Hype Chat: ‘Overcomer’ Actress Priscilla Shirer Talks Natural Hair, Identity And Faith

Priscilla Shirer
Photo courtesy

Anyone who saw the faith-based film War Room remembers the Christian author-turned-actress, Priscilla Shirer. As the star of the project, she walked the audience through a journey to intense prayer and dependence on God. Four years later, Priscilla returns for Overcomer, a new film ripe with themes of finding one’s identity through a higher power. 

Hype Hair caught up with the actress to discuss the new film, how she found her identity and developed a strong sense of self and beauty.

HYPE HAIR: Can you tell me a little bit about the new movie you’re in? 
PRISCILLA: Absolutely! As with War Room, all of these stories have certain themes that we hope will be a blessing to people and really encourage and challenge them. So with War Room, the theme was prayer. It got a whole lot of people interested in praying again and with Overcomer, the theme is identity. Who have you given the power to define you? Where does your significance lie? Because if you are trying to seek significance and identity by something external, you know, something that can be taken from you—like a career, or even your health or a relationship—something that can be stripped from you, then it’s going to be an emotional rollercoaster for the entirety of your life.

You’ll never find the fulfillment that all of us as human beings are seeking if we’re looking for it in something that can be stripped away. There are certain things that are intrinsically valuable and significant about who we are, simply because He says it’s who we are. So this movie is designed to remind people about the significance of what we have in God, specifically in our relationship with Christ, and how that changes and transforms; it really does sort of set us free from the need to gain approval from everybody else. 

HH: You play the character, Olivia Brooks. What is her role in this film? 
PRISCILLA: Olivia Brooks is the principal at the school of the main character, Hannah. Hannah is a 15-year-old girl. As the principal, Olivia sort of takes a liking to and a specific interest in Hannah. Hannah’s life is in a little bit of a tailspin. It’s a little bit dysfunctional. She doesn’t live with her parents. You know, teenage years, for all of us, are hard years because we’re all trying to find our way. But when you are in a family environment like she is where she feels very abandoned by the people that were supposed to love her the most, then that intensifies the identity crisis. Olivia Brooks gets to just have a hands-on impact in the life of this young woman. She’s sort of a centerpiece in the midst of their personal storms that they’re going through. She’s the anchor that sort of draws everybody in and reminds them of their significance, despite the difficulties that they’re facing in their lives. 

Priscilla Shirer
Photo courtesy

HH: Awesome. Let’s switch gears a bit. You know I have to ask you a few questions about your fabulous head of hair. What’s your regimen is like? 
PRISCILLA: Absolutely. I wrote a book in conjunction with this movie, called Radiance, and it’s a book specifically for younger women on identity. And I say that because one whole chapter is on hair. For many African Americans, many women of color, you know, with our curly-headed selves, we’ve had a trajectory. We all have a hair story. I wrote that hair story just as symbolism for every woman, from any walk of life. There is a part of your body that if you don’t grow to accept it as it is, it will be a handicap for you your entire life and it will keep you from being free and actually influencing others in ways that you never knew you being your natural self could impact others. 

Twenty years ago, I made the decision to chop off my relaxer and to go natural, mostly because my hair was completely unhealthy, being relaxed. At the time, nobody was natural. So everybody thought I was crazy. I realized that my significance was misplaced if I was willing to be unhealthy and damage myself just to have straight hair. It was like this revelation for me that it was much bigger than my hair, and I needed to come to grips with it. Hair, for me, was the thing that the Lord used to shake me awake out of that sense of misplaced significance. So, I cut it off, and since then, I have been so grateful for that. 

HH: Now, are there any go-to products you swear by when it comes to your hair? 
PRISCILLA: I love Whitney Eaddy. She has an elixir—it’s like a hair oil that actually is phenomenal. It is great on my scalp. It’s incredible for just adding the moisture that is needed to your scalp and it’s actually a great detangler, as well. I find that my roots are much easier to manage with it. So, I love that and then also Karen’s Body Beautiful. I have used it for probably 10 years now. I also love her hair butters — and her hair creams and oils are phenomenal. 

HH: How would you personally define the word “beauty”? 
PRISCILLA: That is such a great question. I think that beauty is having ease and comfortability with who I am. The more settled I’ve become in the nuances of my natural being, the more beautiful I’ve felt, the less I’ve altered me—because I’m trying to impress someone else or because I’m trying to fit into a certain group. The more I’ve grown comfortable with my natural self as God created me, the more beautiful I have become to me.