Something strange happened on television in 1974.
When Bern Nadette Stanis stood in front of America stirring oatmeal in a pot, not many people realized that something exciting was going on. Young women of color, in particular Black women, saw someone on TV they could identify with. Someone that looked like them.
A beautiful Black woman.
I had an experience with her approximately 11 years ago. I met her on a Chicago movie set, arranged by a friend of mine. However, my eight-year-old daughter was such a huge fan that she wept during her encounter. Stanis seemed touched by her reaction. My daughter slept with Bern Nadette’s picture under her pillow for
months after that.
My daughter was ecstatic hearing her voice during our recent conversation, but the most amazing thing was that she remembered my daughter, even how old she was.
Bern Nadette Stanis visits The Hair Salon.
BERN NADETTE STANIS
Supermodel Sonya: What have you been up to?
Bern Nadette Stanis: I’m an author and an advocate. There are many things I want to explore. Life coaching is something that I eventually have to do. It may be the last thing I will do. I don’t know why, but that’s what I want to do.
I’m an advocate for Alzheimers. I go around to different communities and educate our people about the disease. Black people get the disease at much higher rates than other groups.
I do believe that it has to do with diet and the way we think and also our lifestyle. We are leading in that disease. When my mother got the disease, I thought it was a white person’s disease until I started doing research. Black women get it even more. And I do believe that it has a lot to do with stress and disappointment in life.
Stress is generational and people don’t want to address that. Issues that face Black women … we have to fight to get our issues noticed. Therefore a lot of things are ignored while we struggle.
Supermodel Sonya: Lupus is also a disease that affects women of color. So you believe that Alzheimers along with Lung Cancer are diseases that hit our community more?
Bern Nadette Stanis: Stress changes the chemical makeup of your body. When you’re stressed, the body can’t fight. So the body gives in. When stress, shock, depression hits the mind, all kinds of things can develop. The brain, like any other organ, can only take so
much. When there is so much stress and disappointment, nothing functions the way that it should.
These are the things that I recognize, even as I get older, I start to see the pressures that my mother went through as a black woman.
When you’re younger, you don’t see it. You’re young. When you get older, things don’t bounce back as quickly. I’ve noticed these changes within myself. I’m taking precautions so that I don’t fall into that. It’s something that we must pay attention to. We all have
stresses that are different from each other. With men, Black women … we all go through different stresses. You have to be a rebel with yourself!
Supermodel Sonya: You state on your website that you began to notice some things were ‘off’ about your mother in regards to her health. Can you go into detail about that?
Bern Nadette Stanis: She was covering it well. If you’re not around a person, you don’t see a lot of things. And then you just push it off as forgetfulness and think it’s okay. But it was like she sounded great on the phone, sounding normal. She had her conversation
down. But when I saw my mother, I knew something was wrong.
Bern Nadette Stanis: It was the way she put her clothes together. It was the way her hair was. She just couldn’t pull it together. She looked a little forlorn. Lost. It was hurtful to see that. So, that’s when I took over and took care of her. She looks beautiful now. I had her dressed like a princess everyday. That was one of the things that I had to do for her.
Supermodel Sonya: Are there warning signs to pay attention to?
Bern Nadette Stanis: Well, remember this. Forgetfulness is normal, but when you can’t backtrack what you’ve done … say if you lost your keys and you cant find your way backwards, that’s the sign that something different is happening. Because when you lose something, you think of what you did that day. But when you can’t do that, then that is a sign that it’s just not forgetfulness.
Supermodel Sonya: Thank you for that. This is an issue that definitely needs to be in the forefront. Let’s switch gears a bit. You were one of the first Black role model for young women in every way, especially style, fashion, and you guessed it … hair! You wore your hair in its natural state to a press and curl. Young women would imitate you! You made it okay to love our natural hair! When it came to the different styles that you wore on the show, who made the decision as to what style you would wear?
Bern Nadette Stanis: It was all me. That’s who I was. I was this girl from Brooklyn that wore style with the Afros. This is my thing. The reason why my hair was like that because my mom would never let me perm it. She said I couldn’t perm it until I was grown. I
had to be twenty-one. She always thought that it would ruin my hair. So when I got on the show, this was the way that I would wear my hair.
— Jay ♡ (@AggieJay_412) December 22, 2016
Supermodel Sonya: How are you wearing your hair now?
Bern Nadette Stanis: I wear wigs and weaves but underneath it all, I’m natural. Natural hair is so beautiful.
Supermodel Sonya: Thanks for your time Bern Nadette!
Bern Nadette Stanis: It was really good speaking with you. I enjoyed it!