Viola Davis has several awards, movies and TV shows under her belt, but she still faces a recurring struggle in the styling chair. The Suicide Squad star, 50, revealed that hair pros still don’t know how to work with her natural hair.
She recapped an unfortunate (but hilarious) incident with a stylist on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’s Tuesday, August 2, show. Davis — who’s producing American Coco, a show about an agent who “solves sticky racial situations” — used the experience to offer an example.
“Sticky is like, when I was doing a movie and I was doing it with my ’fro and this Caucasian woman had her fingers in my hair,” Davis recalled. “She said, ‘I’m going to make it really pretty,’ and so she put some white goo in it.” (For the record, when Colbert asked for clarification, Davis said it was the “goo only white people would use.”)
And it only got worse. “She put that in and then she took a big spray bottle filled with water and just started spraying my ’fro with the goo in the hair,” The Help star continued. “And I wanted to say, ‘It’s not going to work,’ but I knew if I said it I would be insulting her. So I went to the set and slowly the sun caught my hair and my whole ’fro turned white.”
Aside from her hair disaster, Davis’ example counts as sticky because of the ensuing conversation. “Then you gotta talk about hair and then you gotta say, ‘You don’t know what to do with my hair,’ but you can’t say that because you’d be insulting [her],” Davis explained. She also gave advice to the stylists who may have been tuning in. “By the way, when you put water on a ’fro, if it’s this big, it will become this big,” she noted. “It shrinks. That’s just a little lesson.”
Davis has proudly worn and discussed her curls over the years. At the Oscars 2012, she looked resplendent with her natural closely cropped auburn ’do and an emerald Vera Wang mermaid gown. And in 2015, the How to Get Away With Murder lead won an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild Award while wearing her textured black ’fro at both ceremonies.
Her decision to show off her unprocessed strands is a testament to her confidence. At the age of 28, she lost half of her hair to alopecia. “I wore a wig in the Jacuzzi. I had a wig I wore around the house. I had a wig that I wore to events,” she once told Vulture. “I had a wig that I wore when I worked out. I never showed my natural hair. It was a crutch, not an enhancement. … I was so desperate for people to think that I was beautiful. I had to be liberated from that [feeling] to a certain extent.”