This is a little archive of hair styles from the past. My past! It was prompted by two things:
My blog has become my personal archive, and in honor of Chris Rock's movie opening called, Good Hair. Be prepared for a chuckle or two regarding the archive of photos.
I was watching Oprah. Chris Rock was on promoting his Michael Moore style documentary. It was riveting.
The film is mainly about the life long journey of black women altering their hair for the sake of beauty and fashion. This journey can begin as young as age three, when mothers start using harsh chemicals to relax their little girls hair.
The conversation shifted to white women too, because they do their fair share of torturing their hair, and spending big bucks to do so too. Apparently the quest for blondness is the white girls holy grail. Oprah remarked that she didn't know one white woman who had their natural hair color, that is the color of hair they were born with.
As a little girl, my mother gave me Toni Home Permanents as early as age two or three.
A collage of my hair as a child: Left to right: Age 9, age 13, age 2
And now Toddlers and Tiaras (a television show on TLC), have their tiny heads tortured for their beauty pageants with wigs and hair extensions, as well as the usual perms, curling or flat irons.
Valorie Hart Age 3 sporting a perm given to her by her mother
In response to my mother torturing my hair, as a young adult I did nothing but let it grow, and keep it squeaky clean. I didn't start to wear make-up until I was 27 (excluding stage make up - I was a child performer with a career that lasted well into my 20's), and I got my first adult perm at age 27 because a good girl friend worked at a hot hair salon in New York called Cinandre, and perms were the rage she talked me into.
Valorie Hart age 27 sporting a perm given to her by her friend Angelina
Bette Davis eyes
Valorie Hart doing her Flash Dance impression
The thing that stands out the most about all this is the amount of time and money we women spend on our hair. As the years go by, one can surely feel a slave to their hair.
Solange Knowles joined Chris Rock on The Oprah show. She's the younger sister of Beyonce. She had her hair cropped very short and natural. Apparently she felt like a slave to doing her hair with all the complex hair extensions and weaves. She wanted to give her hair a rest, and give herself a break from spending hours upon hours getting it done. She was elated to feel liberated from the beauty routine of her hair.
Mmmmm. Though I don't do extensions or weaves, I know the feeling of being trapped by the upkeep and expense (and mess when I do it myself at home) of hair color. My hair is pretty much gray by now, and I often think about cropping it short, short, short and letting the gray grow out.
Over the years I have had it colored to be what I thought my natural color was, and I always hated it. It looked so drab in comparison to the blondes and reds I (and even black) I had grown accustomed to seeing myself with.
My natural hair texture and color before the perm - dig that wedge!
I also never treated hair color as being something natural. I have always chosen astonishing shades, never pretending to have natural hair color. To me the point of coloring your hair well, was for it to look, well, colored. I never understood the "only your hairdresser knows for sure" way of thinking.
Also, as time and hair color years goes on, the hair changes for the worst, the shiny brunette of my youth did not exist just because some brown hair color was applied. My red hair makes me happy, and I wonder if gray hair would do the same. The liberation of not having to do it every two weeks certainly would be a change for the better!
Like everyone my hair has changed with fashion.
Valorie Hart newbie rock singer
As an adult I went through various stages based on a performance career both as a dancer and actor, and then as a rock band singer. The rock band years created some amazing hair for me. As we became more successful, we were "groomed" for image and the fledgling media industry of music videos.
The original band, innocent and fun loving - our first photo shoot
Our first PR was so innocent. Then things began to evolve. Band personal changed.
Getting serious and edgy
At first I was another rock band blond on the New York club circuit. Others included Debbie Harry, Cyndi Lauper, Tina Weymouth, and then the one who out blonded us all - Madonna.
Valorie Hart a rock blond amongst many
The guys in the band had major hair and upkeep too. One had braids and beads (no fake hair either!), and the other had his wild rock hair hot combed into an incredible shape.
Danilo Dixon HERE
I worked part time at a hair salon called John Dellaria, and my best friend Danilo worked there too, and he gave me a unique color job, a full fabulous head of line-lights, the birth of my famous striped hair.
The band groomed for success by the powers that be
Talk about upkeep! This process took four to six hours or more.
And it was expensive. I was not making much money then, so I traded modeling for John Dellaria in exchange for my hair.
Valorie Hart photo by John Dellaria, and hair by Danilo of John Dellaria
The band lasted five years, and like so many typical stories of disillusionment, it broke up. Producers were still interested in us as separate and solo artists, and one wanted to make me into an urban punk country singer ha ha.
When I became a business woman, my hair changed again. Then as a tango dancer I went from blond to dark, from short to a Louise Brooks bob, then back to short again, this time as a red head.
Valorie Hart - photo by Susan Salinger - This was my perfect blond hair!
I have had every color of hair for sure from blond to black to red. I have worn wigs on stage, and for carnival season and Mardi Gras. I've never had hair extensions - too much money and too much time, and I have never felt drawn to having long hair.
Valorie Hart young actor head shot - - Natural hair and natural color
I had hippie long hair when I was 16, 17, 18, and cut it Mia Farrow short when I was 19. Except for a lapse now and then, I have worn short cropped hair, or maybe at the most a bob with bangs. I never had "hair-anoia", you know being paranoid about my hair. If I didn't like the cut or color, or have the money for the upkeep I'd wear a hat until I was flush enough to change it. Hair always grows.
So what about you? What do you do to your hair? And could you go natural and still feel attractive? Do you spend too much time and money on your hair?
More with Chris Rock about his movie Good Hair:
According to the story that comedian Chris Rock tells at the beginning of "Good Hair," the documentary he produced, co-wrote and narrates that premiered here this week, his young daughter Lola came inside from playing one day and asked him, "Daddy, why don't I have good hair?" That question launched Rock and director Jeff Stilson on a nearly global inquiry into the meaning and history -- not to mention the prodigious financial significance -- of hair in the African-American community.
Rock and Stilson's initial subject was the annual Bronner Bros. International Hair Show in Atlanta, a prodigious trade fair for black-oriented hair products that culminates with a competitive hairdressing competition that literally must be seen to be believed. A combination of Mardi Gras costume ball, erotic dance routine and performance art, the competition features such larger-than-life characters as Derek J., who performs in specially redesigned women's thigh boots, and Jason Griggers, a blond and flamboyant white man who describes himself as the Rosa Parks of black-oriented hairdressers.
Amazing as the Bronner Bros. show is, the business of black hair is far bigger still. As I confessed to Chris Rock during our Park City conversation, I've seen the aisles of black hair-care products at chain stores, and I knew about the existence of relaxers and hair weaves. But the ubiquity of relaxed, straightened, processed or augmented hair among black women -- and the immense cost this can represent -- was something I'd literally never thought about. (Maybe Rock was just trying to make me feel less clueless, but he says he didn't know much about the subject either before making the film.)
Rock conducts frank, funny and sometimes startling interviews with superbly coiffed black celebrities from Maya Angelou and the Rev. Al Sharpton to Ice-T, Salt-n-Pepa, Nia Long and Raven-Symoné. He meets ordinary women in hair salons across the country; and even travels to the Hindu temples of India, source of most of the hair that ends up in weaves attached to African-American women's heads. "Good Hair" is a smart and thought-provoking film without quite becoming confrontational. Rock raises the obvious fact that black Americans have assimilated to a cultural standard of beauty that is more European than African, but without treating it as a moral issue, or something that a movie made by a comedian is likely to change.
Rock joined me on a sofa in a crowded storefront space on Park City's Main Street for a few minutes of conversation. As with so many professional extroverts, his offstage demeanor was reserved, calm and a little on the serious side.
If I was producing and marketing a film that is about African-American culture, and black people and black hair, the first place that I would want to come is Utah, naturally.
You know, if it works here, it is going to work everywhere. And it works here. I'm in good shape actually.
I saw it the other night with a predominantly white audience and they were laughing, and learning stuff, reacting ... Speaking as a, you know, middle-class white guy for all the other middle-class white guys out there, I learned a helluva lot from this movie. I knew that hair weaves existed and obviously I've been in the RiteAid in New York City and I've seen ... that entire aisle full of hair relaxers, but I didn't know what a huge scene it was.
By the way, I didn't know. I mean, the initial idea was just to shoot the hair show, and cover the hairdressers, and kind of make like a "Hoop Dreams" of hair. But the more we shot, the more other things popped up.
What you are talking about is the Bronner Bros. Hair Show in Atlanta, this amazing spectacle of competitive hair dressing. It's so great, and the characters that you meet, those people are so incredible ... So what drew you to this. Was it literally the experience that you talk about with your daughter?
It's my daughters, my friend's daughters too, everybody had hair stories. It just seemed like a good place to go ... I love an idea I haven't seen.
It kind of blew my mind, the idea that in an African-American household you got this Porsche that nobody can see, these working-class and middle-class black women spending thousands of dollars, or their husbands and boyfriends spending thousands of dollars ... buying a Porche that nobody sees. There is a whole economic realm to this that I didn't know about at all.
It creates a wedge, actually.
Right, you talked to Al Sharpton about it.
It creates a tension in a relationship. Any man -- black or white -- will tell you most relationships break up over sex or money. You know ... so it is a big issue.
Were there things that actually surprised you that you learned about this stuff?
The business. Like you I've seen these aisles of relaxers and stuff, but I had no idea, I just kind of took it for granted, I didn't know that the relaxer business was no different than the General Motors or Apple or even the weave business, how ... the weave business is like the legal drug business in the sense that the stuff comes from this other country.
The hair comes from India.
Yes, the hair comes from India and it goes to L.A. and it kind of trickles down to the States. Like cocaine ... all the drugs come into the port cities, and it seems that the hair comes into the port cities.
So somebody's hair salon in a black neighborhood in Little Rock -- probably their hair weave is coming from L.A. and India. That's amazing ... You know, one of the things that struck me is that if somebody had made this film in the '70s it might have been, you know, a bit more a call to arms -- nationalism, we can't have this.
You know, we have that cut of it, and it just wasn't that entertaining. I mean, it's still my job at the end of the day to make people laugh. Other documentarians, they have other responsibilities. My responsibility is to make people laugh. So, yeah, that cut of the movie exists but it is not as fun to watch as this cut.
You kind of raise the question a little bit -- is all of this about black people trying to look more like Europeans?
You know, the movie kind of ends with me not judging at all -- because you gotta think of it this way: A) I'm a man. So that would have been hard ... any definitive statement would have been like, yeah, "fuck you." And I'm kinda like famous too, so, "it's easy for you, you have people do your hair." So I had to be really sensitive about those two things. There is no answer, there is no right or wrong in this thing.
And I suppose another thing is that it is not like what you say is going to change a lot of women's minds about what they are going to do.
Right, right ... Chris Rock said ...
It was impressive to me that you got a lot of very famous and beautiful black women to talk really honestly about the fact that, yeah, this is 18 grand worth of somebody else's hair that I got on my head.
It is such a big deal in their lives that no one has ever asked them about. Their hair costs more than anything they wear, they spend more money on their hair ... maybe their rent is more. You know what I mean? It's like the No. 2, 3 expense of their whole life. And no one has ever even bothered to ask them about it. It's almost like they have a kid and no one ever said, "What's this kid like?"