Where are you from?
E: I now live in Montpellier, South France where it’s always sunny. I was born and raised in Paris, then studied 2 years in Cocoa Beach, Fl when I was in high school. My mother is Cameroonese and my father Italian. I’m 25 and happily married to Alister, a half Cameroonese half Jewish Moroccan. We have two wonderful little girl Kélis and Naïa. I have a degree in sociology, after that I got a beautician’s license and now I’m a professional baker. We’d like to open our own bakery, and hair is a family affair.
What is the natural hair scene like in France?
E: Well, it’s a little tricky because of the France’s past. We have two main black populations, the West Indians, from Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion, and the African. The West Indians are former French colonies, and their ancestors were slaves. Then you have the African from the old colonies, some come directly from Africa, and some have been here for 2 or 3 generations.
For my final study to receive my sociology degree I decided to focus on the “globaliasation of occidental beauty”, and I’ve found a lot of very interesting things. I’d say, based on my studies, West Indians in France categorize hair by texture, from the most beautiful to the less (or ‘the straighter to nappier’.) I think the way they see hair is similar to African Americans.
On the other hand, African culture is a little different, they do braid a lot themselves, and see no problem with wearing wigs or extention, and are more exuberant with their hair styles. But natural hair is mostly worn by West Indians. Africans can generally appreciate curly hair on bi-racial girls for example, but few wear it themselves. For bi-racial girls, I’d say it’s half-half.
Why did you go natural?
E: I should start by what made me straighten my hair. It was back in 2000, just before my big trip to the US. I really wanted to look like the girls on videos, like Aaliyah, because I was a big fan. Plus everybody was telling me I would look so much better, so I did. I’ve been raised by my Italian family side, so my image of beauty was based on what I saw everyday, which was straight hair, plus I thought it would be so much more convinient at that time. My hair was always tied up, and hidden, and people were making fun of my large forehead all the time (which is very significant of my mother’s ethny, the Bassa). I figured that way I could have “longer” hair, a bang and untied hair.
I had a lot of success abroad, my hair looked pretty good there. But then I came back to France for holidays, and it was impossible for me to take care of it. My curly hair was coming back, and the straightened hair was starting to look like rat tails to me. I had breakage, and my hair wasn’t shiny at all. A pure nightmare. I realised my natural hair was so much better and I really missed it.
I was kinda scared to do the big chop, because I was afraid of my white American boyfriend’s reaction, what would he say? So I did nothing, and came back to the US, it really looked messy. I braided my hair a lot, and back in France I really couldn’t stand it anymore. So one day I was undoing the braids, my cousins where over, I told them to cut anything that wasn’t curly. T’was a pleasure to them, as I watched my poor hair falling on the floor, I told myself it was the first and last time I would do such a massacre.
It is really funny, because I always thought girls with natural hair were so pretty, and I was telling myself I would look like a clown if I did. I had to fight against myself to accept it, and find it beautiful and attractive. I remember that day I came out with my natural curly hair to go to school, I was so scared, but everyone liked it, and I had a tons of compliments for a month or so. Wearing my hair natural affected me in the way it made me shine and reveal who I was inside, it’s like I just realised I was multicultural, and that I had to be proud of it.
How would you describe your hair?
E: Curly, fluffly and healthy. I think it is the best part of me.
What’s your regimen?
E: Well, I wash my hair with not too hot water every 7 or 10 days with aleppo soap, or an organic shampoo with shea butter, avocado oil and orange zest. Then I spray a mix of mineral water, avocado oil, tea tree essential oil and cider vinegar to remove the limestone in the water. I apply a homemade cream my brother-in-law makes. I make my hair a beauty mask simply with coconut and jojoba oil once a month. I also like to use Lush products.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
E: Untied it, and not wash it too often. It is also important to me for my daughters to see that I like my natural hair. Yes, the most effective thing to do with my hair is loving and respecting it.