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October 2009
| An Interview with Nia Long

An Interview with Nia Long
By Wilson Morales

October 5, 2009

Coming out this week a wonderfully insightful and entertaining, yet remarkably serious, documentary about African American hair culture called ‘Good Hair.’

Directed by funnyman Chris Rock, the film explores hair salons and styling battles, scientific laboratories, and Indian temples to explore the way black hairstyles impact the activities, pocketbooks, sexual relationships, and self-esteem of black people.

Among the celebrities who candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock about the subject is actress Nia Long.

In speaking with Blackfilm.com, Long talks about her involvement, being open about the taboo subject and her short sting on ‘The Cleveland Show.’

  How did you end up being in the documentary?

Nia Long: It was definitely Chris. Chris is a genius when it comes to women issues, making them funny and giving us something to think about. He does an amazing job in talking about things that we think are a sensitive subject, but an important subject. This is something that we need to have dialogue with each other. What do we celebrate? Do we honor ourselves in our most organic state or do we feel that we need to alter in order to feel beautiful?

Did you and Chris discuss your part for the film?

NL: No. There was no pre-interview. We just went for it.

How open did you want to be?

NL: When you are going to do a project like this, you have to be totally honest and open. Otherwise, there is no point in doing it. The things I said on-camera are the things that most women think about, but never say. I know it’s a delicate subject within the Black community, and Black women and our hair have a love-hate relationship at times. Chris was able to give us insight about hair coming to India, but he also gave us something to ponder in terms of our own history and how we value our beauty as Black women. Are we changing our looks to assimilate to look more like White women, or are we simply making a fashion conscious decision that happens to be our hair? When you look at what’s celebrated in the media, and what’s acknowledge in the media, there are very few images that look like us.

After seeing the finished film, do you think anything was left out?

NL: This is a topic that could have taken a million different turns, and there could have been plenty of subtopics under this. But, there’s only so much you can put in a movie within a timeframe. If you look at it as a contemporary film that explores the journey of the hair weave and deals with some of the social issues that women have with their hair, then it’s a good piece.

As a person who’s invited to many events, how challenging is it for you to work with your hair?

NL: To be honest I just go with whatever my mood is. I don’t sit there and say, “What am I going to do?” I don’t think about that much. I make a choice.

Can you talk about your experience on ‘Guiding Light,’ which ended after over 70 years on the air, radio and TV?

NL: It was amazing. Working on a soap opera is like going to four years of college. You learn a lot, really fast. I was a series regular and on the show for 3 years before I started doing films.

To be honest I just go with whatever my mood is. I don’t sit there and say, “What am I going to do?” I don’t think about that much. I make a choice.

What happened to ‘The Cleveland Show’ that you were let go and replaced by Reagan Gomez-Preston?

NL: I did the first 14 episodes and they decided that they wanted a less mature voice to be the 15 year-old daughter and that’s the way it goes.

Will you do another TV project?

NL: I was on ‘Third Watch,’ ‘Big Shots,’ and my focus is to do good work and I’m very careful about the projects I take. I’ve been in this game for 20 years. I’m a mother and that’s a big priority in my life and we’ll see what happens next.



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