Crowning Glory Oct09


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Crowning Glory

Crowning Glory: To weave, or not to weave?

I like to put the spotlight on new and emerging theatre voices. Writer Somalia Seaton at Theatre Royal Stratford East, photo by Robert Day 1 London-born Somalia Seaton’s debut play, Crowning Glory, is about the trials and tribulations of hair. It opens soon at Theatre Royal Stratford East. Somalia told me why and how she thinks hair has become a political statement:

Hair in the context of the woman of colour will always be political. The history of why women deem it more manageable, presentable or desirable to present straighter styled hairstyles is a complex area to visit. Actress’ such as Viola Davis, Halle Berry, Thandie Newton and other figure heads such as Tyra Banks and Oprah have spoken on this subject. We live in a society that tells us what is desirable, what is socially acceptable and what is beautiful and those ideals are quite simply never focused on the natural image of the woman of colour, so it makes sense like every other trend that women of colour generally go for styles more socially acceptable, without really reading into it too deeply.

When Viola Davis graced the red carpets of The Golden Globes sporting a short auburn natural style it was a big deal for us actress’ of colour. I feel it sent a very strong message, almost to say it’s okay to be in that position and present an alternative image of beauty to the mainstream.

Black women across the world spend more money than any other race of women altering their hair than any other. I am interested in why.

We cannot simply dismiss these trends as simple style preferences when we put female ideals of beauty into context of the world we live in. A world that promotes and celebrates a type of beauty over another, a world that gives a face to power and a face to poverty.

Young girls – young girls I have worked with, young girls in my family, young girls I pass in the street – they were the inspiration for the play. We live in a society where we as women are increasingly expected to present perfect, unobtainable versions of ourselves to the public. Whilst these images are not plausible to ANY women, the media continue to perpetuate western European ideals of beauty , which is even further away from that of women of colour, and it is the effects of this both here in the UK and the rest of the world that needs to be questioned.

I had been working at a school in-between acting work, the kids I had been working with were in reception at the time and I had been bullied by these 5 year old divas to draw them each a princess, I was careful to make each princess look individual to each girl. I drew one with beautiful blonde hair, she smiled, another with beautiful loose mixed race curly hair, gorgeous long black hair for the beautiful Pakistani girl and finally fierce braids with beads at the end for the young black girl who instantly cried her eyes out. She went on to tell me that princesses do not have braids and that it was ugly and she wanted her princess to have princess blonde hair. It broke my heart, but most of all it planted a seed, that would later grow to be Crowning Glory.

Crowning Glory is at Stratford East, 17th Oct-9th Nov

photo of Somalia Seaton by Robert Day