fun fact, I binge-watched NCIS: New Orleans often, so I’m pretty familiar with what Shalita Grant is referring to when she said the hairstyling on the show was a source of frustration for her.
When she joined the cast I had that “Oh good, a black girl” moment because … Representation!
But that quickly turned into a major side eye.
It was pretty apparent that either they had no black stylists on set or they just didn’t care about her hair because the styles got progressively worse as the show developed and as her character developed.
Shalita came to NCIS from Broadway and she shared with the LA Times that after not having a job for a while her role as special agent Sonja Percy in NCIS: New Orleans seemed like an answer to her prayers.
She shared that after spending some time with the cast, the experience was terrible, sharing that there was an array of issues on the show involving race and gender.
Without dwelling on the details, Grant describes an array of problems on the show involving race, gender and “stupid … actor [expletive].” (Showrunner Brad Kern was accused of creating a hostile work environment and replaced in 2018.)
She says the climate was so toxic, she almost left after Season 3. But after a recuperative stint in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Shakespeare in the Park in New York, she summoned the strength to return for one more season before leaving in 2018.
As it is for many Black actors, especially in TV where the grueling pace of production requires near-constant styling, poor experiences with hair on set were an ongoing source of frustration and demoralization for Grant.
She has spoken about the extensive damage the producer-mandated styling wrought on her naturally curly hair and the way the show “decimated… my self-image.”
The hairstyling was terrible, look at these photos:
Grant channeled this difficulty into a hair-care company, Four Naturals, which provides healing treatments for Type 4 curly Black hair.
“I learned so much from that darkness. That trauma, I turned it into joy. Everything that happened to my hair, I healed it. It’s in my business. I am healing other Black women as well.”
It’s an extension of the family business for Grant, whose mother, aunt and grandmother were all stylists.