Less than 10 months ago, New York City native Nydia Simone moved to Los Angeles with one bag, a carry-on and her sights set on becoming a television actress for the Nickelodeon or Disney channel. This aspiring Hollywood player soon leaped at an opportunity that would help her make a documentary film about a topic she and many ladies can relate to – natural hair.
Upon acceptance into a filmmaking program operated by The Creative Mind Group, Simone collected over $2,400 in donations from strangers (including myself) to travel to France and pitch her movie to potential investors at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival.
Before heading to the festivities a few weeks ago, Simone chatted with me about her experiences so far and what she aims to bring back from Cannes.
Madlab Post: How would you describe your Natural Hair Documentary and its working title?
Nydia Simone: “Natural: Documenting the World of Natural Hair Evolution,” which completely describes my documentary because it’s all about the worldwide change and movement of the natural hair revolution.
I feel like it was so present but the media wasn’t discussing it and still, today, everyone knows about it but nobody talks about it. I was working on Broadway for the producers of “A Streetcar named Desire” when Nicole Ari Parker, Blair Underwood and Wood Harris were the lead stars. During an interview, Parker mentioned going natural because of her daughter – ‘I don’t want my daughter to look at me and feel like her hair isn’t beautiful because of what I’m doing to my hair’ and I was like ‘oh my gosh, that’s so different from why I went natural and not even close to why I did it;’ everyone has a story.
My documentary is going to feature stories of natural hair while documenting what has come from that movement – people who now have [natural hair] product lines, people who became famous such as hair gurus; I also want to talk about what it means to be natural. When you’re a kid, you really don’t have that many qualms about your hair – your mom does your hair. It’s when you’re an adult that you’re like “it has to be this way” and “no, it’s horrible, I have to figure it out.” I feel like most black women, not all, know how to do their children’s hair -- but lot of them don’t.
We’re from the East Coast, where people know how to do their hair. These West Coast people are a different story, because I see kids looking crazy. I want to go to Sweden, Paris, Brazil and different salons and talk to naturals all over the world, not just in America. I want a big portion [of the documentary] to be in New York. I want to go to L.A. as well, but definitely New York because there is a pride – you don’t just have pride in being black, there’s a pride in your hair, in a way that L.A. is not.
How much progress have you made on this Documentary so far and what will the securing of investment money mean for the project?
I have a treatment already done. Since I don’t have the awesome footage I shot, including with a celebrity hairstylist, I’m starting from square one. It’s so sad because I had a cinematographer but he’s not returning any of my calls. So, I have to create a sizzle real for my documentary, literally in like two days! I’m going to do it. I thought I had a lot and I guess that’s what happens when you get favors from people.
You have to work right with people – confirmations, etc. so that you can both be on the same page rather than communicating via informal text messages, which has led to no-shows more than once. I’m going to make a sizzle real because God got me this far and I’m going to frickin’ France with something! Video is so important. I’m asking for complete funding of $65,000 (up to $150,000 if possible) for my film. I’ll be able to hire everybody I need to hire, attract and secure talent while being able to live my life as a filmmaker without worrying about rent and not having money.
If you do something at 100%, you will do it well. I just learned that from fundraising. I was out there every day getting money to go to Cannes. I’m very excited and among the people I want to interview are Viola Davis and Whoopi Goldberg, which is a big deal for me because she never compromised – she’s been Whoopi! Her hair has been her hair and she doesn’t change. She’s been extremely successful being herself and I think it’s important to talk about it and I would really like to hear what she has to say about natural hair and how it’s affected her career, because I know it’s affected her career; and people like Tracy Ellis Ross, who has the more widely accepted natural hair but at the end of the day, it’s still black hair.
*Stay tuned for MORE with actress/producer Nydia Simone, including:
- The guerilla tactics that led to her being mistaken for a homeless person in Beverly Hills
- How she plans to balance this Natural Hair documentary with her work duties on a Saturday Morning TV show coming to FOX
Now tell me....
What influences YOUR decision on choosing the hairstyles that you wear?
How much time do YOU spend on the maintenance and styling of YOUR hair?
Of all the actors/actresses in the movie industry, whose hair do YOU favorite (or envy) most?
*Photo(s) credit: Nydia Simone