Why do fans claim that Queen Sugar depicts Black culture?

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Answered by: Aisha , An Expert in the Shows A-Z Category
Last week OWN launched the mid-season premiere of its critically acclaimed drama, “Queen Sugar.” Ava Duvernay adapted the series from a novel, with the same name, written by Natalie Baszile for the small screen. Fans were excited for the commencement of season 2 because Queen Sugar depicts Black culture in a nuanced and honest manner. The show details the peaks and valleys of the Bordelon family's relationships after a major loss. The siblings mourn the loss of their Father while navigating the gain of his estate, 800 acres of sugarcane farmland. Stories of the family drama unfold each week amongst beautifully shot visuals of Southern Louisiana. The show’s dialogue is just as rich as its footage and explores everything from social justice issues to the nuanced existences of southern Black life. Season 2 episode 9 subtly shines a light on the relationship of Black Women and the hair care professionals that serve them.

In the past, the Black beauty salon has been likened to that of a cathedral. A place where beauty, spirituality, camaraderie, and culture culminated to galvanize the community. To someone outside of the Black American experience, the significance of Black hair salons might seem motivated by baseless vanity. Queen Sugar detailed the importance of Black beauty salons to their patrons with gravitas and insight. Last season showed hints of the Matriarch character, Aunt Vi, experiencing health warnings. Yet, her desire to steer her mourning nieces and nephews through the storm of losing their beloved father, her brother, mitigated her need to care for herself.

The episode includes a scene where Aunt Vi’s trusted hairstylist cautiously expresses her concerns and observations, “You know Vi, your hair is falling out a little, are you going through the change?” After Aunt Vi Notifies her stylist that she went through the change “years ago,” her stylist follows up by advising, “ you might want to get that checked out.” This casual exchange was so carefully placed in the episode and at first glance, it looks like a small moment. Earlier episodes in the season depicted the same concerns being expressed by nieces, nephews, and lovers. Yet it was the respected hairstylist and confidant that prompted Aunt Vi to take action. Episode 9 ends with Vi in the Doctor’s office, sitting at the examination table, wearing a gown and, anxiously waiting to be seen.

Currently, the resurgence of “the natural” or wearing of an “afros” is being linked to the decline of Black women frequenting community hair salons. Many “naturals” replace the sanctity of community hair salons with YouTube tutorials. The natural hair movement has motivated many women to permanently remove traditional beauty hair salon styles like chemical straighteners and presses from their hair regimen. It would seem that Black women transitioning into healthier hairstyles and hair products is slowly forcing the obsoletion of the community hair salon. Queen Sugar effortlessly reminded viewers of the important roles that Black hair care professionals have historically played in the communities that they serve. Aunt Vi’s moment with her hair stylist is an example of how Queen Sugar depicts Black culture in a truly nuanced manner as well as the reason why they show is a huge success.

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