CROWN, a new short film inspired by the C.R.O.W.N Act—which stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair”—tells the story of an aspiring young ballet dancer trying to tame her hair into submission as she embarks on the most important audition of her life. And it’s based on true-life events from Karisma Jay, who co-wrote the film with Love Nafi.

CROWN is from my own story. When I was little, my mom and I were told quite often that my thick natural hair had to be straightened into a bun, and naturally (pun intended) my hair would frizz up or full-on 'fro as I was dancing,” Jay tells EBONY. “CROWN is an opportunity to redefine Black beauty and representation in the film industry and showcases the creativity of Black hair.”

This coming-of-age story featuring an all-Black cast includes newcomer Kennedy Salley, an AbunDance Academy of the Arts student and freshman dance major at LaGuardia High School in New York City. She plays Star, the young ballerina seeking her big break. 

“Kennedy is actually one of my students who I trained for years and coached for her big audition to help her get accepted into LaGuardia, which is known as the Fame school and also happens to be her mom and my alma mater,” Jay shares.

Star’s mom is played by Nirine S. Brown, who has appeared in Donald Glover's SWARM and on Abbott Elementary. “I danced with her since ninth grade, talk about full circle,” declares Jay.

With its upcoming DMV film premiere this weekend in Maryland, CROWN aims to celebrate and amplify curls, kinks, frizz and afros everywhere while encouraging everyone to honor their crowns. 

“This message is super important because even in this day and age, we still have hair discrimination as a prevalent issue,” explains Jay. “Whether in the workplace, in schools, in the arts, in sports or even in the military, there are still ways in which people do not feel accepted, welcome or comfortable as their whole selves.”

Following the screening, a panel discussion and talkback will be moderated by artist, creative producer and advocate Dr. Nadia Marie Sasso and feature a live vocal performance by Indie Afro-fusion artist Agyakomah and set by DJ HartBreaKid. CROWN is supported by The C.R.O.W.N. Act and Brown Girls Do Ballet, who help spread the word about the film.

CROWN DMV film premiere is on July 30, 2023, at the Old Greenbelt Theatre in Greenbelt, Maryland.