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Grown and Sexy: Malaika Adero // Natural Hair Style Icon

• Feb 13, 2010

Grown and sexy naturals have been doing the damn thing for a WHILE and can teach us young’uns a thing or two. Malaika Adero is a senior editor at publishing company Simon & Schuster and she rocks a gorgeous head of hair. Peep it…


Why did you make the decision to go natural?
My mom was a beautician (that was the term for it then) so I essentially grew up in salons, including the make-shift salon that our home sometimes became. But coming of age in the 1960s (I was born in 1957), I was influenced by the gorgeous images of women such as Abbey Lincoln, Angela Davis, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack and others, including women in the Black Panther Party who wore natural hair.

I got my first perms at about age 11 and stopped getting them at age 13. I simply stopped retouching the perm I had. As a young teenager I was swimming and running around not too concerned about have a well-tended coif.

Many women went back to relaxers after the 60s were over and afros were no longer a popular style. Why did you stick with it?
I’ve also been into wholistic health, at least since college days, and believed that the chemicals used to straighten hair couldn’t be good for you. And, I like the way my natural hair feels and smells. I had more styling choices than I would if I chemically treated it–I could go curly, kinky, straight.

As a beautician did your mother give you any grief for going natural?
My mother let me be me. She’d defend my choices to others such as my grandmother and the other ladies in the salons where she worked. They would sometimes look at me sideways and mumble disapprovement when I rocked a damn-near-bald head or an asymmetrical cut.

As a nappy headed woman, Black women have been my biggest supporters AND detractors. White women friends have wrongly assumed that I would have another kind of hair if given the choice. But, the fact is I love my hair.

Your hair is gorgeous! What is your regimen?
M. a.) I mix shampoo with conditioner. Sometimes I rinse my hair, not using shampoo at all. b.) I apply a heavy conditioner and leave it in (whether the instructions say so or not) c.) I double strand twist or braid my hair to wear that way, or to set it (for a twist-out), or to prepare to blow dry (in winter when I don’t have time to be inside while it air dries.

What does your hair say about you?
My hair is thick and tends to be big. It’s become a signature. People do recognize me by my big head of nappy hair flying all over the place. Otherwise, my self-identity isn’t wrapped up so much in my hair. I do occasionally wear it straight, pulled back, contained. But, I like to dance, swim and go with the flow. I have colored my hair, but don’t like managing new growth and doing things with my hair that I can’t reverse easily.

You’ve had a great career in publishing. Has your hair ever been an issue?
My hair has never been an issue for me in the work place. If it is for someone else, I consider it their problem.

What is your advice to young black women?
My advice: study yourself. Grow to appreciate your physical, mental and spiritual characteristics. The more you know and appreciate yourself, the better you’ll feel and look. And, the more others will see the beauty in you. God is the best cosmetic surgeon. But, She doesn’t mind if you have fun, adorn yourself and enhance the beauty that is in your genes. Don’t take yourself so seriously, but be serious about your health: mind, body and soul. And finally, men–more often than not–don’t care what you do to yourself as long as you turn out pretty.

For more of Malaika check out her organization Up South which produces the annual UpSouth International Book Festival in Harlem.

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11 years ago

Wow, what an inspiration! Thank you, Malaika, for sharing your story with us and blazing the path so that we can wear our natural hair with pride.

I love this quote: “My hair has never been an issue for me in the work place. If it is for someone else, I consider it their problem.” Something to live by!

Alta Angel
11 years ago

You and your hair are gorgeous! Your confidence radiates through the photo!

Belle Muse
11 years ago

You hair is BEAUTIFUL & I’m totally loving your advice to Black Women.

11 years ago

Thanks for this interview! Malaika Adero is someone I would like to find out more about. She gives off a very self assured, strong, positive woman vibe.

11 years ago

M: My hair is thick and tends to be big. It’s become a signature. People do recognize me by my big head of nappy hair flying all over the place.” bwahahaha, love it! great attitude, great beauty, so chic and cool 😀

The Notorious Z.A.G.
The Notorious Z.A.G.
11 years ago

Beautiful and chic! Intelligent, wonderful! I love it, and the blow-out is my favorite. Gorgeous!!!!

11 years ago

I too appreciate the workplace quote though I know good and well some sisters will read that and say, “But she’s in PUBLISHING…in New YORK…it’s DIFFERENT for me…” It’s funny how hair ceases to be an issue if you don’t make it an issue…and you don’t go looking for ways to make it an issue. I was natural my last 9 years in corporate America (IT) and nobody of importance ever said boo about my 4b/4c hair. I also appreciate acknowledging black women’s roles as supporters and detractors. I sometimes wonder what happened to sisters supporting each other…I suspect it’s probably just… Read more »

11 years ago

I knew a Malaika who’d introduce people to the pronunciation of her name by saying, “I like a Malaika.” (The “a” pronounced as the “ugh” sound.) Is your name similarly pronounced that way? This is just all to say that I may not know how to pronounce your name, but I do know how to praise you hair. It’s awesome! Me likey Malaika’s hair! But — hold up! What? What the heck do you mean you were born in 1957?! You don’t look a day over 29!! Can somebody please talk a little about the magic of melanin? Hallelujah. Amen. & Thank you, God! Sorry. I just… Read more »

11 years ago

Beautiful head of hair! I wish I could get mine to grown. I had locks for 11 years — pass my booty — and I had to cut them down/comb them out. I miss my long hair. The texture seems difficult and ever changing. Won’t hold a style and is too short for my taste. An-t-way, I love seeing a healthy head of natural hair. It shows pride and love.

I’ve recently started using Naturi Beauty products and hope they make a difference.

Kendall Delvecchio
10 years ago

I am glad to be one of several visitants on this great site (:, appreciate it for posting .

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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