The comedian Chris Rock fronts this informative rummage through the $9 billion US black hair industry in a style much like his stand-up comedy: hilarious, insightful and charming enough to let him get away with the flammable stuff. What sets Rock on his journey is a question from his five-year-old daughter: ‘Daddy, how come I don’t have good hair?’ For all women, hair is tied up with image and self-esteem in ways an evolutionary psychologist could probably explain. Speaking to a cross-section of African Americans, Rock finds out that this relationship is even messier for them, with added cultural pressure to have straightened – ie white- or Asian-looking – hair.
A genial, probing interviewer, Rock extracts candid anecdotes from Maya Angelou, Ice T, the Reverend Al Sharpton and Salt-N-Pepa, and cheekily asks the actress Raven-Symoné exactly where the human hair in her weave comes from. ‘India’, she answers, and off he goes to visit a Hindu temple where the hair from ritual head shavings is sold on and turned into hair weaves. Still, he gets his best lines closer to home in American barbershops and salons. In a Harlem barbers he asks one man which was more painful, being shot or getting his hair relaxed – the place is in stitches.