel less alone and more understood than ever. It made me understand that I shouldn’t morph myself to fit in a box; instead I should embrace my differences and go against the current.
Directed by Haifaa Al-Mansour (Wadjda, Mary Shelley) and based on Trisha R. Thomas’s novel of the same name, Nappily Ever After is a story about a Black woman named Violet Jones who seems to have her life together. She has the perfect boyfriend, the perfect job and, you guessed it, beautiful, straight, long hair. On the outside, Violet looks amazing, but when her life starts to fall apart, she realizes the world inside her isn’t beautiful. In order to find true love and happiness she must first learn to stop obsessing on what’s on the outside and fall in love with herself.
This movie is categorized as a romantic comedy. The protagonists of this love story? Violet and her authentic self.
Nappily Ever After isn’t just about a girl and her internalized hatred for her hair. It’s a light-hearted movie with a deep message, representing the Black woman experience in a raw way. Throughout history, society has favored European features and has condemned anyone who doesn’t fit into this standard notion of beauty. Nappily Ever After, perfectly depicts what women of color experience every day in a world that advertises that beauty is straight hair and pale skin.
Nappy hair is a term that has been historically used to insult or mock Black women’s natural hair. Because of this, a lot of people of color go through great lengths to straighten their hair in order to feel beautiful.
Violet, played by the amazing Sanaa Lathan (The Affair, American Assassin) falls victim to bullying because of her afro-textured hair. In the opening scene, Violet’s mother Pauletta is grooming her young daughter. She tells her to use her inside voice, stop complaining, and that she deserves the world. One day she’ll find a man that’ll give it to her. Violet’s mom doesn’t say it directly, but we understand that she’ll find a man only if she looks and behaves like the perfect woman.
Nappily Ever After didn’t try to make me feel sorry for Violet. Instead, I was inspired by her. It did this through a light-hearted tone even though it deals with a serious topic. Its comedic, feel-good approach gave Violet the power to take control of her sense of self.
But we can’t talk about this movie without talking about the incredible Haifaa Al-Mansour. Al-Mansour was born in Al Zulfi, Saudi Arabia. She studied film at the University of Sydney and has since become the first Saudi Arabian woman to direct a feature film. Her directorial debut Wadjda (2015) was the first movie ever filmed entirely in Saudi Arabia. Al-Mansour has broken barriers and her successes have inspired a whole new wave of independent filmmakers from her home country.
All in all, Nappily Ever After is a fun movie with a great message. Hopefully, through Violet’s journey, other women like myself will understand that they are more than their hair or their features. Women are the Universe inside their minds and hearts, and yes, that is good enough.