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?
M: 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?
M: 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?
M: 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?
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. 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?
M: 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?
M: 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.