i got a call from my agent for an AT & T commercial at beth melsky casting near the flatiron building. the set-up? it was a support group and i was "susan." when she described the character as "somewhat polished," i asked if i should wear a wig and she let out this perky yet elongated yeeeeeeees that made me burst into laughter. i knew what that meant: if i wanted a shot at this one, i had to take care of business.
i washed and conditioned my hair and then i worked through it with a blow dryer -- an all day event reduced to an evening of hard labor. but it didn't stop there. i went to 125th street and decided to go with the first nice african lady that approached me. and there were quite a few. after some haggling (because you have to haggle; that's just the way things get bought and sold, and it makes what you're haggling over more valuable) she cornrows my hair so that i can put on a wig cap comfortably. now the wig i'll wear to the audition will have me looking "somewhat polished." heh. i suppose i could find some other way of putting my hair away but anything else makes it look as though i'm smuggling something on my head, and that can't possibly read well on camera.
the upshot of it all has me looking more like a nigerian graduate student or an office worker from ghana -- young and african with my own air of sophistication, and yet so desperate to fit in, to blend somehow (is that even possible?!) or at least not look like a threat to the status quo. the idea is to be the black woman that someone behind a desk thinks of as pretty. apparently when it's time to look "somewhat polished," this doesn't involve my natural hair.
should i protest by showing up with an afro and my fist in the air a la angela davis? i suppose i could -- but that's not going to get me the job, now is it. this question of "what is black beauty" is answered everyday a thousand times over whenever you look at a black woman in an any kind of an ad or album cover or whatever. how far she has to move away from what she actually looks like to encompass that ideal is your answer. shifting things in the right direction is an inside job. if cornrows and natural hair were trendy to the extreme, absolutely everyone would do it. even the white folks. especially the white folks.
in the end, preparation is everything -- not necessarily talent. who would ever guess that i would have to do all of this to my hair to audition for a commercial?