The internet is buzzing about Hair Love, the latest film from BlacKkKlansman executive producer and former NFL player, Matthew A. Cherry. Although the film was just released late last week, it was actually years in the making. It was back in 2017, that Cherry first launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the film. The campaign ended up raising $300,000, exceeding Cherry’s goal of $75,000, en route to breaking the record for the most funds raised for a short film on the crowdfunding platform. Then earlier this year, Sony Pictures Animation announced they had picked up the film and it would be released by the end of the year.
The momentum continued as the film was adapted into a children’s book which was released this past May, making it onto the New York Times Book Review Children’s Best Sellers list. The film finally hit theatres in August, being played alongside The Angry Birds Movie 2.
Hair Love encourages young girls to love their natural hair, and also tells the story of a father learning to support his daughter’s hair journey by learning to do her hair. It’s an important story because Black women often face so much pressure to fit into an ideal of beauty that Black people didn’t create and it starts at a very young age. It’s also important because it dispels the image that we often see in the news and media of the absent or disengaged Black father. My hope is that Black fathers will see this film and feel the freedom to shed the bravado, image and expectations we’ve placed on ourselves.
The story of Hair Love hits home for me personally because it’s my story. After parenting two boys full-time, I had the privilege of being a full-time stay-at-home father with my daughter when my wife went back to school in September 2018. One of my jobs was doing my daughter’s hair everyday. As we see in the film, at first it was daunting and my daughter was forced to go outside with a few jacked up hairstyles, but eventually I learned (although I still get nervous sometimes when my wife asks me to wash my daughter’s hair).
I have memories of being on the bus with my daughter and getting out my comb, elastics and spray bottle to do her hair. Of course, some people looked at me in shock. I imagine it was because it’s not everyday you see a young Black man out with his daughter with a stroller and baby bag, while doing her hair. I happily embraced the opportunity to change people’s perceptions when it came to Black men and parenting.
The first person who needs to be congratulated for this project is obviously Matthew A. Cherry. Aside from having the creative vision, it takes a lot of time, effort and sacrifice to bring a film to life. Also, the message is a well-needed message that reflects a very real issue we face as Black people.
We also need to congratulate Sony Pictures Animation. Although the film has already generated almost one million views on YouTube and almost three million views on Twitter, I can imagine the film won’t be a major money maker for Sony. This is a passion project, and in a time when billion dollar superhero movies reign at the box office, it’s refreshing to see a studio get behind a film with a message that serves and reflects the lives of an underserved and underrepresented community. Hopefully other studios will see this and realize, first, that there’s a market for stories told from a Black or ethnic perspective, and second that there’s value in telling these kinds of stories with a message and not just stories that will generate billions of dollars at the box office.