Disney Channel’s Sydney to the Max celebrates Black hair in an upcoming episode slated to air on April 30th.
In the episode, titled “The Hair Switch Project”, Sydney begins to question her straight hairstyle after her classmate Jada suggests that she try wearing her hair natural sometimes. This sends Sydney on a hair journey tied to her cultural identity and memories of her late mom, Alisha. Her dad Max tries to help, but Sydney is still at a loss and calls on her grandmother Maya. Back in the ’90s, young Alisha is faced with a different hair dilemma when school picture day rolls around, and her mom has booked a salon appointment for her to get a relaxer. Alisha doesn’t know what to do because she loves her naturally coifed hair and feels like she loses a piece of herself every time she gets it straightened.
BCKOnline had the opportunity to interview Ruth Righi, who stars as outgoing middle schooler Sydney Reynolds; and Cassidey Fralin, who plays the role of young Alisha in the episode. Check out what they had to say to us below.
Tell us about your character on Sydney to the Max? How similar or different is your character to your real personality?
Ruth: Something that Sydney and I relate to is the fact that we are going through so many of the same things. We are both around the same age, finding our place in the world and learning from our mistakes, which is something that I really value getting to show. It is important for kids to be able to relate to what is represented on TV and I am so glad that I get to be that kind of source for people. We are fairly different in how we react to certain situations and handle craziness, but overall we share a lot of the same ideas.
Cassidey: “On ‘Sydney to the Max,’ I play the role of Young Alisha, who appears in the show’s flashbacks in the 1990s. Alisha is lots of fun – she loves to watch wrestling and play pranks, but she is also sweet, compassionate, and even a bit of a romantic. I honestly couldn’t imagine a character closer to me in personality than Alisha, and I’m reminded of this every time I read the script for a new episode. Alisha and I both challenge ourselves academically, and love science and math! We share a passion for the arts, and each of us loves to roller-skate (though I can assure you that you’d rather run into Alisha than me at the rink, since I can’t be counted on to remain upright at all times). In fact, I remember identifying with Alisha before I even auditioned for the role. Having dreamed since I was little to be a pediatric surgeon, I gravitated towards Alisha the minute I learned she was a doctor; the bond I felt with Alisha only strengthened as I learned more about her during the audition process, and even today I discover more commonalities between the two of us.”
What was your favorite scene in the upcoming episode, “The Hair Switch Project?”
Ruth: Every scene is so valuable and thoughtfully done by the cast and crew, so this is a difficult question for me. One scene that really stuck with me was the one where Sydney and her Grandma Maya got to have an open and honest discussion about Sydney’s cultural identity, Black hair, and what they all really mean to her. It is such an important conversation to her and made a lasting impact on me personally as well.
Cassidey: “When my character tells her mother that straightening her hair makes her feel like she is losing herself. That scene is my favorite as it opens up an opportunity to knock down the unjust beliefs regarding Black hair and let our audience know that we are all already beautiful in our own natural way. Filming that scene was an amazing, emotional, and an extremely rewarding experience but knowing it will reach and touch a lot of people makes it so much better!”
Tell us why do you feel that it is important to celebrate Black hair?
Ruth: There has definitely been a lack of representation with black and biracial hair in television, but that is why I think it is also so important for younger kids to see this represented on a show that is relatable and fun-loving. I just really hope that kids and even their whole families can watch this episode together and have an honest conversation about their own personal cultural identity. On top of this, I want kids to be proud of themselves and comfortable with their heritage. Everything about them is already perfect!
Cassidey: “It is essential to celebrate Black hair because unfortunately, many children (and adults) with tight curl patterns are discouraged from embracing the beauty of their hair’s natural state. Many of us are told to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards, destroying our hair in the process, in order to look ‘presentable’ and fit in. And while I love experimenting with my hair, it is my firm belief that we should never need to change our hair, our bodies, or our idea of beauty for the sake of adhering to a racist standard. Black women have been told for hundreds of years that our hair is ugly, that it’s not respectable, and that we’re not beautiful unless we change ourselves, and every Black woman has had their own hair experience and their own journey to self-expression and self-love. It’s an honor for me to be a part of a show that honors how hair has always been an integral part of Black culture and communicates to Black children that their hair is beautifully unique and amazing just as it grows out of their heads.”
What are some of your favorite hair care products?
Ruth: My favorite thing to do with my hair is to let it breathe and be whatever it wants to be after it is washed (which changes all the time). That may be curly, wavy, straight, honestly my hair has a full mind of its own. Whether it be a good conditioner or oil, I like any products that moisturize.
Cassidey: “Right now I use the As I Am Long & Luxe grow wash (shampoo), Groyogurt (leave-in conditioner), and Shea Moisture Manuka Honey hair masque as a deep conditioner. In order to style my hair I always have a Denman brush and a spray bottle handy, filled halfway with water and halfway with conditioner.”
Make sure to tune-in to Disney Channel on Friday, April 30th 8:25 pm ET/PT.