Tia Mowry Was Never Afraid to Go Gray

“Why are we trying to diminish, or suppress, the beauty and the blessing of getting older?”

Tia Mowry Was Never Afraid to Go Gray
Photo: Felisha Tolentino

When I was a child, I was surrounded by European standards. What society said beauty was, or what beauty was supposed to be, or what beauty looked like, is all based on that. So growing up, there were just no visuals or representation of someone who looked like me — Black girl with curly hair. All I saw being showcased was blonde, straight hair, blue eyes, white skin. And there was little to no visibility for women of a certain age.

As I got older, became a teenager, and was on television, I started to straighten my hair during the final seasons of Sister Sister, all because this is what society was pushing as beautiful. There wasn't really room for anything else. There were even times after the show had gone off the air when I would go out on an audition with my hair curly, and I was told that it was a distraction. And, of course, with that coming from a casting director, it encourages insecurities.

For me, the messages weren't only coming from societal standards and magazines, they were being voiced within my profession when I was just trying to get a job.

That negative relationship with my hair went on for a very long time, until Instagram hit the scene in the 2010s. I started to see more girls like me. Meaning, there was this amazing community of curly girls, and just Black women celebrating all the various textures and colors of their hair at every age. It changed my perspective on what beauty actually was and how it could be defined.

I am celebrating my uniqueness, I am celebrating who I am at every stage of my life.

So the relationship that I had with myself growing up is definitely not the relationship that I have with myself now. Before, there were insecurities and the need to try to conform. Now, it's a celebration — I am celebrating my uniqueness, I am celebrating who I am at every stage of my life.

That's why everything that I've been doing now and a big part of my purpose is to fight for representation across the board, even when it comes to something as inevitable as aging.

Tia Mowry Was Never Afraid to Go Gray
Courtesy Tia Mowry

I would say I started to notice my first grays toward the end of my 20s or in my early 30s. But that was when I would see maybe two or three gray hairs. My gray hair really started to come in heavy when I turned 40.

I wasn't alarmed either time. One thing that I credit my parents with is they've always taught me how to just be myself at every stage of my life. And I've always had this perspective that it is a blessing to get old. There are so many people on a daily basis that are not making it to the age where their hair starts to gray. And so when I see my gray hair, it actually is a blessing because it means that, yes, I'm getting older and I'm still here. I don't take that lightly — I really, really don't.

Beauty is confidence, beauty is feeling good about yourself, beauty is embracing all of your flaws, and beauty is aging.

But of course, in my industry and just in general, there's still pressure. For example, maybe about four or five years ago, I was working on a film, and someone on set told me, "You really need to cover those gray hairs! Girls shouldn't be seen that way." And I said, "No. I'm going to keep my gray hair. This is normal, this is what happens." Because at the end of the day, no matter what the trends are or what people tell me about how I should look, I define what beauty is for me. And for me, beauty is confidence, beauty is feeling good about yourself, beauty is embracing all of your flaws, and beauty is aging.

And although I recognize that social media has helped me embrace my natural features, there's also a flip side, where some people have become so obsessed with this previous version of themselves, or what they think they should look like, because of all the filters and editing, that they end up not liking who they are right now. I don't know if it's the psychology major in me, or if it's be- cause mental health is just really important to me as well, but I wonder what this is doing to our society. It's making people not love who they are and where they're at in their journey, and that's not good.

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So, for the women who are struggling with going gray and getting older, the advice I would give is to start embracing or allowing your energy and the people in your space to be supportive. That could mean finding a community online, and people to follow who can positively influence you and make you feel better about yourself. There are many accounts that celebrate aging. Unfollow and block whatever or whomever does not make you feel good — never be afraid to do that.

Then you also want to have that real life support system — the people who don't care whether your hair is gray or not, because they're going to love you and think you're beautiful regardless. It's so important to focus on the people around you who are supporting you to grow old gracefully, as opposed to those who don't.

The one thing we all have in common as human beings is that every day, we are aging. I think we really need to start asking ourselves, "Why are we trying to diminish or suppress the beauty and the blessing of getting older?" I want to change the narrative, and that's why I show off my hair the way it is.

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