Comedian Jessica Williams may seem like the epitome of confidence, but she says she has struggled with her appearance throughout her life.
Williams, formerly of “The Daily Show,” says she has “never been a ‘hair person’ and her view of beauty has been shaped by social cues she picked up on as a child.
“I don’t like hurting,” she said in Allure’s August issue of styling her hair as a girl. “And a lot of the time, to get my hair done, I would have to get it hot-combed and pressed — and that involves having a really hot metal comb running through your hair.”
Williams said as a 6-year-old in the 1990s, she began wearing braids regularly and has worn them ever since.
“Now, my natural hair is who I am,” she said. “I have lots of braids, and I have lots of twists, but it’s all very low maintenance. I feel like I can get up and go and get out of the house.
“I just don’t have it in me to get my hair done all the time.”
William’s idea of beauty has also been impacted by society’s preference for European beauty standards, which makes light skin more desirable than darker tones.
“Growing up as a Black girl in a society that traditionally values white European features, I really was down on myself as a kid,” she said. “You know, in the old Barbie advertisements, they would play with the white Barbie first? And the Black girls played with the Black Barbie. And in the final shot, it would be the white Barbie with the Black Barbie behind her. I picked up on those subtle things, and, unfortunately, I internalized them.”
The star of the upcoming Netflix movie “The Incredible Jessica James” said going to college and learning about feminism and womanism, which distinguishes itself as feminism for Black women and is something she drew upon at a Hollywood roundtable earlier this year, helped her embrace her Black beauty.
“The more I learned about womanism and feminism, the more I learned to accept myself,” she said. “As soon as I learned to do that, it was like, ‘Everything about me is valid. Every curve is valid.’
“My skin is valid. My melanin is valid. And not only is it valid, it’s beautiful. It’s to be cherished.”