Letty’s hair salon has reopened! Trey Anthony’s famous play, ‘The Hair Salon’, has been in business for 20 years.Da Kink in My Hair You can now get a blow-dry from the back of your hair. This brand-new production reunites several cast members, including Weyni Mengesha as director. This article will discuss the advancements society has made. It has been since 2003. There is still much to do.
In a new interview, CBC Radio’s QAnthony told Tom Power that she created her own roles because there weren’t any authentic roles for Black women in the entertainment industry. “I can remember coming back from auditions and telling my grandma, “This is shit!” They just give me these shitty roles, and I’m sick of it. My grandmother was like, ‘Well, if they’re giving you shit, write your own shit! Stop complaining! That’s how you ‘Da Kink It was born!”
Q23:27Trey Anthony discusses the cultural impact of her award winning play, “Da Kink In My Hair at Twenty”
Follow Q with Tom Power and listen to it CBC Listen, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music Or wherever podcasts are available.
Anthony was based in ‘Da Kink On her childhood and the move from England to Rexdale with her Jamaican parents. Novelette is a Little Jamaican hairdresser who can read a story from any head of hair. Letty’s Salon serves a broad range of customers. Anthony’s monologues focus on issues like gun violence, mental illness, and colourism.
Anthony, who was the play’s first premiere, has been a key part of Canada’s entertainment scene as a producer and author. She also won 4 NAACP Awards and is the first Black Canadian woman in primetime to produce and write a television show.Da Kink It was made into a series in 2007 and both seasons are available on CBC Gem.
It was voted one of the best plays in Canadian theatre history.Da Kink in My Hair The Bluma Appel Theatre, Toronto, will be celebrating its 25th anniversary until December 23rd.
Many of those cast members have been my friends over the years. These people have done incredible things and they came in to talk to me. It’s amazing!
Yes. It’s ‘Da Kink Magic, that’s how I refer to it. Everyone involved in the show has done amazing, magical things.
I was shocked when they called me to celebrate 20 years. I was like “What 20 years?” It was not 20 years. If you ask me, I’d say seven, 10 maximum, but never 20, because it didn’t feel like 20 years ago.
A time when you felt like this thing was doing more than most plays?
It was probably the first time that we had done a reading at Now Lounge in two nights. I believe it sold out. It was like “OK, maybe it is luck,” you might say. It was about 40 people in a small space. When I pulled up to the Fringe Festival one day, I was running late. Then, as I was about to enter the show, I noticed this crowd going around the block. It was my show. It was my show, and people were waiting in line to get in.
That was when I realized that something big was going to take place here.
You’re 12 years old and you move to Canada. Next, you go to Rexdale, Brampton, and finally to Canada. What are you going to do with all this?
When I came to Canada, I was twelve years old. It was a difficult time for me. Imagine me leaving England with an English accent and moving to this working-class Rexdale neighborhood. I was a bit teased. People thought she was white. and they were like, “Oh she tried to talk like she’s white, or she thinks she’s posh,” and it was hard. People made fun of me accent, which made it a difficult transition. People thought that I was better than them. I was just like, I don’t know how this sounds!
We moved to Brampton in 1995, and then we moved into a middle-class, upper class neighbourhood. I went to school alongside some very privileged children and was aware of this fact. It was the class I could not name at that time. I knew, even though I was in that circle, that my family didn’t make the same money as these families. This is where I really learned to be a chameleon. It was there that I began to make fun of my family and try to fit in. I used to make fun about myself and my family. I was that child where everyone said, “Oh, she’s funny, she’s so outgoing.” I was able laugh at myself. It was actually a defence mechanism. Let me have a good laugh first, before you make fun of me.
Is this a good thing?
Yes, I think so. When people feel you are authentic, they connect with you. This has been a constant throughout my career and in my writing. This is how I put myself in the center of the action. These are the things then, thus. [that] Black communities are experiencing many of these things.” Because I am very vulnerable and open about my struggles, I believe this is one of the reasons my work resonates so strongly with so many people.
Writing has been a great therapy for me. Talking to my ex-partners or my family will reveal that Trey is a very emotional person. It’s where my stuff is and where I get to work on the things that are keeping me awake at night. And it’s also where I feel the most vulnerable. Sometimes I think things that I am not capable of saying. The words are then placed in characters’ mouths. I then ask them what they would say to me. This is how it works for me.
When did you start writing?
I would say that in grade 8. This was the teacher I had, and I will never forget his name, Mr. Bellisimo. He handed me one of his assignments back and said to me, “You are really special.” Your writing is incredible. Keep that in mind. It was then that I believed I could be a writer.
In grade 13 — now I’m aging myself — I was in this writing class and I got back a paper and it was red all over it. My teacher said to us, “You won’t be a writer because of how you write.” Your grammar is horrible.” It was then that I started to doubt my abilities as a writer. It’s something I always tell students and aspiring writers. Because I write as I speak, it has helped me to make my characters believable.
You begin to write not long thereafter. “Da Kink in My Hair”, right?
Then I was accepted to theatre school. After that I completed a summer program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, then I received an internship. Chris Rock Show. After that, I returned to Canada as an intern and felt like I had a lot of self-confidence. When I went out to auditions, it was just stereotypical roles being offered to me, like Black girl on Welfare, or Baby Mama number 2. I decided to write.
I felt like I wanted to write things that feel authentic to me. These big illusions were that I was going hire a lot of Black women and that I would write for all the actresses I saw at auditions. It was a Kanye West-like way of thinking. I wanted to make it bigger and better. That’s kind of how I started in that way of thinking, “I know you guys think that you’re great, but I think I can do a better job,” and I was very very naive.
In Black Girl in Love with HerselfYou do speak a bit about this. You discuss the stereotypical roles you were offered and the potential damage to people when they are reduced to these stereotypes.
Black people are often subject to a lot of harm in media and entertainment. We depend on people who don’t look like we to write for us. This has changed significantly in the past five years. In several writing rooms, I have been the only person of color in the room. When you think about it like that, many times when it comes from white writers, what they are playing onto of Black lives is the stereotypes they see being perpetuated in media. These are the things we keep hearing time and again.
People often ask me what the secret to my success is. I have always replied that I never believed the lies they told about me. I believed that welfare baby number one, my baby mama, was me. Drug dealer number two was me. Crackhead number three was also me. I was like, “No — I don’t know these women. I am going to write people who reminds me of my sister, remind me my mom, reminds me my grandmother, and reminds me of me. It has been something that has remained with me for all my life. Remember who you are. Do not let anyone tell you what you should be.
Please tell me about the origins of the play and where you might have gotten the characters and plot from.
The play centers on Eglinton at the hair salon. Novelette, the main character, is the hairdresser and has an amazing ability to touch the hairs of women. It allows you into their personal and intimate lives. It’s almost like saying, “What is the mask you wear in public and what are the masks we wear when the mask falls?” That’s who Novelette is able to access — the inner lives of these women, the vulnerable times that they’re going through.
Each monologue has a bit of me in it. One monologue deals with police brutality as seen from a mother’s point of view. This monologue was written when my brother’s friend was being treated in hospital after he had been shot. I vividly remember seeing the hospital room with the mother crying and meeping.
Another monologue about sexuality is about a young girl who comes out to her family. I can recall 20 years ago when that monologue was being done. People used to boo. They used to boo! It was hard to feel the pain in the theatre.
They booed someone for coming out.
Speaking out about being lesbian. It became so bad, that one of the actresses who played it left because she could not deal with dealing every night with this audience. It’s too much work and lifting. This was the real story of my family’s reaction to my coming out, particularly my grandmother.
Another monologue was about incest and sexual violence. I felt that it was important to discuss and live through what happened to my young self as a girl. To put it another way, abusers and perpetrators can silence young girls. This was something I felt it was important to discuss.
I have another monologue about colorism. It was direct from my family of how we deal. Our family has very dark-skinned members of our family, and also very light-skinned members of our family. In the video, she speaks about her mom’s words that “You’re just too black to wear red.” Never wear red,” and that was a direct line from my grandmother. As a child, my grandmother used to say to me, “Oh, thank goodness you’re intelligent, because looks passed by you, but thanks God you are smart.” Red was not your color. Although I thought I was smart for a long while, I didn’t consider myself attractive or beautiful. Many women who see the play can relate to these moments. It’s amazing how one statement can be so central to your identity, especially when it comes from people you trust and respect and who love you. So it becomes very healing for a lot of women.
Given that you just told me why this show was created — the personal nature of everything in that play, and how the play was speaking to a community that had never been spoken to before in Canadian theatre — how meaningful must it have been for you to have that many people show up?
The Bluma Appel Theatre is the current location for my play. It’s a 900-seat theatre. It was as magical and amazing as the one at the fringe festival, which was 100 seats. Sometimes it makes me feel a little bit silly and think, “People really want to see my art!” “I have something to offer!”
It’s important work. It is healing work. And I really believe it’s greater than me. People come to me for healing, community, laughter, and a sense of belonging. I do believe God, the universe, whomever you want to believe in, uses me as this vessel to say, “Be this voice and be true and be authentic,” because a lot of times when I’m writing something it’s me trying to heal, and I realize the work starts to heal others. This is why I don’t take it for granted. It doesn’t matter if I see 100 people or two people. I feel the same excitement no matter what. This is possible!
What do you think your family makes of this situation?
Funny, it’s because I thanked my family at the opening night. I said, “I thank you for giving this dysfunctional family to me, because if I didn’t have one, I wouldn’t have a career.” Then, I added, “I also want you to thank me for allowing me so public with things behind closed doors, and that it is just my perspective, but you allow me the freedom to write about our lives.”
Black Girl in Love with herself It was a sort of memoir and very personal. I talked a lot with my mom about me being 17 years old, how it felt, and her childhood. I can recall that before the book was sent to the publishers, I sent it to my entire family. I said, “I want to give you a copy of this. Because I believe it’s only fair that it is read first before it goes out into this world. But, I also don’t intend to change anything, this is my truth.”
They all read it, and none of them spoke a word. My mother was the only person who ever said anything to me that I will not forget. She said, “I had no idea how hard I was on your until I read it. I am sorry you felt this way. It felt like I was pushing for you to do your best. As the oldest, I knew that you were a heavy burden. My mom was a mom who worked three jobs, so I was second in command. That really struck my mother as she was reading it. She said, “I hadn’t realized how much you ran your household and how much you were doing at this point in time. I was in survival mode.”
My family is proud of me. But my dad and mom are Jamaican so they don’t say things like “Oh, I’m proud of you.” They will tell everyone and their mother how amazing I am, but will never say it to me.
These people sound like they are still with your family. You are a mother if I am not mistaken.
Yes, I’m a mom myself. Kai is my son. Kai was just three days old when I adopted him at 14 days. It has also helped me to see the world from a different perspective. Motherhood is hard. This is what my mom did when she was 17. This is what I am doing in my 40s, with support and resources. It feels overwhelming and a lot, so I have become more accepting of my mom. The best thing about becoming a mom is the freedom it has given me. [me] up. I have a soft side to me. I am able to see how I’m doing and still feel like I’m failing at motherhood.
I heard that someone got engaged at one show. Is this true?
Yes, my sister got married at How black mothers say I love you She’s been married to her husband for 17 years. I was engaged to one of the Black Girl in Love Tom, I shouldn’t have done those shows. I should have been stopped because it didn’t last for eight months.
Either way, it was a transformative show both personally and in other ways. Which are your most proud achievements?
My proudest moment is when I receive emails or messages from women saying, “I came to your show 20 years back and now I’m bringing mine daughter.” Or, “I came along with my mom and it has been a family affair.”
A friend sent me a message saying that he had sent his Jamaican mother to him 20 years ago. “Da Kink in My Hair”I brought her because I wanted her see my monologue on sexuality. That’s how I came out. I am proud that he is married, has a husband, and has many families around him.
It’s also what makes me proud that a young blonde woman approached me and said, “Oh my god, thank you so much for sharing my story.” I loved the whole play, but particularly the Nia monologue. And I was like, “The Nia Monologue?” I responded, “No, you’re wrong. The monologue by Nia is about colourism. It’s about her saying that she was too dark and that my mother treated me badly because of it. She replied, “Yes, that’s it.” My mom has always loved me as a fat sister, and I have never believed she loves me as much as her skinny sisters.
It was then that I realized you can be as precise about something, but people will still find themselves in your work if they are able to stand in their truth. All of it is about being loved, heard and seen. It transcends race, gender, sexual orientation, and all other factors. This was the moment I realized that Trey is doing far more than you think. You are helping so many people. That’s what I’m the most proud of — that people come out of all of my work, and especially ‘Da Kink They call it an experience. It’s certainly an experience.