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Black women, as a collective, have a litany of bad hair stories. From botched relaxers to bleach jobs that wrecked havoc on our strands — traumatizing hair incidents are native to the Black girl experience. And that’s just one aspect of it. Learning to accept our hair is the other half of the journey.

Vanessa Williams, who currently stars in Justin Simien’s hair horror flick Bad Hair, revealed she got her first perm when she was in the fifth grade to “fit in.”

“I started relaxing my hair probably when I was in fifth grade to make it more manageable,” she said on an episode of Dr. Oz that airs Friday, October 30. “So you get your hair relaxed and it’s smoother and you can do the styles that everybody else does because your hair seems to be more like everybody else.” 

She went on to describe an incident when she accidentally set her hair on fire. “One time I was taking a nice hot bath and there was a candle behind me. I smelled something burning and realized that my ponytail had been on the edge of the tub and started to catch on fire.”

The Bad Hair star, who embodies Zora in the junior project from Simien, was lucky enough the situation didn’t turn out to be a major catastrophe. Williams went on to talk about wearing wigs as a protective style.

“Especially working in the industry, you have to get used to wearing wigs because you want to save your hair because you’re doing the same thing over and over again. It’s not a technical thing.” 

She added, “There’s no shame in wearing a wig. I mean, I know Tina Turner back in the day made wigs really popular back in the ’60s and ’70s. Wigs are back, hairpieces are back, ponytails are back. Again, scarves, hats, everything can be an option.” 

Catch Vanessa Williams in Bad Hair currently streaming on Hulu.


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Vanessa Williams Accidentally Set Her Hair On Fire When She Was A Child  was originally published on