Kelly Rowland, Lena Waithe and more talk ‘Bad Hair’ film at Urbanworld Film Festival

“I actually think some of the things in the film that are most horrifying is the reality of hair care maintenance," says director Justin Simien

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The 24th annual Urbanworld Film Festival, partnered with HBO and WarnerMedia, kicked off this week. Like many things in 2020, the festival was reorganized online–marking the first ever virtual Urbanworld Film Festival. The event still included panels and screenings of films and theGrio tuned in for the much-anticipated horror film Bad Hair clips and conversations. 

The film was directed by Dear White People writer/director Justin Simien and stars Lena Waithe, Kelly Rowland and Elle Loriane. The four sat down with journalist Tahira Joy to discuss the film, beauty standards, and hair horror stories.

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“There is a lot of common thread in Korean horror movies and Asian horror movies of hair as an element of horror, and the more I thought about that for Black people that is literally true,” Simeon shared when asked the reason for creating this film. “I actually think some of the things in the film that are most horrifying is the reality of hair care maintenance.”

The film tackles some of the childhood trauma, as well as adulthood trauma, that Black women face when it comes to their hair. During the panel, we learned that Waithe’s character, Brooklyn, will have a different look then what we usually see from her. Waithe shared some of the inspirations behind her character came from her older cousin and their conversations. She also explained how her different hairstyles helped bring out her character.

The ‘Bad Hair’ panel at the 2020 Urbanworld Film Festival.

“Who you are sometimes depends on what crown you are wearing that day and I think that’s what was interesting about playing Brooklyn,” The Chi showrunner said.

The panel also shed light on the standards of beauty in the industry. Rowland chimed in on growing up in the industry and having the support of hairstylist and supermom Tina Knowles-Lawson, who taught them from an early age about their hair.

“We were always protected in that hair space and I am really grateful for that,” Rowland explained. “And I think if anyone ruined my hair, it was my own self. You tried color, you tried to cut it, cut it all off or wrong, or someone didn’t know what they were doing so it was really on me.”

She added that when people would want things “straighter” or with “less texture,” Mama Knowles would let them have it. 

With the film being a thriller about hair, moderator Joy asked the panel to share some of their horror stories that ranged from cutting it all off, getting a relaxer, braids being pulled out, and bad twist-outs. But the story that took the cake was director Simeon and his magical hairline.

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“I had a new barber. He was a celebrity barber, a very specific male celebrity, that I will not mention. He said, ‘I will do what I do for this person.’ I feel this mist, I look and my hairline is now here. It looked fantastic,” the writer shared. However, when he went to his spin class with his friends the hairline quickly began to melt off. 

Get ready for more hilarious hair stories and a thriller wrapped in one. The movie is set to premiere on Hulu on Oct. 23 and it is recommended by the cast to grab your friends for a bad hair party! 

The Urbanworld Film Festival concludes Sunday, September 27. 

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