American Masters


Lena Waithe on why Cicely Tyson's hair is revolutionary

Writer, producer, and actor Lena Waithe explains why the hair of Black women can be revolutionary, and how Cicely Tyson's decision to wear hers naturally was an inspiration to many other Black women.

AIRED: January 18, 2021 | 0:01:58

- I think Black women and our hair

is a revolution unto itself

because how we choose to wear it is so telling

about how we want to walk through the world,

how we want to be perceived.

And I think that straight hair,

natural hair, curly hair, big hair,

you know, short hair, long hair,

it's a form of expression.

And so I believe that, particularly Black women,

have the right to wear their hair however they choose.

And there's a freedom in that.

And I think for Miss Cicely Tyson to wear her hair,

well, she's worn it many ways,

but very early on in her career for it to be natural

and just beautiful and glistening,

and it sends a message to other Black women

that you too are as stunning and as beautiful

and as radiant as Miss Cicely Tyson is,

and your hair is beautiful and you are beautiful,

and your skin is beautiful.

I think that's what she, well, basically would say

every time she was on screen without having to say it.

Her deciding to wear her hair natural,

in its natural state,

was almost a form of protest to say,

"No, I won't conform, I won't try to make myself

more palpable to a broad audience."

It was clear who she was performing for.

It's always clear who she's performing for.

And I think that's why so many of us see ourselves in her

and we see our ancestors in her.

We see our future in her.

And I think that's why she is truly timeless,

she's a timeless figure.

And not just, I think, in cinema and in television,

but I think in our country.


  • ios
  • apple_tv
  • android
  • roku
  • firetv