The trailer for the new body-switch comedy Little is striking a chord with fans. The movie, which comes out April 12, will chronicle a Cruella de Vil-like executive (Regina Hall) who crosses the wrong kid and finds herself literally downsized into the body of a middle schooler (Marsai Martin). When the businesswoman turns “little,” she finds it’s not so easy to boss people around, including her overworked assistant (Issa Rae).
Little is poised to be a groundbreaking movie. Black-ish star Martin, who’s only 14, is both the lead and a producer of the comedy, reportedly making her the youngest Hollywood producer ever. She came up with the idea for the film as a fan of the Tom Hanks body-swapping classic Big. And with three stars of color, Little is the rare body-swap film with a black cast. The director, Tina Gordon, is also black and co-wrote the film with black screenwriter Tracy Oliver. Gordon helming the film is a huge deal given the finding that only four black women directed any of the 1,100 top-grossing movies that hit theaters between 2007 and 2017.
Fans are applauding all the black girl magic behind Little, and the fact that the trailer puts a spotlight on natural hair. Unlike the grown-up version of Regina Hall’s character, Jordan Sanders, who wears her hair in a sleek bob, Marsai’s little version wears her hair in a large Afro. Issa Rae, who has natural hair on her HBO show Insecure, does the same in her Little role as April.
Increasingly, Hollywood is showcasing black women with natural hair. When Black Panther debuted last February, it, too, stood out for featuring black actresses like Lupita Nyong’o and Letitia Wright in hairstyles like bantu knots and braids. Rihanna made a point to wear her hair in locs in Ocean’s 8, released in June. And Netflix in September released a film, Nappily Ever After, about a woman’s journey from relaxed hair to natural.
While moviegoers may take notice when black actresses have natural hairstyles, this is certainly not a new trend. A resurgence of natural hairstyles began in the African-American community in the 1990s, when Janet Jackson could be seen wearing her famous box braids in Poetic Justice. The ’90s also saw actresses like Golden Globe winner Regina King in box braids in Boyz n the Hood, Lisa Bonet in locs in Enemy of the State, and Rachel True in her natural curls in films like The Craft and Nowhere. Long before her glamorous Olivia Pope character made her a household name, a young Kerry Washington could be seen with natural hair in the 2001 film Save the Last Dance.
Black hairstyles have cycled from conked and pressed to Afros to relaxed to natural again for nearly a century. With hair textures that have been celebrated for their versatility, black people have worn their hair in every style from finger waves to Jheri curls and will continue to do so.
Little is the latest piece of entertainment to feature a black girl with natural hair, and the trailer presents the look, which still faces bans in schools and workplaces, as something totally unworthy of comment. Strolling into school with a teased fro and a designer suit, Martin’s Little character appears to show that black people can wear their hair naturally and still look like bosses.
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