In The Other Black Girl, Black hair grooming stands as a supposed symbol of unity between Black women, but it is instead used as a sinister method of control.
Nella Rogers connects with Hazel May McCall for the first time when they share a favorite hair grease. Nella is thrilled that Wagner Books, the publishing house she works for, is finally hiring another Black woman. The two bond at once over their hair grooming ideas and habits, but Nella soon notices that Hazel's opinions seem to change an awful lot, especially when she is talking to white people.
As the story progresses, Nella is horrified that Hazel betrays her over a book's portrayal of Black characters. Hazel downplays the issue and invites Nella to the Curl Center for a hair styling event. She even gives Nella some Curl Central hair grease.
That hair grease turns out to be quite sinister indeed. Another woman, Kendra Rae, has been controlled by hair grease in the past. It made her physically uncomfortable, but the mixture also led to depression and even mind control. Kendra Rae had a nervous breakdown. Nella is already on that path. Hazel is using a similar hair grease on her, trying to make her into one of the Other Black Girls, who sabotage Black women at their jobs as part of a white supremacist agenda. The hair grease stands at the very center of this. It is supposed to represent solidarity among women, but it is twisted into a tool of control and oppression.