We first met her as the Witty and Intelligent “Vanessa” on The Cosby Show. Through the years she has set trends in Black Hair, some of which is being revisited today. From sculptured afros to micro braids, she wore every style and then some.
What inspired this article of dedication and appreciation was the fact that my husband and I were watching The Cosby Show last weekend and I was remarking about how many natural styles we saw on screen. Vanessa wasn’t the only character that wore her hair natural, but the family as a whole displayed every texture of Afro Hair from 1 to 4. All shades of brown were represented in the family as well as personal style. Short, cropped afros and textures wild ones; wavy tendrils cascading down one’s back and pressed, thick hair pulled into a huge puff were some of the styles represented back then. It is amazing to see where we are now as opposed to the 80s where big weaves and Jheri Curls were the popular styles. In a way, we are getting back to the basics, but then, there wasn’t much that was basic about Tempestt’s hair on the show.
The Press and Curl was the acceptable hair straightening method adopted by Black Mothers everywhere. As chemicals were too drastic, the smell of hot irons and crackling hair was normal in many kitchens in Black Neighborhoods. And on television where Black Representation was sparse and very selective, The Cosby Show allowed us kids back then, to see “our own family” on television. It was comedy, but it was also very real. And the young ladies in the cast represented me and my sister and my cousin and my best friend down the street. We were on TV.
She was smart and she was a sweet hear and she didn’t have to change anything about her appearance to be accepted as a talented actress worthy of the prime time lime light she received.
Within the last ten years, we have seen Tempestt appear on film and television with her own hair. From Celebrity Fit Club to The Practice, the Natural Light has been shining upon her.