In 1962, Tracy Turnblad is a 16 year old heavyset high school student living in Baltimore. Along with her best friend Penny Pingleton, Tracy frequently watches The Corny Collins Show, a local teen dance television show.
The teenagers who dance on the show attend Tracy and Penny’s high school, among them Amber von Tussle and her boyfriend Link Larkin, the lead dancers. Amber’s mother, Velma, manages the station WYZT, ensuring that Amber is prominently featured. Corny Collins and the dancers on the show are white, and Velma only allows African-American dancers on the show once a month on “Negro Day”, hosted by R&B disc jockey Motormouth Maybelle.
One day, one of the dancers on the show takes a leave of absence, and auditions for a replacement are held the next day. Tracy attends, but Velma rejects for her overweight physique and for supporting integration. Tracy is given detention for missing class in order to attend the audition, and discovers the “Negro Day” kids practicing in the detention room. Tracy befriends Seaweed, Motormouth Maybelle’s son, who teaches Tracy several dance moves. As Tracy leaves detention, she inadvertently meets Link, and dreams of a life with him. At a record hop, Tracy’s new moves garner Corny’s attention, and he chooses her to join the show.
Tracy quickly becomes one of Corny’s most popular performers, affecting Amber’s chances of winning the show’s annual “Miss Teenage Hairspray” pageant and her relationship with Link, as he grows fonder of Tracy. Mr. Pinky suggests that Tracy should be the spokesgirl for his Hefty Hideaway boutique. Tracy persuades her agoraphobic mother, Edna, to accompany her to the boutique as her agent.
Tracy introduces Seaweed to Penny, and the two become smitten. Later, Seaweed and his younger sister Little Inez take Tracy, Penny, and Link to a party at Maybelle’s store. Edna finds Tracy there and tries taking her home, but Maybelle convinces her to stay, and tells her to take pride in herself. At the party, Maybelle informs everyone that Velma has cancelled “Negro Day”, and Tracy suggests that they march for integration. Link is unwilling to jeopardize his career by marching, straining his relationship with Tracy. Edna returns to her husband Wilbur’s shop, but Velma gets there first, and tries to seduce him. After accusing Wilbur of infidelity, Edna forbids Tracy to be on the show. She changes her mind after she and Wilbur reconcile.
The next morning, Tracy sneaks out of the house to join the protest, which is halted by a police roadblock. The protesters engage in a brawl, while Tracy runs to the Pingletons’ home, where Penny allows her to hide in a fallout shelter. However, Penny’s mother Prudy reports Tracy to the police and ties her daughter to her bed for “harboring a fugitive”. Having been bailed out by Wilbur, Seaweed and his friends help Tracy and Penny escape. Link visits Tracy’s house to find her, and realizes that he loves her. Seaweed and Penny also acknowledge their love during the escape.
With the pageant underway, Velma assigns police officers to guard the WYZT studio to prevent Tracy from entering. She also rigs the pageant tallies to guarantee that Amber will win. Penny arrives at the pageant with Edna, while Wilbur, Seaweed, and the Negro Day kids help Tracy infiltrate the studio. Link breaks away from Amber to dance with Tracy; later, he pulls Little Inez to the stage to dance in the pageant.
Amber’s attempt to re-claim her championship crown fails. Little Inez wins the pageant after a late surge of support, successfully integrating The Corny Collins Show. Velma tells Amber about her rigging scheme in front of a camera manned by Edna, resulting in her firing. The Corny Collins Show set turns into a celebration as Tracy and Link kiss.
A great version of Hairspray that doesn’t change the original storyline but brings modern faces and a fresh spark in the discussions of racism.