Nancy Redd lives an exciting life. She’s a Harvard grad, former Miss Virginia, author of Body Drama, Diet Drama, and Pregnancy, OMG!, award-winning journalist, and even a $250,000 winner on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Additionally, she’s a wife and mother of two. Originally from Martinsville, VA, her southern charm is comparable to an ice-cold glass of sweet tea while sitting on the front porch.
“I love my small hometown. I am desperately always trying to get back to my small hometown. Therefore, if I’m not going to be in my small hometown, then I’m going to be doing some fun stuff to make it worthwhile, not being at home with my mom at the kitchen table in my bonnet.” That’s a fair representation of a family tradition and the one presented in her first children’s book, Bedtime Bonnet.
For some, wearing a bonnet is a right of passage. For Nancy’s daughter and namesake, this ritual took place at three years old. Little did she know, she was joining a club filled with Black Girl Magic, the kind of magic that extends a twist out, keeps moisture locked in your roots, and could prevent tangles and lent in your hair.
The more of us that make it to mainstream media, the more responsibility we have to share Black men in their normal lives.
Nancy didn’t want to make her child wear a bonnet; she wanted it to be an integral part of her well-being, and not just because mama said it. The first page reads, “In my family, when the sun goes down, our hair goes up!” The bonnet covers and protects our hair as we sleep. She felt the significant, time-consuming, relatively expensive, tradition of nighttime hair care was mostly unexplored in children’s books. This book was Nancy’s chance to change that.
Bedtime Bonnet is beautifully illustrated by Nneka Myers, showing the Black family’s full hair care experience, from the grandparents to their grandchildren. This book is about lineage just as much as it was about self-care routines. It’s always affirming to see Black women fully embracing their coils and kinks, but it was especially powerful to see the Black man’s hair care routine, like the father brushing his waves before bed. Her son August is currently growing his hair out for locks; there was representation for him too.
“Traditionally speaking, children’s publishing is very female-centric. It’s often a mommy and her kids, more recently, a mommy and her daughter. I have a little brown boy, and I want the representation. I’m lucky to be in a position to create the content I wish to see. I want to see Black men being awesome. Positive images of Black men have been far removed from mainstream media. The more of us that make it to mainstream media, the more responsibility we have to share Black men in their normal lives.”
Children’s books are great ways to eradicate inappropriate misconceptions. Studies have shown that early childhood education is the key to changing everything, whether it’s a sense of community or increased self-awareness. She added, “I actively want to see more Black men as illustrators, as authors, and presenting their side of the stories, so our young men can see themselves.”
Nancy is empowering readers to be their authentic selves. For so long, Black people have dealt with respectability politics. They have had to fight against discriminatory practices, like being criminalized for still having their hair bonnets on while taking their children to school. She says, “What one doesn’t know or understand is easy to vilify. One of the reasons the bonnet gets a lot of flack is because they don’t know what it’s for.”
“Everyone knows, if you brush your teeth, you don’t get cavities. It’s the same thing with a bonnet; there are no negatives.”
According to Nancy, the bonnet doesn’t come off in the bedroom. Nancy and her husband, Rupak Ginn, met in college and haven’t left each other’s side since. “One day, I just put it [my bonnet] on, and he asked why I wore it. I let him know if I don’t wear it, then my hair could break off, and he was fine with it.”
“So, I wake up the next morning, and my bonnet’s missing, which is not abnormal since it comes off, but it’s nowhere to be found. I go into the living room, and he [my husband] has my bonnet on. He was like, this is great, it keeps my head warm. Could you get me one? And I told him ‘I could get you a durag.'”
Nancy’s husband is Indian American, born in San Francisco and raised in Harlem, and is now well-versed on Black hair care. “Being in my relationship has affirmed my Blackness in ways I could not have imagined. In my previous relationships, I often upheld the standard of the type of woman I felt I needed to be, the type of Blackness that I should be representing. Nothing is a monolith; Blackness isn’t a monolith; Indian isn’t a monolith. There would be no bonnet book if I didn’t have the confidence or support from him.”
Being in my relationship has affirmed my Blackness in ways I could not have imagined.
She shared how being with his family and seeing all the culture they’ve been able to uphold for thousands of years made her more aware of how much was stolen from the Black community. “I have to reaffirm my Blackness in my children. I need to provide tradition, education, and power to black things like the bonnet, so they are equally empowered.”
So what’s next in the inspiring life of Nancy Redd? Another children’s book, of course! This time, the book is inspired by her son; the cover reveal will take place soon. Nancy wants aspiring writers to write and not take no for an answer. She encourages them to find a tribe, ask for help, and give support. “The more you write, the better you get. The better you get, the more clips you have. The more clips you have, the more strength and power you can obtain. The more power you can obtain, the more change you can make in your writing.”
Please click here to grab your copy of Bedtime Bonnet!