In a series of videos uploaded to Twitter in late June, Michaela Coel sits in her bedroom amid a sea of wigs, hair creams, wig stands and preening products. She picks them up, wig after wig, bottle after bottle, and throws them with force into a black bin liner. She is done with spending hours perfectly positioning her hair, Coel tells the camera – not just the straight hair, but the curly “mixed race” hair, too, and any notion that she should look, act, think a certain way to be attractive.
When we meet a couple of weeks later, Coel tells me that act of rebellion against Eurocentric beauty standards feels final. Before, she would switch between wigs and a buzz cut, depending on her mood. Today her hair is shaved down to a No 2, and on the set of the gal-dem-Guardian cover shoot, she’s wondering aloud whether she needs to go shorter. The makeup artist and stylist are not sure, but when Coel sees my hair (a 0.5) she decides to go for it. She whips a pair of clippers from her bag as I offer to shave her head. This is therapy for black women, she later jokes.
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