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Tia Mowry Says She Felt Pressure to Straighten Her Curly Hair In Hollywood: ‘On Auditions, I Was Told “It’s Distracting”’

Tia Mowry recently opened up to discuss the prejudice she encountered as an actor due to her hair, and the pressure she felt to flatten out her natural coils.

In an essay for ELLE’s State of Black Beauty package, Mowry said she and sister Tamera were encouraged to restyle their hair while working on “Sister, Sister.”

Tia Mowry. @tiamowry/Instagram

“When I straightened my hair, it damaged my hair and it damaged my natural curls. Again, there were those insecurities,” she wrote. “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.’”

“You could see that when we became teenagers in the show, we ended up straightening our hair. It was such a pivotal moment in the series because it was also a reflection of what was being pushed as ‘beautiful’ in society,” she continued.

She also remembered the stress and insecurity of growing up in Hollywood with curly hair, and how it pushed her to other avenues to cope.

“I was insecure. I used to take diet pills,” she recalled. “I would also feel insecure about my hair because being young and being in this business, I never saw girls like me. I never saw girls that, you know, were embracing their curls or I never saw curly hair being portrayed as beautiful. Let’s say that.”

Coming of age in Hollywood was challenging for the Mowry sisters, who had dreams of being magazine cover models like their white contemporaries, despite the lack of Black entertainers gracing the pages

Mowry claimed again in the Elle article that once she was outright told by a publicist that she and her twin sister could not be on the cover of a particular magazine because it wouldn’t sell copies.

“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,” she said. “It had us navigating who we are as a person and what our value is as a person in this business. 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.”

Mowry, who also reflected on the incident with “Entertainment Tonight” in September of last year, was tearful in saying that the sting of those words still hurt years later. “Here I am as an adult,” she said, “and it still affects me, how someone could demean your value because of the color of your skin.”

“I will never forget that. I will never forget where I was,” she added. “And I wish I would have spoken up. I wish I would have said something then. I wish I would have had the courage to speak out and say that wasn’t right.”

Even so, Mowry credits her mother Darlene for being a source of strength and inspiration for her, which allowed the star to emerge from her experiences healthier and wiser.

“Thank God that my mom told us, ‘Do not allow this business to define you. Do not allow this business to define your happiness. Do not allow this business to define your value,'” she wrote in Elle. “I believe that’s what saved us from falling into the pit of childhood stardom.”

Mowry said she is happy to see more acceptance of different types of hair among Black women, and that it has helped her embrace the beauty within herself.

“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. “I’m loving and seeing all the beautiful different shades of Black beauty.”

Mowry told ET, “I love that now I’m seeing images that are really embracing natural, beautiful curly hair and just beautiful Black women in all shades: dark, light skin, brown…representation is important and that really helped me, meaning me seeing those images, is what helped me embrace my natural beauty.”

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