*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
M: My name is Monique, but my YouTube name is TheRoyalEmpress. I live in Houston, Texas. I was born in The Bronx, New York. My family is Jamaican, so I rep all 3! I’m a recent UH college grad (B.A. Psych / B.A. Spanish). Still looking for a real job and about to go back for my Master’s degree.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
M: I started relaxing my hair in the Summer of 1999, I was 12. I always got it professionally done, but I always HAAAAAAAAATED going to the salon. I hated how long I would be there. How they always put clients in front of me because I have so much hair. I hated that I had to tell them when it started to burn. They once burned my face by trying to relax my sideburns smh. I hated how they would blow dry my hair and my neck would be sore because I would try to brace my head while they yanked the blow dryer through. My scalp would be slightly burned already from the chemicals and the heat would singe it. Then, the hairspray would sting on my scalp. I hated that they would charge an arm and leg for it. (It always cost me between $65-$100 for a touch-up) That’s because I didn’t go regularly, but still! AND my relaxed hair always looked a mess a week later.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
M: I got my last relaxer for prom May 2004 (it had been 7 months since my previous touch up…see…I told y’all I hated the whole process!) After prom and graduation I guess I didn’t really feel any peer pressure to continue doing something I hated so much, so I never went back. Back then I wasn’t aware of the whole process and terminology of “going natural” so I was just “not relaxing anymore.”
At first I would just flat iron my hair. I started to experiment and do bantu knots and then I would undo the knots, but not separate them so they looked like curled locs. I even rocked box braids sometimes. Whenever I straightened it, I would have my mom or my sister cut some of the length off. In July 2006 I actually went to the salon to get a relaxer after over 2 years and right before she started putting it in I told her I changed my mind, so she just flat ironed it and cut what was the last bit of my relaxed ends off. The lady that did my hair told me about Miss Jessie’s and that’s when I started googling about natural hair. I was really surprised there were websites with other people who had chosen to stop relaxing. That’s where I started to soak up all the terminology and all the info about products and styling.
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
M: Going natural really taught me how to take care of my own hair because honestly the whole time I was relaxed (12–17) my mom would help me wash my hair under the tub faucet and she would detangle it and blow dry it for me. When I went natural I didn’t know how to do anything except plaits, so I started experimenting and would do two-strand twists, and bantu knots and my biggest hair accomplishment…I learned how to cornrow!!! I think it’s also made me more confident because both of my parents over the years have told me to get my hair relaxed and I just keep it moving. I just feel so at ease to not feel like I need to go to a salon anymore.
How would you describe your hair?
M: My hair is extremely dense and mostly coarse with a few different textures going on, as is the norm for many naturals. The sections at my temples are very kinky, coarse and tend to be excessively dry; the front is wavy, the crown area is actually the thinnest and frizziest section and the rest is very elastic and like a 3c curl.
What is your regimen?
M: I recently started detangling my hair before I wash it to save water. So I spray my hair with water, apply V05 Moisture Milks Strawberries and Cream Conditioner, detangle with my Denman brush and put it in jumbo twists. Get in the shower and either shampoo with Suave Clarifying Shampoo or recently I just started co-washing with the twists still in. Right now the conditioners I use for co-washing are Lisa Rachel’s Cleansing Conditioner (it’s just okay; found it for $5 at Ross) or Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Conditioner. Then I rinse my scalp and reapply conditioner (TJ or V05) and rinse after I’m done showering. Then I let my hair dry a little with a t‑shirt wrapped on my head, just so it’s not sopping wet. I then apply leave in conditioner and sometimes a butter, brush it through section by section and two strand twist.
The leave in conditioner I have now is Koils by Nature’s Leave In, but I also like Kinky Curly Knot Today and Giovanni Direct Leave In. The butter I’m using lately is Afro Veda’s Totally Twisted Ginger Almond Butter. I wash my hair once every 7–10 days. I usually flat iron my hair once a year and then cut a few inches off to maintain it at a length that’s manageable for me.
How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
M: I very rarely use heat; maybe once a year, and when I do I always use a heat protectant. I always wear my satin bonnet or scarf, or sleep on a satin pillowcase and I use products with moisturizing ingredients that work for my hair. I also avoid petrolatum and mineral oil.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
M: I once gave myself a haircut while my hair was still wet without full shrinkage…not a good idea. The first time I did mini twists I tried to rinse them and it just turned into a frizzy, tangled, matted mess 🙁 In the beginning of my transition I used heat a lot with no heat protectant and my ends lost some texture from the heat damage.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
M: I do everything in sections. Wash, condition, detangle, style.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
M: You can see my old pics on my fotkis: fotki.com/RoyalEmpress and fotki.com/RoyalEmpress2. I also have some videos on Youtube: Youtube.com/TheRoyalEmpress.
Anything else you want to add?
M: Thanks for this interview and thanks to the readers! OH and I love BGLHmarketplace.com. That’s actually where I got my KBN Leave In and 2 of my AfroVeda butters all discounted AND the shipping was free!!!