Where are you from?
R: I was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and I have lived in Boston for most of my life. (Sak pasé to my Boston Haitians!) My family and I immigrated to the U.S. in the late 80s. My parents wanted to make sure that my older brother and I did not lose the connection to our culture, so even though we lived in American they ran our home like it was little Haiti. Currently, I work at an ESL school as the Housing Director.
What is the natural hair scene like in Haiti?
R: In Haiti women wear their hair natural or permed. A lot of naturals straighten their hair with a hot comb or flat iron it but for various reasons don’t get perms. Most, not all, Haitian men love a woman with long hair and Haitian women love long hair too. I can still remember my mom getting mad when my hairstylist would do more than “trim” my ends. Long permed hair is a symbol of status and refinement for most Haitian women. Nothing gets you “the look” from your mom quicker than a negligent hair day. I should know.
Natural coily hair like mine is seen as rough and unmanageable. I like proving people wrong. Currently, my dad calls me his second son and my brother threw a fit and a half when I cut my hair but as long as my mom and my boyfriend like the look I couldn’t care less. Here in Boston more college-aged Haitian women are starting to make the decision to go natural. A lot of young women are starting be more curious about that new growth and are taking the plunger. It’s lovely.
Why did you go natural?
R: I had entertained the thought of going natural when I lived abroad in New Zealand. I thought it would be next to impossible to get a perm in the southern most country in the world. Turns out it wasn’t, it was just extremely expensive, so I stayed on the creamy crack until I returned to the U.S.; and then everything changed.
My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer last winter and underwent chemotherapy this spring. I made it my job to keep her as healthy as possible by feeding her only organic and natural foods. I have always eaten healthy foods and exercised but now I was definitely making sure to stay away from any chemicals, especially ones that could cause my hormones to change since my mother’s cancer was estrogen based.
Then it struck me that I was still getting perms which have insanely dangerous chemicals in them and I felt foolish. My mom protested against it but I decided that I didn’t want to play Russian Roulette with my health. After the first few days of being called “tèt lèd”, my mom is now a fan of my new look and even when I have days when I think I look boyish she offers words of support.
What’s your regimen?
R: Since I’m so new to this whole thing I keep it simple and my hair loves it. I workout a lot so I wash my hair often. I use Dr. Bronners Castille soap, Rose or Peppermint, if I am washing out product or sweat/mud (I love mud races) about 3 to 4 times a week. I co-wash with Desert Essence’s Fragrance Free conditioner. I use this as well as Kinky Curly’s Kont Today as my leave in conditioner. Once a week I deep condition with a mixture of coconut oil, wheat germ oil, jojoba oil, shea butter and grapseed oil. To define my curls I swear by Kinky Curly Curling Custard. I like to use castor oil at night and l’huil maskreti (Haitiain Castor Oil) on weekends. L’huil maskreti is not a smell for the faint of heart. I find most of my products at Whole Foods!