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about that and what inspired that?
unprofessional in its natural state.
The Search Party alum previously spoke about her alleged mistreatment by the show’s hair department to Vulture in July 2020.
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“For Black women, the way our hair is policed is that we’re told it’s unprofessional in its natural state. From the time that you’re in school, you are getting this lesson. It’s shored up with punishment,” Grant said at the time. “With NCIS, it wasn’t just that the people didn’t know how to do my hair. The cosmetology board teaches that hair is hair, which essentially erases Black and Asian hair, because there are differences. … What was specific to them was a couple of producers who were committed to [my character] Sonja Percy not having a natural curl pattern.”
She claimed that the NCIS team thought “a love interest doesn’t look like that. A love interest has straight hair. It’s all built around those assumptions, and I suffered because of that.”
cosmetology board teaches that hair is hair.
"For Black women, the way our hair is policed is that we're told it's unprofessional in its natural state. From the time that you're in school, you are getting this lesson. It's shored up with punishment," the Search Party star explained. "With NCIS, it wasn't just that the people didn't know how to do my hair. The cosmetology board teaches that hair is hair, which essentially erases Black and Asian hair, because there are differences...What was specific to them was a couple of producers who were committed to [my character] Sonja Percy not having a natural curl pattern."
"It was all because, in their minds, a love interest doesn't look like that," she added. "A love interest has straight hair. It's all built around those assumptions, and I suffered because of that."
These days, Grant stars in the Netflix hit You. Season 3 is streaming now.
"When I left that show, I had a bald spot in the center of my head. By the end of Season 3, I was losing [so much] hair. So I put on my little cosmetic chemistry hat, and I did some digging, and created the Four Naturals Treatment, which is now patent pending and dermatologically tested."
"On You, my hair was heat straightened every day for six months. And I left that show with more hair than I had when I showed up. It was powerful to hand my white hair stylist my products and give her the instructions and have her do something that we know is a damaging thing to do. And I didn't experience that damage," she continued.
a lot that goes into a character’s look
SG: I've always had this question: when I'm in a place or a space with someone who pisses me off, why is it that the next time I go back, I make a point to put on all my shit — throw on some mascara and let my hair down? What is that about? It's about that feminine power and the subtle ways that we weaponize our femininity. When you arm yourself with the makeup, the clothes, the hair and all of that, it is armor in our society. Because for women to be safe, we have to be fuckable or pretty. And so when a new woman comes into the group, how do women find ways to pick and prod [at her]? That’s Sherry.
So for me as a Black woman, I used to have to wear wigs and extensions, because my hair was really, really fragile. I have Type 4 hair and when I was on [NCIS: New Orleans], they were committed to me hiding my natural hair, even though a curlier texture would have made a lot more sense in New Orleans. The powers that be had decided that for a Black woman to wear her natural hair, it would be considered vanity. We were literally spending hours in the trailer to try to make my hair something that it wasn't, which is literally the definition of vanity. Anyway, when I left that show, I had a bald spot in the center of my head. By the end of Season 3, I was losing [so much] hair. So I put on my little cosmetic chemistry hat, and I did some digging, and created the Four Naturals Treatment, which is now patent pending and dermatologically tested.
On You, my hair was heat straightened every day for six months. And I left that show with more hair than I had when I showed up. It was powerful to hand my white hair stylist my products and give her the instructions and have her do something that we know is a damaging thing to do. And I didn't experience that damage. For Sherry, I know that I would not have been able to get that role had I not had my natural hair. Going back to the politics of pretty, Sherry's whole thing is about being “perfectly imperfect” and that she's natural, that she's down to earth. [She can’t] have someone be able to call out her wigs, or call out her extensions, or call out the nails. PS. Those are mine in the show. I have a great nail hardener!
Hollywood has been failing Black actresses and their hair for so long, especially when it is something that informs so much of a character and our lives. As a Black woman watching TV, there are so many times when I'm looking at a character like, "That hair don't make no sense."
SG: Exactly! I did a show and I told the producers, "Listen, your body tells a story. So if you hire someone that looks a certain way, their body tells a story. So there are certain things that you can and cannot do based on the body that you chose." If you look at my reel, no character is the same. So as an actress who prides herself on being a character actress, part of that is the physical transformation. But I did realize in 2018 that I was limited by my hair because there are certain characters who won't wear a wig or extensions. So I thought, How can I heal myself so that I can go the furthest that I can go with any character, regardless of my hair? Everything about my body is in service to whatever character that I'm playing.
How did it help you do your job?
I’m an actress who prides herself on character work. My hair tells a story, so I would do the most for my auditions. When I get on a show, it’s hard to sustain a lot of those hairstyles. I went through trauma therapy after that show, and went into play therapy, and I was like, I’m going to pretend I am a cosmetic chemist. I started doing all this research online; I wanted to confront a lot of the anti-Blackness that I experienced.
What were some of the other goals you wanted to achieve when concocting the products?
One of those things had to with my curl definition. I wanted to solve growth plateaus, to retain what I was growing. I looked into a lot of hair cultures and asked, what are their practices? What are their ingredients? I also wanted to make sure that everything stayed natural because another anti-Black stereotype is that we need chemicals for our hair. I discovered the use of the henna plant in Indian culture. I watched YouTube videos and read articles from Black women who tried henna and explained why it didn’t work. Then I created the Four Naturals treatment and mud mask. It contains henna and other humectants that bind to the hair strand and fill in all the gaps to give your hair the weight it needs.
Did you have any personal experience with hair expertise before?
My grandma has owned a hair salon since before I was born. My mom was hairstylist. I grew up in the hair salon. I knew what we knew about our hair, which is nothing. But with a little focus, I created something that solved all of my problems. I know for certain that I would not have been able to do that role of Sherry had I not had long, strong, natural hair to give you “There is nothing you can say about me, I’m the queen of this place.”
How else did you use your hair to tap into this character?
Sherry has an internet persona called “Heart-shaped mistakes.” She’s a woman who is “vulnerable” with her humanity. She just happens to have a really gorgeous family. [Laughs.] Because I’m wearing my natural hair, it’s still playing into that, but it’s also playing into the politics of pretty—and as an actress, but also as a Black woman, it was really powerful for me to go into the hair trailer and hand them my products and give the instructions. A white woman straightened my hair, curled my hair. She added a couple extensions here and there for a few scenes. But at the end of that six months, I left with more hair on my head than I had when I got there. That was a healing experience.
It’s wild that, as you pointed out, there’s not enough education about textured hair for cosmetologists and people in the hair union. As the actress, you shouldn’t have to do the teaching, but sometimes you just do.
Cicely Tyson was on The View a few years ago, and Sherri Shepherd asked her how she’d seen things change in her career. She said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I hadn’t gotten to Hollywood yet, I was still in theater. At the time, I was like, really? I was used to the ‘90s, when there were so many great Black shows that I grew up with. But she was absolutely right. You speak to so many Black actors or Black people in this industry, and everybody has a similar story. This is the moment where things have to change. It’s not just about diversity because you can have a diverse cast while everyone’s experiencing anti-Blackness.
What’s the best tip or trick you’ve picked up on set regarding protecting your hair?
The Four Naturals treatment has made my hair bulletproof. They used to use a flat iron on my hair and blend it into a wig. My hair has medium to low density and high porosity, so that means it could just snap off after so much heat. But now I have henna around my strands, to fill in the gaps in the pores of my hair cuticles.
What’s your nighttime hair routine?
I always wrap it. I always use a bonnet. My manager is a white lady, and she was like, why do you get such a bad rap for using bonnets? I put a whole thong on my head to wrap it up! [Laughs.]
What sort of facial treatments do you use?
I have a whole regimen. The latest one that I built in there is the derma-planing facial. I use carbon cleanser, alcohol, then derma-plane the whole face. Then I hit what I call the cleanser zone. I do glycolic acid, salicylic acid. Then I throw on the exfoliator, which is usually Cetaphil. Then I steam—just put a bowl of water in the microwave for two minutes, cover your face with a towel, and that’s your steamer. After drying, I use a chemical peel or microdermabrasion. I use The Ordinary AHA + BHA Peeling Solution “blood facial.” Then I use ice to close my pores, serum, and moisturizer. I just put on a couple of episodes of something, and self-love my way to some baby skin.
What’s your ideal spa day?
I’m going to keep it one hundo—I’ve been all over the world and had facial treatments, and honestly, it’s super uncomfortable being in those spaces. The silver lining for me with this pandemic is embracing how much I love being home with my dogs and my lady. I don’t go anywhere! I even learned how to do my nails at home. Also, my girl hooks my nails up because [XFC fighter Jessica Aguilar] is a former MMA world champion, but she’s also an artist.
What’s the one skincare rule by which you abide?
Serums have changed my skincare game. I used to clean my face, throw on some acne stuff, and moisturize. Now, especially after age 30, I have to keep it tight with some extra steps. The Ordinary’s hyaluronic acid and niacinamide serum creates a beautiful layer, and once I moisturize, I get compliments on my skin. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was become an old lady. When I got my first couple of pimples, I was so proud. I was growing! I was aging! But my skin was really bad with acne. So now, in my thirties, to get compliments on my skin is great.
Do you have a beauty icon?
I get inspired by people, but I'm not someone that picks one person. I’m not someone that picks one philosophy! But I’ll say that Angela Bassett is aging gloriously. If I could aspire to anything, it would be to age as gracefully as she does.
What’s the best piece of beauty advice you’ve ever received?
I don't know where I got this from, but I just started really investing in my natural beauty. I had a couple of people that told me I wore too much makeup. [Laughs.] I got off that and really invested in my natural skin, no false nails, natural hair.
What's your favorite form of self care?
There are many! I need a lot. I love socks and comfy clothes with a nice movie and a treatment of some sort—hair or face.
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