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For This Black Woman, A Wrinkle in Time Got It Right, Including the Hair

For This Black Woman, A Wrinkle in Time Got It Right, Including the Hair

Walt Disney Pictures

Ava DuVernay's film isn't just a movie to Dalila Ali Rajah; it's a catharsis.

The first thing I thought after the experience of watching A Wrinkle in Time:

I don't have words to explain the feelings that moved with me through watching this film. It was like a million micro-aggression cuts getting their first salve and beginning to close.

Seriously, I cried through a good part of the film, not because of sadness, but because my soul was sighing.

I sat next to my child with tears streaming down my face, experiencing delight and deep soul sighs. I saw it again a few days later. Its themes of love overcoming our darkness and that our greatest enemy is our own self-hatred -- the inability to accept ourselves, flaws and all -- touched the most tender parts of me.

Those themes coupled with the combination of science and magic, whimsical beauty, and authentic emotional moments had me enthralled with Ava DuVernay's sweeping adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. The collaborators who created this film went beyond a pointed focus on diversity in the casting of Storm Reid in the lead as Meg and Oprah Winfrey and Mindy Kaling in pivotal roles. They flowed that sensibility through the stunning visual images and the writing that includes quotes as far-flung as from Shakespeare, Rumi, and Outkast, giving credit to which part of Earth each poet is from. The kind of attention to detail the filmmakers gave to Wrinkle highlights the beauty of art.

Wrinkle spoke to me so movingly because I was that little girl/young woman who didn't love herself, who ached with loneliness, who didn't see my own beauty. I am a black woman who was once a little black girl with kinky curly hair who was told I was ugly and that my lips were too big and my skin too dark and that my hair was pretty ... when I straightened it.

I love sci-fi and fantasy, and throughout my life, I never saw anyone who looked like me at the center of any of those types of stories I loved so well. To be honest, I didn't see myself at the center of almost any stories. I was squealing inside within the first few minutes of A Wrinkle in Time. From the outset of the film, Meg, a strong, smart, bad-ass young woman who speaks her mind, is front and center. She is flawed and beautiful and scared and persistent. As a woman, and a black woman in particular, this character is an oasis in the desert.

While it may have eluded many viewers, I was so poignantly aware of a black woman's lens on this film when it came to the character's hair -- the details of which were so subtly woven in and beautifully handled. Meg realistically wet her hair first and sensibly put it up mid-adventure! I cannot tell you how much life it gave me to watch her remoisturize her hair, to manipulate her natural curls, and to style them on screen. Seriously, it was so simple and real, and something I've never seen on screen. It's so incredibly important that in this film we are seen and that the film was directed through the lens of a black woman.

I don't know any little black girl who grew up in America that has not had a complex relationship with her hair. We live in a predominantly white cultural environment where the media constantly feeds us images that for the most part do not look like us, and when those images do look like us they are a more Eurocentric and digestible version that those in charge feel is more acceptable.

In the world we live in, hair becomes more than just a style choice. As people of color, we live in a sociological climate that forces us to reconcile ourselves with the way our hair naturally grows out of our head.

Think about that for a minute.

We're fed so many images of something other than what we are, that it's a journey to accept the hair growing out of our heads. Visibility and representation matter, and A Wrinkle in Time got it so right.

In recent years, stories about actresses like Viola Davis or Zendaya wearing natural styles on the red carpet became main topics of the news cycle for days, which means we still have a long way to go. In some states, women can still be fired for wearing their hair in natural styles. My hair and the way I style it is a message, a statement, and sometimes a dissertation -- whether I want it to be or not. In the context of the history of hair, watching Meg move from her self-loathing to self-acceptance with her big, beautiful, natural curls takes on even more meaning.

If you have not seen A Wrinkle in Time yet, go. The story is told more simply than a film intended for an older audience, yet there are so many layers that touched me deeply in this universal story that integrates many different people and cultures -- something almost unheard of, even in 2018. Support it and all diverse productions with your dollars.

DALILA ALI RAJAH is an actress and creator of the show Cherry Bomb. Follow her on Twitter @dalilaalirajah.

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Dalila Ali Rajah