One of the things that many black fans of ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ like about Kelly McCreary’s character is her natural hair. The actress tells us why she thinks it’s ‘comforting’ for many women.
When fans of Grey’s Anatomy switch on their TV screens on Thursday nights, they see Kelly McCreary, 38, portraying Dr. Maggie Pierce. The surgeon proudly rocks her natural hair – her wash and goes, her twists outs. And Kelly’s fans love it. “In person, online, I get so many thankful black girls who are happy to see representation of a woman who looks like them,” the actress told HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY at the #BlogHer20 Health summit in Los Angeles on Feb. 1. Kelly, who appeared on the Hollywood On Health panel, added, “What I feel like they mean by that is, she’s not super done up. She’s not a bombshell and she looks like somebody that they could also be. Not a fantasy of a person.”
While she’s not “opposed” to fantasy characters, Kelly does believe that representation on TV matters – especially for black girls and women. “What I get from the audience is that it’s comforting to see themselves reflected,” she said. Things were different when the Milwaukee, Wisconsin native was a child. “You see a lot of black women on TV with straight hair,” she said. “I did growing up. But I also saw people in my life who had little teeny weeny ‘fros. The women on TV were the same to me as the women in my life.”
When she became an actress two decades ago, Kelly says she recognized that having natural hair would be “limiting” as she entered the professional world. “But I wasn’t willing to do anything different about it, because I thought that was unfair,” she said. “I thought, somebody’s going to make room for me. I just willed myself along, I think, in that way.” “I’m fortunate in that I did find work,” she added, “and I do feel like, based on the feedback from the fans, that I was one of the early representations of natural hair on TV in such a mainstream show. Grey’s Anatomy is such a huge mainstream show and it’s all over the globe. That was really gratifying to me.”
Don’t expect natural hair tips from Kelly though. The actress – who stopped chemically straightening her hair in college because she couldn’t afford it – doesn’t have a routine to share with fans. “I do 70 million things,” she joked. “I try new products all the time. Sometimes I totally fail. Sometimes I wear wigs and extensions… I’m not going to be one of those girls who gets on Instagram and does my hair routine.”
As for the natural hair movement, Kelly is convinced that it’s here to stay. While the black and proud era of the ‘60s and ‘70s saw people go from afros to Jheri curls and relaxers (made from harsh chemicals) in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the Grey’s star feels there is something more permanent about this generation. It’s not just a political statement. It’s a lifestyle.
“People are making these choices for their health,” Kelly said. “They don’t want to put relaxer on their hair anymore for their health… They want to use natural products, like flaxseed and oils.” She added, “Because it’s tied to overall wellness, overall identity awareness and [the] awakening that we are having right now, I would be shocked if we swung back the other way… Textured style is not only a fashion fad, but it’s a whole lifestyle for people.”