The star tells Stephen Colbert about a bad hair day on a movie set

By Jillian Ruffo
Updated August 03, 2016 03:26 PM
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan

Viola Davis has been wearing her hair natural for years, but it apparently continues to come as a surprise to some unprepared stylists. On The Late Show With Stephen Colbert Tuesday night, the How to Get Away with Murder star discussed American Coco, a new show she’s producing about an agent who solves ‘sticky racial situations.’ When Colbert asks her to explain the phrase, Davis has an example ready to go.

“Sticky is like, when I was doing a movie and I was doing it with my ‘fro and this Caucasian woman had her fingers in my hair, she said ‘I’m going to make it really pretty’ and so she put some white goo in it,” Davis says, clarifying that she’s referring to “goo only white people would use.”

And the actress wasn’t surprised by the unpleasant end result. “She put that and then she took a big spray bottle filled with water and just started spraying my ‘fro with the goo in the hair. And I wanted to say, ‘It’s not going to work,’ but I knew if I said it I would be insulting her. So I went to the set and slowly the sun caught my hair and my whole ‘fro turned white.”

That’s why, Davis says, a character like the one in American Coco would come in handy, to address awkward situations just like this. “Then you gotta talk about hair and then you gotta say, ‘You don’t know what to do with my hair,’ but you cant say that because you’d be insulting [her].”

For future stylists set to work with her hair, though, Davis has some pro tips to make sure you come prepared. “By the way, when you put water on a ‘fro, if it’s this big, it will become this big,” she laughs, gesturing with her hands from big to small. “It shrinks. That’s just a little lesson.”

The star is just the latest to speak out about underprepared white makeup artists and hairstylists who don’t know how to work with different skin tones and hair types. Ebonee Davis recently wrote an impassioned letter about the need for diversity on sets, following similar missives from models Leomie Anderson and Nykhor Paul. And Zoë Kravitz spoke out last year about the controversy surrounding Zendaya wearing dreadlocks to the Oscars: ““I think it’s just about black women being able to be who they are and people are getting that or not getting that,” she said. “But I don’t think we should have to change the way we look at all, depending on what’s in fashion.”

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