Follow Us!

Back to Natural

Back to Natural is a  69-minute documentary film that reveals the shocking truth about hair, politics, and racial identity in Black communities and beyond. Directed by New York City based Clinical Psychologist Gillian Scott-Ward, the film was inspired by the work she was doing in her clinical practice and her own drive to go natural. Executive produced by Marquis Smalls and produced by Dominic Ward, Back to Natural is a powerful call for healing that takes a grassroots approach to exploring the globalized policing of natural Black hair. Filmed in New York City, Philadelphia, Paris, And Cape Town, this documentary explores universal aspects of the Black experience and the "New" Natural Hair movement. Join us on this journey of discovery and enlightenment while celebrating our history and natural styles that are taking the world by storm.


we proudly present

The Women of African Descent Film Festival

Saturday June 2nd 11:15am

Billie Holiday Theatre 1368 Fulton St, Brooklyn, NY 11216

The People's Film Festival

June 2nd, 2018 2pm

Maysles Cinema 343 Malcolm X Blvd, New York, NY 10027

Festival International du Film Pan-Africain de Cannes

April 22nd, 2018 at 4:30pm

THEATRE ALEXANDRE III 19 Boulevard Alexandre III Cannes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur 06400 Francea

Langston Hughes African American Film Festival

Sunday, April 22, at 3:00 PM

The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Avenue S. Seattle, WA 98144

Black Market and Film Festival

Saturday, 5th May, 2018 at 13:30

West Green Learning Centre@ Parkview Academy, West Green Road, London N15 3QR, United Kingdom

New York Independent Film Festival

May 9, 2018 9:00pm

Producers Club - Theater S, 358 West 44 Street New York, NY 10036

The People's Film Festival

May 31 – June 3, 2018

AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9, 2309 Frederick Douglass Boulevard New York, New York 10027

RapidLion Film Festival

Monday, 5th March 2018, 16h30

Market Theatre, 56 Margaret Mcingana St, Newtown, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa

Pan African Film and Art's Festival

February 15, 17 & 18th, 2018

Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw 15, 3650 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd, Los Angeles Ca. 90008

Teaneck International Film Festival

Saturday, November 4th at 5:15pm

Puffin Cultural Forum 20 Puffin Way Teaneck, NJ 07666


Gillian Scott-Ward, PhD

Director/Producer/Story Editor/DP/Lighting

Born in Brooklyn, New York to immigrant parents from the West Indies, Gillian Scott-Ward, is a first-time filmmaker and clinical psychologist in New York City. After completing her undergraduate degree at Cornell University in Psychology and Women's Studies, Gillian pursued her PhD in Clinical Psychology writing her dissertation on the impact of media stereotypes on Black students.

She was inspired to embark on this film after deciding to start her own natural hair journey. She brings to the film experience as an artist and healer. Her ability to help others tap into, explore and share difficult emotions gives the narrative of this film depth. She hopes this film inspires reflection, compassion, and healing of racial-trauma, globally.

Marquis Smalls

Executive Producer

Marquis Smalls is a dedicated, driven and dynamic Screenwriter-Director- Producer pursuing his passion of creating innovative, entertaining stories for the web, stage, film, and television while offering a fresh perspective on African-American culture, stories and characters. His latest film, Hating Obama, a documentary is now on Starz and Amazon Prime.
As a 2013 New York Foundation of the Arts Screenwriting Fellowship recipient, multi-award winning Director and Producer at many top film festivals throughout the world and an overall hard working, committed, creative visionary, Marquis continues his journey in the content creation world with a big heart and loving soul

Dominic Ward


Dominic (B.A., Brown) has spent over 15 years in finance. A film lover, Dom's most recent work in the industry was as a PA on the 2011 indie "Happythankyoumoreplease." This premiered at the 26th Sundance Film Festival where it won the Audience Award and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize. Dom invested in “Peter and Vandy”, which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Dom also invested in “Were the World Mine”, which premiered in 2008 and won over a dozen awards at film festivals worldwide. His knowledge of finance, development and fundraising are an asset to this film.

Jacopo Francia

Graphics/Sound/Color Editor

Jacopo Francia is a native Italian and son of Linda Brunetta, the premiere Italian TV producer. He studied screenwriting and production at the Italian National Film School “Centro Sperimentale" and film making and editing at the "New York Film Academy". He recently worked on two feature films for the renowned Italian editor Cecilia Zanuso.

Key Cast

Jenell B. Stewart

Jenell B. Stewart ​is founder and editor in chief of Kinky Curly Coily Me! Her award winning website and youtube channel focuses on educating and uplifting women with kinky, curly, coily natural hair. Recently featured as a Beauty Expert on the Dr.Oz television show, Jenell is a frequent contributor to Essence, Black, and several other websites.  @JenellBStewart

Salamisha Tillet, PhD

Salamishah Tillet, Ph.D. is a scholar of African American culture whose work is at the intersection of arts and activism. A cultural critic who is a regular contributor to the New York Times Arts & Leisure section, she is currently the Robert S. Blank Presidential Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies and a faculty member of the Alice Paul Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a much sought-after commenter on the politics of artistic expression and a leading thinker on the relationship between art and social justice. In 2003, she co-founded A Long Walk Home, a Chicago-based national non-profit that uses art to educate, inspire, and mobilize young people to end violence against girls and women.

Tillet has appeared on the BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and TedxWomen, and has written for The Atlantic, Chicago Tribune, The Guardian, The Nation, The New York Times, The Root, and Time. In 2010 she wrote the liner notes for John Legend and The Roots’ three-time Grammy award-winning album, Wake Up!. In 2013 she published Gloria Steinem: The Kindle Singles Interview for Amazon.  She is the author of Sites of Slavery: Citizenship and Racial Democracy in the Post-Civil Rights Imagination and co-editor of the Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters Special Issue on Ethiopia. She is currently completing a book called In Search of the Color Purple, a memoir about Alice Walker’s novel, along with a book on civil rights icon Nina Simone.

Carl Hart, PhD

Dr. Carl Hart, Ph.D is a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University. Hart is known for his research in drug abuse and drug addiction and is the author of High Price: A Neuroscientist's Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society. Hart was the first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University. @drcarlhart

Okeema T. Moore

Okema T. Moore is an actor, singer, writer, director and producer.  She has taken her experiences as a youngster in entertainment, starting on Sesame Street and been fortunate enough to continue cultivating quite a life of experiences as an adult.  As of Summer 2017 she has functioned as the production coordinator for Season 6 of Oprah's Master Class and has five different projects in which she is either an actor, producer or director in a total of 19 festivals across three continents. She has directed a staged reading at the historic Smithsonian Anacostia Museum in DC and has written and sold her first TV pilot.  She is also working on her first children's book for little boys entitled "Mommy's My Date." Okema continues to build her personal brand, MOOREthanEnuff Media and Consulting, creating new works for herself and others. She revels in speaking on various panels about being a female creative of color and encouraging dream chasing and emotional restoration for all creatives and functions as a mentor for the Black College Tour in NYC and a teaching artist across the Tri-State.

Natasha Gaspard

Natasha Gaspard is the founder and CEO of Mane Moves Media, Inc. She is an award winning television producer and content creator for all things natural hair and black beauty! Specializes in connecting lifestyle and beauty brands with women of color through creating highly engaging and entertaining video content, special events and digital marketing campaigns.


Roxanne Kalie

Roxanne Kalie is a South African model/actress. She was scouted at the age of 13 by the director of Topco Models and has been in the industry ever since. She has been signed to Fusion Models and Pursch Artistes ever since. Over the years she has appeared in countless print publications including, but not limited to; Glamour, Oprah Magazine, True Love, Essays of Africa, Fairlady, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Wicked Magazine etc and walked the runway in many graduate fashion shows as

well as Cape Town Fashion Week. Her television commercial work includes tv commercials for Coca Cola & Nivea skincare (both locally and internationally), Always Ultra, Afri True haircare, and many more.

She has had featured roles in 5 films, four of which are international: ‘Friend Request’ (which premiered in UK & USA in 2016), ‘Trailer Made’ and most recently ‘Love Jacked’ a Canadian

romantic comedy premiering in 2017/18.

In December 2015 Roxanne became the winner of ‘She’s The One’ Season 2 sponsored by Southern Africa’s largest retailer Edgars, a reality TV show competition which aired on Etv twice a week.

Lori Tharps

Lori L. Tharps is an associate professor of journalism at Temple University.  A graduate of Smith College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Tharps is the author of two award-winning nonfiction books, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America (St. Martin's) and Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain (Atria). Both the Washington Post and included Kinky Gazpacho on their “Best of Lists” in 2008. Tharps is also the author of the novel, Substitute Me and she has written for publications including, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour,  Essence, Ebony and The Columbia Journalism Review.  In October 2016, Beacon Press published Tharps fourth book, Same Family, Different Colors: Confronting Colorism in America’s Diverse Families. Tharps lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children and she continues to write about identity politics, Black hair and pop culture. You can follow Lori on Instagram and Twitter @LoriTharps

Noliwe Rooks, PhD

Professor Rooks is the director of American Studies at Cornell University, and former associate director of African American studies at Princeton University. Her work explores the racial implications of beauty, fashion and adornment; racial inequality in education; race, food and the politics of the city, and Black women's studies. She is the  author of  many books including Hair Raising: Beauty, Culture, and African American Women and is a frequent contributor to popular publications such as The Chronicle of Higher Education, Time Magazine and The Hill. Rooks’ next book, tentatively titled, Cutting School: Apartheid Education and the Big Business of Unmaking Public Education is forthcoming from The New Press. Her most recent work,  Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation, and the End of Public Education  (The New Press, 2017), argues that privatization of education exacerbates the problems of racial and economic disparity that it is purported to be correcting.


Lurie Daniel Favors, Esq.

Luri Daniel Favors is an attorney at Breaking the Cycle Consulting Services and Author of Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl.


Mireille Liong-A-Kong

is the CEO of She is also the author of Amazon bestselling book, Going Natural: How to Fall in Love with Nappy Hair. She is also the creator of America's Next Natural Model & Bad Hair Uprooted. @blackfollicles

Aline Tacite

Aline Tacite is a hairdresser specialized in afro and mixed natural hair, co-founder of the organization Boucles d'Ebene and manager of the hairdressing salon Boucles d'Ebene Studio in France. For 15 years, Aline Tacite has devoted herself to the promotion of natural hair in France through Boucles d'Ebene, which has become a laboratory of ideas for the valorization of black and mixed women. Today, Boucles d'Ebene is: An organization which raises awareness to the general public about the health dangers of certain aesthetic practices such as straightening and voluntary depigmentation. Meet ups / cultural exhibition : 1 big Parisian event every 2 years and itinerant meet ups/workshops in Province and abroad (Ivory Coast, Benin ...) around the natural hair. A hair salon in the close suburbs of Paris dedicated to natural hair and locks : Boucles d'Ebene Studio.

Brian Favors

Brian Favors ​is an educator & co-founder of Breaking the Cycle Consulting. He provides tools to educators and parents that help break the cycle of academic underachievement amongst urban students. He also works directly with youth to encourage the develop of leadership and self esteem. He is also the Director of Sankofa Community Empowerment, Inc.

Nathaniel “Toby” Thompkins

Toby Thompkins published the Essence bestseller, The Real Lives of Strong Black Women: Transcending Myths, Reclaiming Joy as well as many articles and essays about personal growth and social justice. He is also the founder of SAFIOO, LLC, the world’s first mobile integrity App for socially conscious people who want to make better decisions at work and in life. He is a speaker, author, leadership coach, futurist and activist. Toby published the Essence bestseller, The Real Lives of Strong Black Women: Transcending Myths, Reclaiming Joy as well as many articles and essays about personal growth and social justice.

Diane Da Costa

Diane Da Costa is the "Go-to-Girl" for the beauty industry, a celebrity stylist and curly textured hair guru to thousands of African queens, Latinas and women of all colors. She is the founder and creative director of SimpleeBEAUTIFUL Curly TexturedBAR in Westchester, NY. Ms. Da Costa brings innovative curly styles to the forefront of today's multi-textured hair movement, which have graced the beauty & fashion pages of British Elle, French Vogue, Essence, O Magazine, Uptown & Vibe, Essence Total Makeover, Harriette Cole's "Jumping the Broom" and "Fashion Noir" by Contance White, just to name a few.

A Beauty & Lifestyle Expert, Ms. Da Costa is the author of Textured Tresses, The Ultimate Guide to Maintaining and Styling Natural Hair, published by Simon and Schuster, June 2004; a former beauty writer & lifestyle expert for & UPTOWN Magazine Online. She firmly believes it is her calling to educate both consumers and professionals with this informative and inspirational textured hair styling guide. Diane's philosophy is simply - Textured Hair is Gorgeous Hair! Creating versatile styles for curly & sleek/smooth tresses to couture bridal looks is a delight! Ms Da Costa holds a B.B.A in Marketing from Pace University and resides in New Rochelle, NY.

​ @DDacostaBeauty

Roz Lee

​Roz lee is the Director of Social Justice Initiatives at Arcus Foundation where she focuses on the intersection of racial justice, gender justice and LGBT equality. @akarozlee

Beverly Tillery

Beverly Tillery is the Executive Director at New York City Anti-Violence Project where she is committed to ending all forms of violence against LGBTQ people. @BeverlyTillery

Shaniyya Pinkney (Niyya Teneé)

is the CEO & Founder Locs Revolution. She is a Loc stylist, blogger/vlogger, natural hair enthusiast, event coordinator, and revolutionary.  @Locs_Revolution


Mayowa Obasaju, PhD

Dr. Obasaju  is a Psychologist specializing in Trauma and Healing focused therapy. She is also an Ordained Interfaith Minister and adjunct professor.

Avis Hinkson, EdD

Avis Hinkson is a Dean of a Small Liberal Arts College and an ordained minister.

Lisa Whitten, PhD

Dr. Whitten is a Clinical Psychologist, Associate Professor, and Past President of the New York Association of Black Psychologists. She is the co-author of, "Hair texture, length, and style as a metaphor in the African American mother–daughter relationship:Considerations in psycho-dynamic psychotherapy."

Hameen Barnes

is a Natural Hair Stylist. Celebrity clients have included Jaheim, Silk and Ziggy Marley

Khumura Khumnetertauset

Khumura Khumnetertauset is Wellness Specialist & Loc Stylist

Amanda Cooke

Amanda Cooke, also known as Cape Town Curly, is a natural hair and lifestyle blogger from Cape Town,South Africa. She started blogging when she noticed a lack of local content after her big chop in 2013. Amanda has been featured in top South African publications, the Cape Argus and Kuier magazine. On her website pages you will also find tidbits on self-love, beauty and events.

Amanda is a co-founder of Cape Town Naturally,leaders in the Mother City’s natural hair movement. The group held the very first, and highly successful, Cape Town Natural Hair Fest in 2016. The festival was attended by 800 naturals and was featured by global online platform, Black Girl Long Hair, as well as in a few local South African newspapers.

In 2015 she started her apparel brand also called Cape Town Curly. The brand encapsulates her

passion for the natural hair movement, with an added South African flavor.

You can find Amanda on:
Or visit her blog !

Catherine WIlliams

With her beautiful curly locks, Catherine Williams embodies the idea of a woman who is embracing her natural hair with spectacular results. But she wasn’t always happy with her natural look. As a young girl in South Africa, she yearned for straight hair. “I wanted long wavy ­hair of the kind that you can shake out of your face, so my mom started relaxing my hair when I was six,” she explains. Like so many women with ethnic hair, it became a beauty routine she kept until adulthood. After completing a degree in marketing, Catherine became an air hostess and travelled the world. In New York, she first encountered natural hair products for curly hair. “I saw a picture of a woman with the most stunning curls I’d ever seen. I just had to go into the store and bought the hair products to try it out. It was amazing! It was the first time that I could honestly say that I liked my curls.” Catherine also became aware of the natural hair movement and how liberating it can be for women to embrace their natural beauty. She stopped relaxing her hair and never regretted it. Back in South Africa, Catherine realized there is a massive gap in the market for women with ethnic hair who want to use natural hair products without harmful chemicals. That inspired her to develop a uniquely South African range of hair care products, My Natural. When the controversy about natural hair made headlines, Catherine realized her timing was perfect. “Suddenly there is a whole movement of women who want to go natural. My Natural offers the perfect solution because African women deserve the best!"


is 28-year-old mom of one & proud feminist. She work behind the scenes as a producer at a local radio station in Cape Town and is a natural hair enthusiast. She believes in the catharsis of a long, beach walk and the healing power of speech.

Show More

Schedule Screenings & Workshops

Schedule a screening of Back to Natural. Organizations can choose between four options to fit their community's needs and budget. Dr. Scott-Ward is a New York State Licensed Clinical Psychologist and has over a decade of experience working as a healer and group leader in therapeutic settings.


  • Essential Level: Back to Natural screening alone. Get access to the film for 24-hours to stream to your entire community.


  • Silver Level: Back to Natural screening with a 30-minute, in-person Q&A with the director.


  • Gold Level: Back to Natural screening with an hour-long process group and exploration with the director. This is an audience led discussion that is both a reaction to the film and sharing of individual experiences and perspectives. 


  • Platinum Level: Back to Natural screening with a customized Healing Workshop. Our interactive and engaging Healing Workshop aims to address and explore the impact of hair bias, race-based stress, racial oppression and trauma on identity, wellness, and self-esteem. Each workshop is customized for your group. We have several modules that organizations can hand pick from. Some examples of workshop activities include: - In the "Mainstream:" Exploring our reactions to images of hair in the mainstream media. 
    Our Families, Our Selves: Sharing experiences growing up within our families and communities to understand how that has impacted our beliefs about ourselves, our hair, beauty and acceptability.
    - What I Say to Myself: Self-Talk is the internal dialogue that can affect your confidence and self-esteem. In fact, current research demonstrates our thoughts can change our brain, cells and genes.If we take in negative message from our environment and community about our hair and ourselves, our self-talk may become destructive and undermine our well-being, health and success. Acknowledging the things we say most often to ourselves about our hair, beauty, and worth help us build an important foundation for our wellness. In this activity attendees will learn to create positive self-talk statements. 
    Affirming Language: "The word's nappy & beauty don't really go together" (a quote from Back to Natural).  Attendee's will learn and explore the importance of using affirmative language to talk about hair with ourselves, our children, and within the community.
    The Mind Body Connection: Attendee's will learn the impact of our beauty products on the body and explore why Black people are exposed to more toxic chemicals because of our hair care/beauty products use. A major contributor to health disparities in Black communities is related to the impact of race-related stress on the body. Attendee's  will come to understand the impact of race-related stress on functioning and the body and learn concrete interventions for healing like cognitive-behavioral techniques, breath work, and EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), also known as tapping. All audience members will leave with a personalized healing plan and concrete healing tools. 


The research is clear,  repeated experiences of hair bias, racism and discrimination can lead to serious psychological symptoms like anxiety, hyper vigilance to threat, anger and hopelessness about the future. The impacts are innumerable and include health challenges, lowered academic performance, identity, and self-esteem issues, just to name a few. Healing is a multi-step process. With Back to Natural and our Healing Workshop, you and your organization are taking steps to acknowledge and address discrimination and it's impacts as well as give your community members tools for wellbeing.



* Back to Natural is a one-of-a-kind reflection of the history of the relationship Black people have with their hair, globally. It uniquely instills pride, encourages reflection, and is a call to action for self and community healing.

* Youth research shows developing positive racial/ethnic identity is directly linked to higher academic achievement, resiliency and self-esteem as well as improved behavior and social skills. Using artistic tools, like documentary film, has been found to be uniquely impactful on positive racial identity development.

* Researchers found "racial pride" is the single most important factor in protecting black students in the face discrimination.

* Back to Natural encourages dialogue between generations, promoting connection, engagement and healing.

* The optional healing based workshop encourages a sense of belonging, positive self-reflection and resiliency in the face of racial oppression as well as encourages empathy and compassion for others.



 "This film did a spectacular job of depicting the history and progression of the natural hair movement. It moved me into a place of understanding myself, my history, and my healing journey. I loved how the film incorporated the many complexities and intersections of Blackness. I would definitely recommend the healing workshop! I felt a shift in my spirit, and I am very grateful to Dr. Scott-Ward for her presence and guidance. I especially loved the tapping exercise! The Black community needs this. We need a dynamic combination of education and healing, and the film Back To Natural does just that!" Tamarah T. 21, Black Student Union President, St. Mary's College.

"I was most impressed with the meditation exercise during the healing workshop. After all, words were finished, Dr. Gillian walked my students through a meditation exercise that was unlike any other. Students (millennials) have a different attention span than previous generations, and the meditation exercise that Dr. Gillian demonstrated was for them! It combined complete silence and introspection with active, personal movement that centered my students into themselves. After the exercise, there was an obvious shift in the room. It became more peaceful, more serene, more loving. Something that we all, no matter what age or generation, can benefit from." Calvin Monroe, Staff, St. Mary's College.

"The workshop is necessary for all schools committed to Black healing." Tom M., 28, Student at St. Mary's College




Reach out to discuss your community's needs and pricing.

Learn More

Back To Natural: A Documentry © Film