Marvel Studios has produced several projects that turned out to be quite resonant with real-world parallels. Actress and stuntwoman Janeshia Adam-Ginyard has been part of several of these, including Black Panther, WandaVision, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Fans have taken away many inspiring and important messages from these projects, but Adams-Ginyard's own biggest takeaway from her work with Marvel happened behind the scenes before she even stepped foot on the set of Black Panther.
BECOMING A DORA MILAJE
In The Direct's exclusive interview with Adams-Ginyard, the topic of powerful moments in Marvel came up. The stuntwomen-actress shared a personal story about her fears of accepting the offer to play a Dora Milaje warrior due to her reluctance to shave her head, thinking that she would "be ugly" or "look like a boy" if she did so:
"I think the cat's out of the bag, everyone knows that the Dora Milaje have to shave their heads. And that was almost a challenge for me in the beginning because I almost didn't take the role because I had to shave my head. Like, I consulted my pastor, I called my friend, I was crying to her on the phone because I'm so attached to my hair, I had this thing like 'Oh my God, if I shave my hair I'm gonna be ugly, I'm gonna look like a boy,' all these different things. And [it was] just like 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on, okay? Hair does not make you. Hair does not define you. Hair does not determine if you're beautiful, if you're cute; that's all within [your heart], right?'"
Adams-Ginyard went on to explain how her experience filming Black Panther was an opportunity to show herself and others that "your hair does not make you:"
"I think through my time on Panther, I really got a chance to embrace that and understand 'Hey, your hair does not make you.' First of all, it grows back, okay? Let's talk about that. Hair grows back! But two, the beauty is not defined from all that extra stuff, it's in [your heart]; like, your core values, your morals, [all of] that. So I think Black Panther really showed women who were not only fierce and confident, but beautiful, with no hair. That is so powerful in itself, especially for African American women, because culturally, we're so attached to our hair, we're so attached to it. But to see these melanated women on screen, bald-headed, fierce, and strong and powerful, I mean, all of that was beauty. That was beautiful."
Once Black Panther was released to the world, Adams-Ginyard felt relieved at the reaction from children who looked up to her:
"I think the world saw that, and they responded to it; young girls and boys alike were like 'Wow, they're strong!' and 'I wanna be like her!' [And] you're just like 'Wow, these little girls want to be like you! And you were worried about shaving your head because you were gonna look like a boy?'"
Adams-Ginyard also pointed out a song she loved as an encouragement to go for the role (and the shaved head that went with it) and not miss out on "the biggest opportunity of [her] life:"
"[Hair] doesn't make you, and I said this to somebody [else]... India Arie, she had a song a long time ago [called 'I Am Not My Hair']. We [hear that song] but it's like, were you listening to the lyrics? I had to go back and be like, 'Were you listening to those lyrics? You were singing the song, but I don't think you heard her.'... Through my own probably self-sabotage, I would have missed out on the biggest opportunity of my life because I didn't wanna shave my head."
NOT THE TYPICAL MARVEL MAKEOVER
The biggest change in appearance most Marvel actors go through is getting in excellent physical shape, something society generally sees as making them look better. For Adams-Ginyard, the change in question was something that she worried would make her feel the opposite, which is different from what Marvel fans are used to hearing from the MCU cast.
The fact that she didn't let it stop her and went through with the head-shaving in order to become a Dore Milaje makes the Wakandan warriors even more inspiring. Even though it turned out many people - especially young children - looked up to her and her character once Black Panther was out, she didn't know that at the time and had to face her fear in order to have the chance to be part of the movie.
Stay tuned for The Direct's full interview with Janeshia Adams Ginyard.