Netflix debuted director Haifaa al-Mansour’s eloquent “Nappily Ever After,” based on the book by Trisha Thomas, on Sept. 21. It immediately captured hearts with its ambitious and effective depiction of society’s toxic standards of beauty while showing how to overcome them.
The film takes us through the pristine life of Violet Jones (Sanaa Lathan), a successful and stunning black woman who holds her hair above anything else — an obsessive relationship with outward beauty instilled in her by her potent and vanity-stricken mother.
Violet has it all: a handsome soon-to-be fiance, a group of supportive friends and an established job where men look twice as she walks by. She’s managing her love life, family and career as impeccably as possible.
However, when a perfectly imperfect mishap takes root in Violet’s life with a mixup of hair relaxer and leave-in conditioner, she has to reevaluate her own interpretation of beauty and self-worth.
Besides relaying the strenuous relationship between women and beauty, this inspiring film gives all viewers a direct view into a more serious topic: the expectations placed on a black woman in modern society.
When Violet’s connection to her hair is severed, her focal point of identity is slashed as well. Men and women treat her differently, and she is suddenly no longer the picture of conventional beauty. Specifically, she is no longer what society, and her mother, believe a strong black woman should look like. But, with the aid of passionate hairdresser Will (Lyriq Bent) and his tenacious daughter Zoe (Daria Johns), Violet discovers what she is expected to be does not determine who she becomes.
“Nappily Ever After” challenges the pivotal and lethal ideologies of society, from the pitfalls of vanity to the complex relationship between mothers and daughters to the concept of a woman’s right to control her definition of beauty.
The movie also explores the decrepit notion of a woman’s dependency on a man. Violet’s mother grooms her from a young age to require a man to gift her the pleasures of a stable life — a common but disheartening projection of the belief a woman cannot achieve a satisfying life without a powerful man at her side, more appropriately, in front of her.
“Nappily Ever After” takes that belief and shoves it right back in society’s chauvinistic face. This film is a clear and exquisite example of how growth and success can come to any woman, regardless of unrealistic expectations.
Netflix deserves applause for the adaptation of this film, while Thomas should receive national recognition for crafting a story of this magnitude. “Nappily Ever After” instills in all of us that beauty is born out of happiness and the ability to be yourself in your most raw form, despite all who tell you otherwise.
“Nappily Ever After” is rated TV-MA and is now streaming on Netflix.