Tia Mowry recalls feeling ‘pushed’ to straighten hair for ‘Sister, Sister’

Tia Mowry is opening up about being a young Black woman on television and how the industry discouraged her from embracing her natural hair.

“In this business, if I had my hair curly, I was told, ‘Can you pull that back?’ On auditions, I was told, It's distracting,’” the actress told Elle.com for the State of Black Beauty.

The 42-year-old reminisced on her days filming Sister, Sister with her twin Tamera Mowry and how they felt they were able to embrace their natural curls on camera, until they became older and the beauty standards within Hollywood began to shift.

“When we were younger, it was wonderful being able to wear our natural hair. People were always like, ‘Oh, you're so cute. We love your curls.’ But as we went into adulthood, you could see that when we became teenagers in the show, we ended up straightening our hair,” Tia said. “It was such a pivotal moment in the series because it was also a reflection of what was being pushed as ‘beautiful’ in society. When I straightened my hair, it damaged my hair and it damaged my natural curls. Again, there were those insecurities.”

Television wasn’t the only place where their beauty as Black women wasn’t accepted. In fact, Tia recalled being aware of the lack of representation throughout media that came before them and that persisted even as their popularity grew.

“There were times when we would see other actors — who weren't Black — on the cover of magazines, on beauty pages, fashion, all of that — and my sister and I were like, ‘We want to do that,’” she explained. “I won't name the magazine, but I remember there was one time we were talking to our publicist, and we're like, ‘We would love to be on the cover of this magazine. Could we be on the cover of the magazine?’ She told us that we would not sell.”

Tia went on to explain the type of rejection that the moment signaled for her — not only from the magazine or her publicist at the time, but also from society as a whole. “This magazine was a very popular teen magazine that had fashion, beauty, and was known for spotlighting what they thought was beautiful and what they thought was popular and hot at that time. It had us navigating who we are as a person and what our value is as a person in this business,” she shared. “It gave us a lot of insecurity. It made us feel like we weren't valuable in that space. Like we weren't valuable at all.”

The one place where she ultimately found representation and even the celebration of Black beauty was on social media. It was the images on there that led her to fully embrace her own beauty.

“I started to see this beautiful, amazing movement on Instagram and social media, where Black women embraced and celebrated their natural beauty and were confident in who they are, celebrating all of the different coils from the thick, tight-tight-tight strands to the loose, wavy strands,” she said. “It ignited a fire in me. That led me to do my first big chop, because I was ready to embrace and celebrate who I am and what my beauty is. I've been having that wonderful love affair ever since.”

Now, as a mother of two children — son Cree, 9, and daughter Cairo, 2 — with husband Cory Hardict, Tia says she’s learned that Black beauty is about being “unapologetic” and embracing herself at every stage. “This is who I am. I love every part of me. I love the wrinkles that I have. I love my smile. I love my gray hair. I love every part of who I am,” she shared.

And when it comes to being a trailblazer for Black beauty herself, she said, “If you're the only Black girl in your class, don't be ashamed of wearing your natural locks or your braids. This is something to celebrate. It's history. It's beautiful. If you are seeing us on Sister, Sister with curly hair, we hope you see you. We hope you feel empowered. We hope you go out and move mountains.”

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