I only have one good, "Oh my god, did she really touch my hair?" moment. It was at a party at Le Cirque for the author, Barbara Taylor Bradford, on the occasion of the Grenadines honoring her with a stamp. As an eighties teenager who watched Entertainment Tonight religiously, the party was an unexpected bonanza of over-the-top, razzle dazzle celebrity. Joan Rivers breezed by me as Robin Leach, host of my favorite show in the history of my teenagerdom, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, nabbed two glasses of champagne from the waiter for he and I as we chatted about whatever you chat about at a party in honor of Barbara Taylor Bradford and her stamp from the Grenadines at Le Cirque. It was one of those parties where I was one of only a handful of people of color present - a situation that is often uneventful. However, I remember this night in such detail because another person who I watched nearly every week on television, Jeanne Wolf, an entertainment reporter who did regular segments on Entertainment Tonight, amidst our champagne kiki-ing just, out of nowhere, grabbed a handful of my braids and said, "I just love your hair!" I was too stunned to say anything but, "Thank you," and verify that I sat for hours to get it done. I was hardly traumatized, but that is the story that popped in my mind as I watched a panel a few weeks ago sponsored by Pantene, who partnered with Un-ruly.com for the premiere of “You Can Touch My Hair, A Short Film,” based on the interactive public exhibit that made waves on social media last summer.
I didn't know quite what to make of the film when I watched it last summer, but listening to it's Un-ruly.com founder, Antonia Opiah and some of the participants in the exhibit helped provide some much needed context beyong 140-characters.
As more and more established brands step into the natural hair marketplace, I was pleased to see Pantene take this particular opportunity to partner with Antonia Opiah and her Un-ruly.com team because their natural hair care products are quite good and it gives me the impression that they are serious about taking reasonable steps to understand the natural hair consumer and not just jumping on the bandwagon as sales for chemical relaxers continue to drop dramatically.
The panel, which included the writer and critic Michaela Angela Davis, expanded on the conversation that was started in the film which was, in my opinion, a start. I think it would have been nice to have more diversity in terms of age in the film, something that would have provided some much needed perspective. I felt at times that Michaela, who is fortyish like myself, was the lone voice crying in the wilderness - providing context and perspective from a person who has more than a few adult years with black hair and culture of all stripes. I think it would go a long way for people who may find themselves in awkward situations at cocktail parties.