Photo Credit: JUCO
The photoshoot you did with JUCO (see photos above) inspired a lot of people in the black beauty world, particularly among natural women. What is the story behind that shoot?
N: One day my agent called saying that I’d just booked a shoot with this photography duo. I had no idea what was in store. Then I get to the location, and it’s this old apartment in Silverlake. It was eery but incredible. The whole mood was dark like an Alfred Hitchcock film. I loved it.
Did you expect the shoot to resonate so strongly with black women?
N: I had no idea that the project would strike such a chord. And so much time passed between shooting (in September 2009) and the pictures being released, that I didn’t think anyone would really pay attention. Sometimes it’s nice to be proven wrong.
How long have you been modeling and how did you get into it?
N: I’ve been modeling for about 5 years. I’ve got Greg at Alternative Apparel to thank for giving me first job. It all started on a Saturday morning talking about vintage t‑shirts over bagels and coffee. He gave me a chance and look how things have turned out.
I started off with Alternative Apparel. I’ve had editorials in Essence and Glamour. The latter was the one with my mom which got us interviewed on the Tyra Show. Last year, I had a Dell commercial. I’ve done some work for Melody Ehsani and Blood is the New Black. I’ve got a full page ad in circulation for Tavis Smiley’s America I Am exhibit. I am also one of the fortunate souls in the Wrangler Red Campaign.
Is it a challenge to be a brown-skinned, kinky-haired, freckle-faced girl in modeling? Or does it work to your advantage?
N: It’s just a challenge to be a black woman in general. We come in all different shades and shapes, but fashion won’t make enough room for all of us. When I’m the sole woman of colour chosen for a project, I have mixed feelings. I’m thankful that I’ve been picked to represent us, but I can’t possibly rep for the whole spectrum.
My mom is always concerned that I won’t get jobs because I don’t have a relaxer or because I let my freckles shine. I’m just rolling with the punches.
How do stylists work with your natural texture when you go on jobs?
N: Sometimes, it’s challenging. I was very fortunate on the Juco shoot to have a stylist who’s done black hair, and she worked it out! Some stylists just leave my hair the way it is. Others really get in there and create great looks.
Do you have any exciting upcoming projects?
N: My one exciting project is my wedding. I haven’t really started planning it, but I’m looking forward to the whole shabang.
So why did you decide to go natural?
N: My hair needed a break from all the torture. It was so damaged and, frankly, I was bored with it. My fiancee really encouraged me to go natural. He’s so supportive of me.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
N: I got my last relaxer December 2008. When it started growing out, my fiancee gave me a really cool cut. I had a really funky look for a few months, but it worked with my personality. Then finally, last summer, we chopped off the rest of the scraggly pieces. I never knew I had these little curls and kinks until I let go.
In terms of hair routine, what’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
N: The best thing for my hair is moisture, moisture, moisture. I use leave-in conditioner every other day and olive oil moisturizer every day. If I don’t do this, then my hair will be one big fuzz ball. And that’s not cute.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
N: When I was younger, I’m talking pre-relaxer, I hated getting my hair combed. My mother may not have learned from those painful times, but I sure did. Our hair does not need to be pulled on and tugged on. If you’re in pain, then your hair is hurting too.
How do you wear your hair when you’re not modeling?
N: I’m a wash-and-go kind of girl. My hair is very low maintenance, and I like it that way.
How does your hair express who you are?
N: My hair has these natural auburn highlights that really come out during the summer. I feel like a firecracker just waiting to let loose. And I can’t predict what my hair is going to look like for the day, and I like it like that. My hair is just as free as I am.
The best thing about being natural is the love I feel for being true to myself, and the love I get from other natural women are the best things about being au naturelle. It’s a sisterhood.
Links to check out
Nikia’s blog: http://modelliberation.blogspot.com/