In the film "The Women" which is a remake of the 1939 George Cukor classic re-imagined by writer-director Diane English, Meg Ryan's hair on her character Mary was a key topic of controversy amongst naturally curly haired people. Why?
(Image of Meg Ryan as Mary in "The Woman" - Warner Brothers - All Rights Reserved)
Meg's character Mary was portrayed as a kind of superhero suburban mom-stretched thin by her current life of parenting and all her other commitments.
Meg's hair, as Mary, is long and full of bouncy ringlets. Meg's curly hairstyle was designed by the film's hair designer, producer and Meg to demonstrate her character's kinetic energy and to directly contrast to her best friend, Sylvia (Annette Bening), a high-powered magazine editor, who shows off a perfectly smooth and polished coif.By the end of the film, after Meg's character goes through the discovery of her philandering spouse and resulting soul-searching she undergoes a hair makeover which shows her with sleek and perfectly straight strands.
Celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Hanousek was in charge of Meg's tresses during "The Women". When interviewed by The New York Observer's Sara Vilkomerson he explained Meg "wanted the sense that her appearance was not something she lingered on, and that her focus was devoted to her life and her daughter." Thus in the beginning when she was in mom mode she let her hair "go natural."
Ironically "natural" for Meg is not those gorgeous Botticelli tresses Meg shows off in the beginning of the movie. Mr. Hanousek admitted that making her hair ringlet infused did not have come easy. In fact, "there was some time involved," according to Mr. Hanousek.
How did the curl experts feel about the visual straightening of Meg Ryan's simulated natural curls in the movie? How does Meg's curls in the movie related to natural curls off the screen?
Ouidad, Queen Of Curl told The New York Observer "I thing it's an important issue. We're bordering the line of almost becoming a myth that if you have straight hair you are more professional or appear to be more professional, and that's truly not the case."
Ouidad is a pioneer in the pro-curly-hair movement since 1984, author of Curl Talk, and owner of the tony 57th street eponymous salon.
She believes that straightening or smoothing out the hair is a way of erasing individual personality, and for examples pointed to news-channel talking heads ("[straight hair] doesn't allow for any distraction except to listen to the information"), and more recently the Democratic National Convention, when Barack Obama officially accepted the nomination for the presidency. "Michelle [Obama] has been wearing her hair with a wave, and her and her oldest daughter had their hair totally ironed out," said Ouidad. "They wanted to blend. It's to be accepted and not stick out."
“I’m seeing more curls and freedom,” said Ouidad. “We still have a lot to go, but it’s just incredible how much more there is available. Just by the products on the market, it’s apparent.’
Mr. Hanousek said that he has many female friends with curly hair and that he thought it was the "ultimate in confidence and strength. I don't perceive those women to be frazzled."
However, when it came time for Meg's character to emerge triumphant from her life's challenges she emerged with straights and sleek hair. "We had to show the passing of time," Hanousek explained, noting Ms. Ryan's wardrobe also became sleeker. "It was just to signify that she had gotten her life under control."
The National Observer asked is it the "chicken or egg: Is pop culture a mirror for our society's straight-ist attitude toward hair, or is it helping to perpetuate it?" Good question.
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