DiAna’s Hair Ego (Dir: Ellen Spiro, 1990)

Country of Origin:
Running Time: 29 min

DiAna’s Hair Ego: AIDS Info Up Front
8 mm video, color
distributed by Women Make Movies and Video Data Bank

Models of female participation are actively investigated in Ellen Spiro’s low-budget documentary chronicling the growth and development of the South Carolina AIDS Education Network (SCAEN), a citizen-run initiative in the fight against AIDS founded by Columbia, South Carolina cosmetologist DiAna DiAna. Exclusively shot with consumer video equipment, Spiro’s documentary allows the viewer to hear the camerawoman and see the physical apparatus in the hands of Spiro herself, DiAna DiAna, and SCAEN Vice-President Dr. Bambi Sumpter, and includes footage shot by the organizers of SCAEN in their own efforts to produce an honest and compelling video on AIDS education. Exposing the construction of documentary at a grass-roots level, Spiro’s camera acts in parallel with DiAna’s grass-roots effort at community education – interviews with DiAna, Sumpter, other SCAEN personnel, and the customers of the DiAna’s Hair Ego salon describe the process by which educational pamphlets, news clippings, and neatly gift-wrapped giveaway condoms began appearing in DiAna’s salon as the threat of AIDS became real to Columbia’s Black community. Despite state health agencies’ refusal to fund the organization, SCAEN survives thanks to private donations and tips from salon customers, continuing to distribute condoms and literature, to organize “safe sex parties” in DiAna’s home office, and to develop new videos and teaching tools produced by and aimed at Black youth within the local community. Through the motility of a hand-held camera, Spiro moves easily into the intimate settings in which DiAna plays out her life’s work, and the result for the viewer is a close look at grass-roots organizing, individual tales of ignorance and prejudice, and, thanks to DiAna, slowly changing attitudes toward AIDS within the Black community of Columbia, South Carolina.

Subject Headings
AIDS (Disease) – Prevention; Public Health – Citizen Participation; AIDS (Disease) – and the Arts; AIDS (Disease) – Education – United States; Safe Sex in AIDS Prevention; AIDS (Disease) in Mass Media

Juhasz, Alexandra. AIDS TV: Identity, Community, and Alternative Video. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995.
Juhasz, Alexandra. “Make a Video for Me: Alternative AIDS Video by Women.” Gendered Epidemic: Representations of Women in the Age of AIDS. Eds. Nancy L. Roth and Katie Hogan. New York: Routledge, 1998. 205-220.
Spiro, Ellen. “DiAna DiAna: Only Your Hairdresser Knows.” Mother Jones 16.1 (1991): 43-45.

Lee Paczulla, Fall 2004