Follicle - A Film in the Making, part 1

When I first saw the video for this film in the making I was very excited. I actually watched it twice. It has a lot of elements that are very interesting to me, of course hair, but also identity and race. I had to donate $10. But I also wanted to know more about this film. So I reached out to the people behind the film and got to have a long chat over Skype with Rhadamés Julián the director of the film. It turned out to be a very interesting talk, and it made me even more sure I want this film to become a reality. 

This is the first part of the interview. 

What jumped up out at me when I watched the clip presenting the project was how Follicle aims to show a wider view of the natural hair community and the role our hair affects our identity as people of color all over the world. This is one of the things that intrigues me a lot and one of the things that to me sets it apart from other "natural hair documentaries". Why did you decide to leave the US and visit other parts of the world for this project? 

As I've traveled through the world, the one thing I've come to realize is it doesn't matter where you are on the planet, if you're a person of color, you're very likely to deal with the same sort of issues or barriers that any other person of color in any other part of the world is likely to deal with. And often times they greatly affect your ability to reach your true identity. For example hair being one of the main focuses we're talking about, whether you're in Africa, Europe, North America, South America or Asia, all over the world hair plays a huge role in how you are perceived and how you perceive yourself. If you are a woman of color you can not do anything where you are not making a statement. Even your hair the way it is now, you're always making a statement. 

If I choose to wear my hair the way it is now I always get called a rasta, do I smoke weed and all this stuff. I always tell people, this is not a hair style this is my hair, it's just the way it grows. The more I've traveled the more I've realized these issues are something that plague us. And a lot of times we don't have a choice, it's just the way we are.

And then imagery is something I've noticed all around the world, that the images that we see that are supposed to reflect us and are targeted towards us don't typically represent what we really look like. Typically they are images that are altered or images of a black woman with straight hair that doesn't represent who we naturally are. 

I reached a point recently where I was like why is this? Why is it that all around the world we are being told this, we are being fed this? There hasn't been a collective within our generation of mad people who are like "Fuck this! We don't want this anymore, we want the industry to represent us how we really are." But that hasn't happened yet. And so with the "natural hair movement" that's going on now, I'm scared because I think that this might be something that is just like sort of a fad or a trend, but this can be something where we collectively as people of color go back to our roots. That we go back four or five hundred years and realize that the reason we are spread around the world is because of colonialism, when colonialism spread people of African descent all over the world they also took a lot of what was intrinsically ours, our hair, our pride, our history, a lot of those things were taken from us. But right now as we stand as a whole there's nothing that is stopping us from taking it back. So we just have to all realize that we are fighting for the same cause. And first thing we have to do is love ourselves first. And the way to do that is by accepting our natural selves.

When you have traveled have you felt that people you've met have felt the same way ?  

One of the things that I will make very apparent in my film is that there's a place beyond awareness. Everyone is always like you gotta make people aware. What comes after awareness? What do we do after awareness? And the answer to that is simple: action! We have to take action, we have to act upon what we believe. Yes, I believe that overall people are really on board with the message but we can not begin to make real stride until we start acting upon it. And a large part of that for an example is motivating women of color to embrace their natural hair texture. It's motivating celebrities to stop putting out images and sending out ideas to young people that don't represent who they really are in terms of their bodies, their skin tone, their hair, this whole white aesthetic thing.

For an example, what I've been hearing, a lot of women who return to their natural hair state they want hair like yours. And when  their hair isn't like yours they are disappointed, so that is a problem within identity because we want to be something we are not. And the fact of the matter is, for too many decades we've been fed this idea that we should look a certain way. And now when people are returning to their natural hair state they aren't embracing their natural hair, they want your hair, they want that texture of hair. There are a lot of women I think that are completely missing the message. You know returning to our natural hair is more than just a fad, it's more than just being pretty, it's more than going on YouTube and learning how to make you hair all curly and pretty.

The thing that I talk about in my film is the difference between "going back to your natural hair state" and "going natural". Anyone can "go natural," going natural is a trend, it's a fad, it's in style. But when you return back to your natural hair state you are saying "I reject the false imagery, I understand my history, I respect my ancestors, I respect myself, and I no longer feel like I have to attain to this European aesthetic that has been fed down my throat for too many decades". There's a big difference between "returning" and "going" natural. 

Do you feel like most people are "returning" or are they just "going natural"? 

I think most women would say that they are returning, but I have to say from what I have seen and what I'm experiencing and form the people I've spoken to; bloggers, vloggers, celebrity hair stylists and salon owners I believe that they are "going natural". 

So the way you explained it, is it permanent or do you think they are going to go back to relaxers?

I'm not a "natural hair Nazi." What I strive to tell people is that the journey you go on when you shave your head or you return to your natural hair state, you will be perceived differently, a lot of things will change in your life. The way people look at you will be different, the way your family treats you will be different, the way men come on to you will be different, your job/corporate world may be different. Just all because you are now choosing to live your truest holistic self and that's not the norm unfortunately.  

It is powerful. There's something that that goes without saying, you know women of color that return back to their natural hair state can really openly relate to other women they see are going to the same thing or see have gone through the same thing. The reason why I pick on women and not men is that women have the power. Women have more strength than men ever could, it's something that we as men have taken away from women throughout centuries. I believe in 20 to 30 years there'll be an explosion of women leaders. I believe our next President will be a woman. 

Part two of this interview will be published soon!

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