Maya Rudolph is one of the funniest women on the planet, and most of us figured that out when she debuted on Saturday Night Live in 2000 - her first of nearly seven years on the show. But while we may remember her hilarious impressions and original characters, she recently told The New York Times Magazine that her SNL memories include being made to feel bad about her hair.
Rudolph, who is the daughter of late, black vocalist Minnie Riperton and Jewish songwriter Richard Rudolph, says she arrived at SNL with what she calls "super, super, super-thick and super-curly" hair. "My hair was natural when I started Saturday Night Live, but it was so thick to get under the wigs," she recalls, noting that her time on the show was an overall positive experience. The New York Times Magazine reports that this prompted Rudolph to start spending several hours a week straightening her hair, including a professional blow-out session with the show's hair-department head, Jodi Mancuso, every Friday night.
The blow-dry station, it turns out, "was on the same hallway as a lot of the dudes' dressing rooms," she told writer Caity Weaver. "And every [expletive] Friday night, we'd hear some [expletive] white guy walking down the hall going, 'Is something burning in here? What's burning?'"
Her response? A frustrated, staccato "I'm. Get-ting. My. Hair. Done."
This lack of understanding and empathy was far from the first time people made Rudolph feel uncomfortable regarding her hair. "Every time I'd work, they'd be like, 'I really don't - like, can I touch? - I really don't know what to do with your hair,'" she said about the on-camera jobs she got before SNL. "They would just say the most awful, disgusting things."
Heartbreakingly, it's the comedy talent that made her famous that she relied upon to deal with people who'd say insensitive things about her hair. "I know that part of owning being funny was an armor, and was, like, to literally not cry. It's a protection. Just be like: 'Oh, yeah! I'm the lady with the crazy hair,'" she said, because responding with humor was "so much better than the painful alternative. The alternative is I'm an ugly duckling. I'm just a weirdo."
The anything-but-an-ugly-ducking, actually perfect Rudolph has continued to thrive in spite of the rudeness and insecurities she faced in the past, and stars in the new dramedy Forever, now available on Amazon.
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