By Jihan Forbes. Photos: Courtesy of Instagram.
Scandal's 100th episode was a gift from creator Shonda Rimes to #Olitz fans – that is, those rooting for President Fitzgerald Grant (played by Tony Goldwyn) and Olivia Pope's (played by Kerry Washington) romance. In the episode, we saw what life would have been like had Fitz never become president, and boy, things were really different.
Fitz losing the presidency makes life for the Gladiators and their cohorts, well, a bit less dramatic. Fitz and Olivia get married. Mellie Grant (played by Bellamy Young) becomes Cyrus Beene's (Jeff Perry) beard, hiding the fact that he's gay. Quinn Perkins (Katie Lowes) is a famous reality T.V. star. Huck (Diego Muñoz) is still Huck, just a lot scruffier. But what was most noticeable about the alternate reality Rimes dreamed up is that in it, Olivia Pope wears her hair in its natural texture – all the time.
Soon after Fitz loses the election, Olivia eschews her silky bangs and straight hair in favor of a voluminous crop of natural curls and coils. On her wedding day (eep!), her hair is pulled back into a bun, dotted with pearls à la Janelle Monàe. You can see her texture peeking through past her slicked down edges, defiantly showing the telltale waves that can come when you brush highly textured hair back. In the office, Olivia's business blowout is no more. Instead, she proudly takes on Washington with a head full of kinks and curls.
We've seen Olivia wear her natural hair a few times over the course of the series, most notably in season four when she left D.C. and ran away with Jake Ballard (Scott Foley) to Sex Island (that's what I'm calling it, don't @ me). We saw it again in the same season, when Olivia was taken hostage, watching as her hair went from a sleek blowout to a mop of undefined tresses in need of a deep conditioning treatment.
There have been a fair share of discussion on the significance of Olivia's hair, and how she usually straightens it for the workplace. Plenty of black women feel pressure to do so for the sake of their careers, thanks to lingering biases against black hair. In this alternate Scandal reality, Olivia still works, although it appears her job is less high-profile than what we've come to expect from the head Gladiator. Instead of expensive-looking capes and high heels, Olivia shows up to work in sweaters – you know, the ones she previously used to reserve exclusively for curling up on her couch with a big glass of wine.
I couldn't help but wonder what statement Shonda Rimes and the Scandal writers were trying to make with the hair in this episode. Why did it take a whole alternate reality for Olivia to wear her natural hair regularly? Was it a subtle comment on the mainstream view that natural black hair is "unprofessional?" Or maybe Olivia's hair was reflective of the fact that she seemed to have more time to take care of it in its natural state. Sometimes women opt for a blowout in order to cut down on maintenance time. Or perhaps the answer is far more practical – Olivia usually has different hairstyles than normal during flashback scenes, so maybe they employed this method to make it easier for the audience to see that we weren't dealing with the usual Scandal universe.
We've reached out to one of Scandal's hairstylists to explain the decision, and we'll update once they've given us the tea.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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