Disney Channel’s Sydney to the Max is gearing up to take viewers on a hair journey. Ahead of the show’s new episode, J-14 caught up with stars Ruth Righi (Sydney) and Cassidey Fralin (Young Alisha) for an exclusive chat about what fans can expect to see in the next installment, titled, “The Hair Switch Project.” We also have an exclusive first look at the upcoming episode!
“In this episode, we see that for as long as she can remember, Sydney has straightened her hair. It was just how she got ready in the mornings and thought it was supposed to be done. This is partially because she grew up in a white household,” Ruth, 15, explains. “When one of her friends on the fencing team, Jada, suggests that she try to wear her naturally, this really sparks something inside of Sydney that sets her off on a journey of cultural identity. Since her mom passed away a long time ago, she felt that she wasn’t able to access her Black culture. That’s when she reaches out to her Grandma Maya and together they figure it out and end up with something really beautiful.”
Cassidey, also 15, tells J-14, “My character, Alisha, struggles with the decision to relax her hair for picture day. Finally, she tells her mother that straightening her hair makes her feel like she is losing herself. This story parallels her daughter Sydney’s experience thirty years later as Sydney, encouraged by her Black classmate, begins to explore the possibility of wearing her natural hair.”
Ruth notes the “loving and educational episode” will be enjoyed by people “of any age and demographic.”
“What we are talking about in this episode is important, and I just hope that kids and adults can watch this episode and then have an open and honest discussion about their own personal cultural identity and hair journey,” she adds. “I mainly want kids to be proud of themselves and their heritage. I want them to know that whatever hair texture or aspect about themselves they feel they have to change, they don’t. I want them to know that everything about them is perfect.”
Similarly, Cassidey says that she “loved telling Alisha’s story in this episode,” calling the story line “beautiful” and explaining that she’s “so grateful to have the chance to celebrate the beauty” of the Sydney to the Max viewers.
“As an actress, I have always wanted to be a part of a project that makes people feel heard and understood,” the talented teen gushes. “As a society, we are moving toward a world where people feel comfortable embracing their culture and authentic beauty. To fully accomplish this, one must feel their stories can and will be told by mainstream media … I feel confident that we’re getting there.”
As a whole, both actresses are proud and “grateful” to be cast members on a show that showcases the importance of diversity and “cultural identity” to young viewers.
“It was a beautiful thing to see the ideas that all the amazing people who worked on this episode had, and to have such an open and honest discussion was so incredibly educational for me,” Ruth tells fans. “There has definitely been a lack of representation with Black and biracial hair in TV. That is why I think it is also so important for younger kids to see this represented on a show that is both relatable and fun-loving.”
Cassidey adds, “I really love that Sydney to the Max is highlighting the pressures that girls of color, especially Black girls, experience at such a young age to adapt our looks to White beauty standards in order to look ‘presentable.’ That’s why it’s so important that Ruth and I were given this opportunity to confront those stereotypes and unapologetically communicate the beauty of Black hair to our young viewers.”
Be sure to watch the video above, and tune into the new episode of Sydney to the Max on Disney Channel on Friday, April 30 at 8:25 p.m. ET/PT.
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