It’s more than just hair.
At the inaugural Hair Nation Expo in Queens on Oct. 9, Connecticut-based playwright Alicia Thompson will be debuting her play surrounding stories about black women and their hair at the Black Spectrum Theatre. In her one-woman play “I Am My Hair,” a counter spin to the popular song by soul artist India Arie, Thompson reflects on how several girls and women perceive their hair and themselves, while examining the environments they live in and the reasonings behind their choices, said Thompson.
“An overarching point I make about hair is that it affects so many different things — going way back to slavery to now,” said Thompson.
She was inspired to create the play after an in-depth conversation with a friend about women of the Diaspora. One of them was hair — often a very politicized and racialized attribute black women are confronted with at a young age.
Despite a change in hair trends and the wider embrace of more natural styles, many women still struggle with their appearances via imagery in the media, and Thompson suggests companies reverse this with more reflective and natural representations.
And as the popularity of traditional black hairstyles grow and inspire hair choices of other ethnicities, a stigma remains for black women, said Thompson.
“The whole thing about cultural appropriation — I could care less if a Caucasian woman wants to wear braids, the only thing is that I should not be made fun of for wearing it too,” she said. “If I do it, it should be accepted.”
In the play, Thompson portrays several characters transforming into them with different mannerisms and voices. Of them are an eight-year-old, her twenty-something mother, a teenage girl with self-image issues, and a career woman. Each woman has a struggle audiences will be able to relate to, according to Thompson.
She adds that the subject material of these stories are heaving in nature dealing with self-loathing, abuse, peer pressure, and identity.
In writing the project, Thompson relived memories and experiences she had with her hair, and magnified those aspects in her characters.
“There are dialogues in the play about this, and explain the process — it was mental labor,” she said. “I had a lot of thoughts come in and out and had different visions of how each character would represent that — I call it an artistically messy process.”
The aim of her play is to provide perspectives on how women feel in regards to their hair, and provide a solution.
“I don’t like the motto ‘I am not my hair – what does that mean?,” said Thompson. “We wear many faces and sometimes we do it unconsciously, but sometimes we wear different faces and we’re not being real about who we are, and honestly and truly, we shouldn’t be afraid of saying that.”
“I Am My Hair” at Black Spectrum Theatre Company [177-01 Baisley Blvd. and Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, (718) 723-1800, www.black