Skip to main content

Naomi Davis, pt 2 // Natural Hair Style Icon

Avatar • May 20, 2009

Naomi Davis: former attorney, founder of the Blacks in Green (B.I.G.) environmental group, a Chicago-based organization dedicated to bring environmental awareness and green jobs into impoverished, urban black communities.
Part 1 of Naomi Davis’ interview is here.

BGLH: When did you go natural and why?
Naomi
: 1999 for the second time. The first time I wore a fro for 10 years that included college.

BGLH: When you made the decision to go natural, were you worried about the implications for your work?
Naomi
: No.

BGLH: Do you think the professional world is ready to accept natural hair?
Naomi
: Yes, unequivocally if the rest of you looks the part.

BGLH: Describe the reactions your natural hair receives in a professional setting. Is it viewed as acceptable?
Naomi
: No one ever questions or insinuates against my hair. I have only ever received positive feedback. Oh, except one time a dear friend — an older white male and Texan (Texas! no less…where I thought big hair ruled!) — told me he thought my hair was too big.

BGLH: What are some of the early styles that you tried?
Naomi
: During my transitioning years I wore my hair pulled back or pulled up with natural look hair braided or combed in to augment style.

Example of a transition style

BGLH: Did you ever get discouraged in the process of going natural?
Naomi
: No, not during the process. I had a simple elegant look that was simple, low maintenance and it didn’t matter how much my chemically processed hair fell off along the way. However now, unless I can hunker down and enjoy a good detangling comb-out, it’s easy to avoid and then fret over. It can and does get easily matted; and peppercorns, while fascinating, are annoying and destructive.

BGLH: Are you originally from Chicago? If not, where are you from and how did you wind up here?
Naomi
: I’m a native New Yorker. Came here to attend law school because my college sweetheart lived here.

BGLH: Tell us about your organization Blacks in Green.
Naomi
: We are green-village-builders, and we teach “The 8 Principles of Green-Village-Building” — a course for communities and developers who believe in jobs-driven development without displacement, so that neighbors can make an oasis wherever they live.

BGLH: What motivated you to start B.I.G., and what drives you to keep it going?
Naomi
: One day I realized I was the granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers who didn’t know how to grow squat. I realized that though I was born as a child of the 60’s when everything was possible, I was suddenly living in the age of climate change, with advances reversing, with no “help on the way.” I remembered how much I had loved the land as a child and how I’d learned as an adult how well (every single time) I would feel when I went to the woods. I remembered how proud I was in 2nd grade winning 3rd Place in the Brotherhood Week Poster Contest at P.S. 15 Queens, and how my Mom had taught me over the years what it meant to be an activist — being in action on one’s strongly held beliefs. And I got in touch with my finite time and skill, and my declared commitment to a world that worked for everyone, with no one and nothing left out. And my solidarity with Eldridge Cleaver that “you’re either part of the solution or part of the problem.” I was raised by a seemingly fearless woman in an afrocentric home, knowing the greatness of my people, yet nevertheless learning fear and doubt, and learning black shame and my own sense of inferiority. And eventually I learned there’s only ever one thing to do when bumping into a wall of one’s own limiting belief, and that’s to knock it down. I had contributed all I could “under the radar” and needed to “come out” for what mattered most to me. I came out to embrace my purpose in life: self-sustaining African diaspora communities. At times brutal, but worth every blow…“and still I rise.”

BGLH: You seem to be a free spirit. Is that an accurate description?
Naomi
: More accurate would be: I am a free thinker, committed.

BGLH: What does your hair represent for you?
Naomi
: Before I answer, I’d like to call attention to Eleanor Holmes Norton, who wears her hair cropped to the scalp. L says~Eleanor Holmes Norton is a Delegate to Congress representing the District of Columbia. Do you cover this style? More than ever, progressive thinkers are “going to the bone.” What do you make of this, in a time and place where male sexualization of women craves ever longer hair? Though I’m not sure I’d like it on me (or have the balls — if you could ever forgive the irony of this phrase), Eleanor looks fabulous to me.

To your question, only recently after years of neglect and stress thinned my hair to what you see in the April 2008 Chicago Magazine Green Awards photo (thinning almost impossible to discern in my favorite Ida B. Wells style) did I think about my hair as representing anything personal. Always for me it was a heritage thing: I am an African woman and will not spend bunches of time and money to look how I don’t. Working 20-hour days on end requires the kind of style that can brush up and look swell on the fly. Natural grooming takes less time and money than caring for permed hair, if done smartly…but I abused the ease of looking good by failing to take care. Nowhere in my life was I taking care of me.

So recently my question has become: shall I prefer to treat myself well? And hair, like any other embodiment, shines with loving attention.

I love my hair. I love touching it and twirling it. I love studying its strands. I love the thought of the limitless styles I could make if I took the time. I love that folks respond with love for it. I love to look good. Yet I have trouble making care of self more important than mission. And I am learning as I go that at the end of the day, loving attention to my hair or care of my diet or expenses are all the same. How tender is my stewardship of self — head to toe, inside out? The greater this harmony, the sooner the end to discord here in the world of opposites. So I’m a work in progress. And I repeat for you, wise counsel I was given to remind my own self ceaselessly: “take good care of yourself; if you do, all will be beneficiaries.”

BGLH: Do you think the older generation of Black men and women, generally speaking, have done enough to encourage and embrace the natural movement?
Naomi
: Sadly, our elders have let our tortured history seduce them into silence on our great cultural legacy. They preferred to forget, and created generations who neither knew nor loved themselves. They were hurting and they loved us and thought to spare us the pain; but made us weak instead.

BGLH: What are some experiences your natural sisters have gone through that impacted you, whether because they were joyous, interesting or painful experiences?
Naomi
: I was hurt when my friend recently told me she put on a wig to quiet the violence in her office. Ouch. But I rarely discuss hair with anyone. How have you gotten me to wax on???

BGLH: Your hair is FABULOUS! What is your regimen?
Naomi: Years ago I stopped experimenting with products.
I even made my own when I wanted to bring a product to market, but work pressures put that on a continuing back-burner. I had tried everything on the market up to that time and only one product would detangle my hair; and nothing would provide moisture without grease or flaking but Organic Root Stimulator Mayonnaise. I use gobs of it. Then I discovered my favorite treatment: an hour on my back in the tub and hair floating. My hair loves nothing more than a frequent sleeping meditation in the tub. Water has sacred power.

BGLH: How did you get it to this length?
Naomi
: My best advice would be to comb it out using a detangler each night, twist it up with a moisturizer, always wear a cap to bed, and otherwise avoid combing. Wash it when it asks for washing. Again, I like the Organic Root Stimulator line. I always recommend buying black hair care products from black companies. Fill any unmet need in the market by starting your own company, or make your own. We must become manufacturers. Sometimes I wash, shake and shape without a comb and wear an afro for a few weeks. Sometimes I blow dry it, style it up and wear a cap to bed for days, just freshening with a brush daily. Every once in a while I would have it pressed…but no more. Sometimes I can pull a ‘do together on the fly (in the taxi on the way to a photo shoot!) by moisturizing heavily, twisting into 6 sections, untwisting, then finger fluffing for the for the style you see in that photo. L says~That is, the first photo in this post.

BGLH: And what’s your favorite style!
Naomi
: The Ida B. Wells, of course!

Baby Naomi

Press and curled Naomi… she discontinued this style when sections of her hair would not revert back to their original texture

Naomi rockin’ her fro at an event

Wow. Lots to think about. Thank you Naomi!

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
19 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Black girl with long hair
Black girl with long hair
11 years ago

i don’t think i’m being biased or blindly supportive when i say: the natural look fits naomi far better than the press and curl did.

augusta
augusta
11 years ago

GREAT POST!!!!!

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

i looove this interview! she’s definitely a fab professional chick. only question: on a blog where we’re supposed to be supportive of one another, and sharing with one another — why is she keeping her ‘great’ hair tool a secret?!

Kinky Rhonnie
Kinky Rhonnie
11 years ago

Wow.

Miss Naomi Davis is truly an icon.

Beautiful, intelligent, powerful and sexy!

Reading her interview has truly been empowering, motivational and uplifting.

A very pleasurable read.

~Kinky Rhonnie

Kendra
Kendra
11 years ago

Excellent excellent excellent interview. I thought u were going to punk out and not ask her regimen but you did!!! L- keep doing what your doing because you’re really good at it;)

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

Wow. She sounds amazing and wise. How do you respond to her question about women who choose to keep their hair short, who are chasing the glory of long, natural hair? I love it when I see a woman rockin a super short cut. There’s just something about it that says she is supremely confident in who she is and doesn’t care what the rest of us have to say.

@anon, if Ms. Naoimi is planning to one day bring her product to market, then the secret needs to stay hidden.

Great post.

Ore
Ore
11 years ago

Wonderful post. Great job! I recently discovered buns and pinning my hair up and that works wonderfully for me. And I can go for a week without combing my hair.

Naomi Davis is definitely an inspiration! I look forward to more in this series of interviews.

formabulous
formabulous
11 years ago

well…i’m not natural and probably never will be (despite that i look very natural most times)…i used to be relaxed but then my secondary school in Nigeria had us all cut our hair for six years until i graduated in July 2007, and I had my hair natural until February this year when i got a texturizer.although i plan to get another texturizer in july, and stay texturized, i just want to say i admire you guys and what u doing here. and i’ve been inspired to make sure my kids keep their natural hair for ages (smth i didn’t… Read more »

Nappy Sexy Fly
Nappy Sexy Fly
11 years ago

What a gorgeous, thoughtful, authentic woman!!!! Thanks so much for introducing her to us.

I love this blog!

Jc
Jc
11 years ago

@ Anonymous — Am I missing something? I read this again and I thought she gave away all the info on her hair care routine.….what secret are we talking about?  I liked this second part too. Great interview L. I do disagree on some parts (lol it is becoming a habit). I would love it if black companies could produce good quality products and it is only recently when they have done so and catered to natural hair — Oyin/KBB etc.  I really generally do not like the black cosmetic companies. Many are still laden with poor ingredients like mineral… Read more »

fashionstar
fashionstar
11 years ago

I think Ms. Naomi is absolutely fabulous, she’s intelligent and has dignity and pride in herself I loved the interview!  I also agree that short hair is beautiful too, I did the bc about 18 months ago, and I’m growing out my hair just so that I can rock some wild big haired styles. But I agree with Naomi the short cropped styles are so hot, I feel like I’m gonna grow my hair out and then I’ll probably cut it all off again because I felt so sexy with short hair and I had to rely on my inner… Read more »

Afro-Native Chick
Afro-Native Chick
11 years ago

I think her hair looks a lot better natural as well. It looks healthy!

Deola
Deola
11 years ago

Brilliant! Thank you Naomi.
I want to look that fly in a suit.

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

I cut my hair short once and I really struggled with it. I wore a band around the front all of the time because I felt completely unfeminine without it. I surprised myself because I’d always liked short hair on other women. I realized later that what made them look fabulous wasn’t just the hair, it was their confidence. I’m kinda just figuring out that I may still have some hair issues and I am a huge advocate for natural hair. Someone called my hair coars recently and I had to fight the urge to say “My hair is not… Read more »

QuitaD
QuitaD
11 years ago

The interview was really great. I think the work she does is absolutely wonderful and the hair is just icing on the cake. I’m glad that she hasn’t run into any issues in her work arena. I think more stories like this might help some hidden natural make that leap to leave the wigs/braids and showcase their natural beauty.

Laurel
Laurel
11 years ago

All the things I wanna be when I grow up..:)
beautiful, intelligent and fab-u-lous!! working that outfit in the last picture..

Yolanda
Yolanda
11 years ago

Beautiful hair and testimony!! Fortunately for me, when I was natural, I received nothing but love from my workplace!

Cynthia
Cynthia
11 years ago

Very pretty!

channelle
channelle
7 years ago

I want to see more naturals that look like her!

19
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x

Shopping Cart