AISHA ALFA, A THIRTY SOMETHING COMEDIAN, ACTOR AND HOST, BORN IN NIGERIA, GREW UP IN CANADA. HAVING SPENT TIME IN SOUTH KOREA AND FRANCE; SHE NOW RESIDES IN LA. AISHA TALKS ABOUT HOW SHE CHALLENGED THE VIEW IN HER INDUSTRY THAT AFRO HAIR WAS UNPROFESSIONAL.
WAD: How did you hear about World Afro Day?
AA: I first heard about World Afro Day on Instagram and was like YASSSS!!!! I am a HUGE supporter! It is an important celebration of authenticity for women and men around the world. The sketches I did last year were to highlight that we can all celebrate World Afro Day whether we have curls or straight hair, regardless of gender or race. It is about celebrating authenticity, style, diversity and community!
COMEDY CLIP: We Can All Celebrate Afros
WAD: As a biracial woman, does wearing your natural afro textured hair have an impact on how others perceive you?
AA: Growing up I always felt like an outsider and tried to fit, and that included having straight hair. I think a lot of women with textured hair learn how to take care of it from their Mom or sisters or Aunties, mine are all white. So, I didn’t have familial help! Even my friends were mostly white, as were my teachers, parents’ friends and most people in the media. I now realize I wasn’t celebrating the fullness of my identity as much as I could have. I am a proud African-Canadian woman and having my natural, curly hair is one way for me to show that pride.
WAD: How is afro textured hair treated within Canada’s media (TV adverts, programmes, magazines etc) compared to other hair textures?
AA: Things have changed a lot even in the short time I have been in the industry. I recall an audition not that long ago for a corporate instructional video. I dressed in my best business attire, memorized my lines and nailed it in the audition room! I walked away feeling proud of myself.
Moments later the casting director caught up with me and told me she was “really disappointed” in how I showed up, I was confused. She said she was disappointed I would come in with my hair looking so “unprofessional!” I was so offended and angry, because it was a clean, neat afro! Then, just to be sure I understood, she told me that straight hair was professional, kinky hair wasn’t! OOOOOH GURL!! I was livid and I told her that suggesting the way my hair naturally grows from my head is unprofessional was racist! Even more, she was out of touch and all she had to do was look at any commercial and she’d see women who looked just like me. Things have changed a lot since then!
WAD:how do you think women with afro textured hair in Canada feel about their natural hair?
AA: I hope that all women with afros, curly or kinky hair love it! I am approached all the time by parents of young girls with curls. They ask me how they can convince them to leave it alone! I love this conversation because I think it’s an important one! We get to choose how we style our hair, but the society suggests that some of those styles (ex: straight, long hair) are more valuable than others. I think it’s important that young women know all hair is beautiful.
In today’s media, women with natural hair are “on trend”. YAY for us! But we are NOT a trend and the media will be making way for our afros for a long, long time!!! PS-I booked the role for the corporate video! And all was well in the world!