A breakthrough short film that puts a natural-haired black woman at the center of a futuristic, tech-oriented story.
See how you can help bring this film to life at the end of the interview!
The gorgeous natural haired actress April Matthis stars as Roxë Jones, an edgy virtual reality programmer who gets more than she bargained for when she’s inside a program she created. Matthis was born in Texarkana, TX and attended University of Texas at Austin. She’s been acting since 1999 and is currently appearing in “A Streetcar Named Desire” at the Yale Repertory Theatre. Based in Harlem, Matthis is married to jazz musician Sedric Choukroun, and the couple has one son, age 4.
Roxë15’s writer/director, filmmaker Celia C. Peters (another natural-haired woman), quizzed Matthis about hair bidness.
Celia C. Peters (Peters): We’ve had many hair convos but I’ve never asked you —- how long have you been natural?? Did you do a ‘big chop’ or were you always natural?
April Matthis(Matthis): I’ve been natural since 2001. I did the big chop and never looked back. Before that, I had perms since elementary school, and press & combs before that.
Peters: Your hair is AWESOME. What’s your routine? How do you keep it so healthy? What’s the biggest challenge to keeping it so illmatic???
Matthis: Thank you, Dahlin’! I try to keep it stretched as much as possible, either braided (just my own hair), two-strand twisted, or if I’ve unraveled it (which I can’t help after a couple days), I’ll put in some kind of bun and wrap with a satin scarf. I wash once or twice every two weeks, depending on my schedule. Either a low-poo shampoo or diluted apple cider vinegar rinse followed by co-wash, then braid/twist with Paul Mitchell leave-in, Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie, water and One n’ Only Argan Oil to seal. Refresh throughout the week with spray bottle mix of water, glycerin, oil, aloe vera gel and Paul Mitchell leave-in. The biggest challenge is just a crazy, unpredictable schedule and feeling too tired/busy to retwist or detangle.
Peters: What is your biggest hair ‘don’t’?
Matthis: Don’t sleep on loose hair with no scarf & no products. Especially for more than a day. “Don’t trade places with what I been through!” This leads to detangling disaster every time.
Peters: What are your fave/go-to hair products?
Matthis: One n’ Only Argan Oil, Shea Moisture CES/Curling Soufflé, large black elastic hair bands.
Peters: You are an actress who makes a living acting. How has being natural affected your career?Ever lose (or get) a part because of your hair?
Matthis: Excellent question. I do a lot of theater. They largely don’t care how I wear my hair. They actually LOVE IT. If anything, they’ll ask me to wear a wig. The first national network TV commercial I did, they asked if I would straighten it. They loved my natural hair in the audition, but told me that the last time they used a natural-haired actress the commercial never aired. I agreed to flat iron my hair and my spot ran for two years. Next I did a zombie commercial and the director saw my natural hair pulled back (because of early morning humidity), and asked me to take my hair out–“her hair is the best thing about her.” So, go figure.
Peters: From what you’ve seen, what does being natural mean for black actresses in the industry at this point? Were you surprised to see Viola Davis natural at the Oscars?
Matthis: Not totally surprised, but definitely pleased. I think it was clear from that LA Times editorial that her natural hair was really well received. I think she felt hot and confident & most people agreed. Still, sadly, straight hair is the norm. You see it in the black mainstream shows & films, as well as TV/film produced by non-blacks. I think the only place I really notice more acceptance of natural hair (that’s not in ringlets, but denser & more tightly textured like mine) is black independent film. And for some reason, bank commercials.
Peters: Any advice for other women considering going natural? How do you feel about being natural?
Matthis: Do it. It’s so great. From the inside, out. There’s something about the history of black people in the western world and how we think about ourselves. I’d say try it, if nothing else, just to say yes to yourself–what hair you actually have. It’s manual labor, but it’s worth it. I personally think most of us look better with it, like when you have known somebody who has dyed their hair 50 different shades and finally they wear their own hair color. It just suits them best. And it’s so much healthier. Less expensive — and you can save your hairline!
Peters: You are the star of Roxë15, a sci fi short film where you play a Black Virtual Reality programmer 40 years in the future. What do you and Roxë have in common?
Matthis: We’re both smart, no-nonsense and care about our work.
Peters: It kind of fits that a sister in the year 2051 would have have natural hair —- but why is that?!?
Matthis: I imagine when people of color become the majority we will start to see a real paradigm shift, including the notions of beauty we’ve been force-fed since our first Disney movie. And maybe natural hair is more resilient against a water shortage??
Roxë15 stars April Matthis, Erik McKay and Donna Duplantier. Written and directed by Celia C. Peters. Produced by Nicole Sylvester.
Now that you’ve met April and Celia,
here’s how you can help bring this film to life!