Being natural is … a great buffer from sorting out the troll boys from the keepers. Why waste your time with a man who is too invested in your hair and wants you to have a Naomi Campbell weave so he can run his fingers through? **rolls eyes** DECLINED!
BGLH: Where are you from?
AULELIA: I always say that I am a Tanzanian. Because of my parents jobs, my family has lived all over the world from Russia, Switzerland to Sweden and then my parents sent me to boarding school in the UK. I came here [UK] when I was around 11, and have had my secondary education here. I am on a journalism masters course at the moment in London. So I would say that I live in London, but I am from Tanzania, East Africa woop!
BGLH: What’s interesting about the place where you live?
AULELIA: I think the most interesting thing about London is what surrounds you. I live in east London, and there are so many quirky things all around. One day, you can be walking down the street in Walthamstow and see a derelict cinema that the local community is trying to save, and then you can come across bustling markets with people vying for your hard earned money. London is a crazy juxtaposition of old and new, fashionable and crumbling, toughness and grit, yet the gloss of the aristocracy is also still visible. It’s a great city to live in if you are interested in history, because the history of the city is literally cracking off the cobbled streets everywhere.
BGLH: What is the natural hair scene like?
AULELIA: LOL, this is a sensitive topic. I bang on and on about natural hair. I know this will sound controversial, but I think natural hair in London is just coming to the mainstream. I have been natural since ’04 and I can say that only since this year have I seen representations in the press on natural hair. It has always seemed to be an afterthought in black magazines here, and whilst there is some change in the media, I don’t think the natural hair revolution as such has happened in London. Yes, there has been growth and there are natural-headed women, but not to the extent as seen in the United States of America. I’d also like to add that I have noticed a lot more natural headed men who wear big afros etc more so than women in London. This is just from my personal experience, so I don’t know about other women who live in London.
There are a few natural hair salons — there is one in Hackney called eftal or something but they cater more towards people who like locs which is great. I also think it has to be said that, it also depends on where you live in London. I don’t want to make it a postcode issue, but I do live in east London and I must say, I have never seen so many beauty shops that sell relaxers in one area. I do think where you live makes a huge difference as to whether you see relaxers or not. In the more creative, fashionable areas like Shoreditch, Hoxton, I think it would be more likely to see girls with natural hair.
I would not say natural hair is normal though! LOL! That would be going too far. It is still something seen as ‘different’. I was in Sainsburys supermarket the other day in north London and the cashier told me he liked my hair (he was a black man) and he just said how much he liked it. I was flattered as it is always nice to receive compliments. What is odd is that I receive compliments on my hair a lot from white people, and some black people, but definitely more from white people. That is one reaction to natural hair that is surprising, just because on the surface, you’d think black people would give compliments as well.
BGLH: When did you go natural? Did you transition or big chop?
AULELIA: I transitioned and to be honest, I wish I hadn’t. I do think it slowed down the growth process a great deal for me, because I became so impatient. I remember specifically starting my journey in autumn of 2004. Watching the relaxed strands grow out was bizarre — my hair was half kinky and half straight so I started experimenting with styles a lot, doing ‘Geisha’ style uploads, doing 60s style hairstyles as well. As my hair reverted to its natural state, I started to do Afro styles more and twists. But yes, I wish I had done the big chop and watched it grow organically.
BGLH: Where do you buy your hair products?
AULELIA: I must be one of the only birds who is not big on products LOL! I don’t use them a lot, but when I do go and buy some, I normally go to one of the beauty shops down the road from where I live. It is crammed with relaxers, but they do have an oil section where I buy West Indian Castor Oil. My hair is really liking it at the moment, and bizarrely, even when it rains and after it rains, it still leaves my hair feeling supple and moist which is wicked. It’s also cheap, less than £2 so it makes sense for me economically.
BGLH: Do you have natural hair ‘meetups’ in your country? Do you think they are necessary for your country?
AULELIA: I think Cherry Lola does meetups and I must confess, I really want to go to one. L says~Cherry Lola’s site: http://www.cherrylola.com/ I just have never set aside time to do it yet but it is something I should do because it would be great to be around other black women who are naturals and not have to explain myself around the relaxed army all the time! Anything that is a support group for a cause is fantastic so I love the idea of a meetup.
BGLH: What do you like about being natural in your country?
AULELIA: This is an interesting question. I think what I love the most about being natural in London is that since I have become natural, hair has not become an obsession for me here. I remember when I was relaxed, I would obsess about my hair — I would think about how long it was getting. When I became natural, I would go jogging not worrying about my hair too much — as long as it looked neat and tidy, I was happy.
Being natural is [for me] also a great buffer from sorting out the troll boys from the keepers. Why waste your time with a man who is too invested in your hair and wants you to have a Naomi Campbell weave so he can run his fingers through? **rolls eyes** DECLINED! Natural hair has helped me sort the men I want to talk to, and the ones who are a waste of time. On the whole, the men who seem like they are interested in personality seem down with my Afro. L says~Amen to this!
BGLH: What would you like to see in your country in terms of natural hair care?
AULELIA: I’m obsessed with media , so I would like to see UK magazines like Pride and Black Beauty & Hair cover natural hair more. It does get trite reading European magazines, and seeing the hair section where Beyonce is in the ‘Afro’ section — Hello, Bey’s weave is not natural and this is coming from one of the biggest stans! So I would like to see more coverage in the press, because images do have a huge effect on how young girls view their self esteem. Although The Noisettes have blown up, so Shingai Shoniwa is presenting a stunning image of natural hair.
I would also like to see more black-owned natural hair shops. Most beauty shops are owned by Asian people. Nothing wrong with that, but I would like to see more black people owning beauty shops. It is important we grasp what is targeted to us and try and understand it better from a business perspective. L says~Amen again!
BGLH: Anything else you want to add?
AULELIA: I’m beyond chuffed that you asked me to do this! So thanks Leila — BGLH is a supreme blog to be honest. You should be really proud of yourself. It’s like a congregating space for natural girls, which is wicked. L says~Awww, thanks! 🙂 Final points I’d like to add are for me, I realised that when I started to eat better like eating those dreaded vegetables, my hair has been smiling more. I am on a diet to lose some weight and I am feeling the effects on my hair a lot more, it feels stronger and not as dry and the back of my head, which grows the least fast, is also growth.
As much as I hate to admit it, sometimes going back to basics is what is needed. I think if you try and take care of your insides and body, your hair will follow suit. Products help of course, but diet has been the key for me.
And just quickly, Wakeema Hollis is my natural hair queen. L says~A Wakeema Hollis post is also coming today! Come to think of it Aulelia and Wakeema kind of favor each other. I think her hair is supreme and I love that she is a haute couture model and wears an Afro. She’s wicked. I’ve posted about her on my blog numerous times.
L says~Thanks for the interview Aulelia! You can find more of Aulelia at her blog: http://charcoalink.wordpress.com/