As diversity in Hollywood becomes more demanded, appreciated, and recognized, the scenes both in front of and behind the camera are changing. And in one area in particular, Susan Kelechi Watson is thankful that the set of This Is Us supported her Black hair and the styling it needs.
On the recent episode of the The Table Is Ours podcast, hosts Kirby Dixon and Amira Lewally told Watson that her hair as mom Beth Pearson — and the hair of other Black women and girls on the NBC hit — looks great, asking if there are Black hair stylists on set. Watson admitted there weren’t in the beginning, but by the second season Black hair stylists were on set, saying she was “grateful [the producers] heard me when I asked.”
“I did my hair a lot the first season. It wasn’t a thing — this is what we did for so long anyway, you just kind of take care of it yourself,” Watson said on The Table Is Ours. “But then it felt like — all right, but that shouldn’t be, so let’s do this. And everybody was so generous about that, so I definitely don’t want that to come off like a judgment. I really did have people that supported that decision and made it happen like that. And I know a lot of people don’t have that, so big up to Dan [Fogelman] and all the execs and everybody who listened.”
We love that Watson asked for the hair stylists she needed and had her request easily accommodated, but we hate that she clearly still felt she was being done a favor. The expectation shouldn’t be for Black actors to come prepared to style themselves. Can you imagine Mandy Moore, Chrissy Metz, or Caitlin Thompson being expected to do their own hair or wigs for the show?
While This Is Us wasn’t intentionally ignoring the hair styling needs of Watson and the other Black actors on the show, providing stylists inexperienced with Black hair is sadly just what has been happening in Hollywood for years. Gabrielle Union, Taraji P. Henson, and Natasha Rothwell are just some of the many women of color who have had bad experiences.
“Actresses point to the discrimination that occurs pretty much every time they sit in a hair and makeup chair: There just aren’t enough union stylists in Hollywood who know how to work with natural hair and darker skin,” wrote the Hollywood Reporter in February 2020 article.
So kudos to Watson for standing up for what she and the other Black actors needed for their hair, and kudos to This Is Us for taking care of it. We just hope that it will soon become the norm for Hollywood to provide diversity in all aspects of the process.
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