Where do you live? Where you reppin’? What do you do?
N: I represent Queens, but was born out in Brooklyn. These days, I live in Los Angeles. I originally came out to L.A. for college (USC– fight on Trojans!), and I’m still here! I am a producer, and have been working in showbusiness since I graduated.
I am also certified as a personal trainer. My focuses are CrossFit and weightlifting, and I just started competing with my weightlifting team, last year. I will be getting my coaching certification in Olympic weightlifting, this spring. I realize that producing TV and weightlifting have NOTHING to do with each other, but what can I say? I have unusual passions.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
N: I’ve been perm-free since birth, so originally, it was my mom’s decision. I’m just glad that once I was older and making my own decisions, I agreed with her, and realized that there is nothing wrong with my hair the way it grows out of my head. To this day, the idea of relaxing my hair makes me so uneasy, I break into a cold sweat every time I pass a box of Just for Me at the drug store.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
N: I never did transition, technically, since I’ve always had my ‘fro. As a kid, my hair was always a pretty decent length, because mom always took care of it for me. I lived in cornrows, and my hair stayed in pretty good shape. At the time, we didn’t know of terms like “protective styling” and “low manipulation,” but that’s more or less what we did.
When I left home for college, that’s when my hair really began to take some abuse. Thanks to dye, bleach and blow drying, my ‘fro got shorter and smaller, pretty quickly. I knew nothing about the importance of moisturizing, and my hair stayed dry and brittle. Though I more or less stopped dyeing my hair after college, it didn’t improve much, because I continued to use a blow dryer, and I didn’t know how to moisturize or detangle, properly.
My hair didn’t appear to grow for years, but I didn’t think much of it, because I quite liked the look of a shrunken afro. I’d get braided extensions or cornrows here and there, when I could afford it, but I still didn’t really know how to care for my hair in a way that would allow it to thrive. I just accepted the breakage and split ends as part of having afro-textured hair.
One day in 2010, I was chatting with a friend about how I’ve never really had a haircut in my whole life, just a couple of trims. I then thought to myself, “Shouldn’t my hair be a lot longer, then?” I made a decision that I wanted to grow my hair longer, and stumbled across the plethora of resources on the internet that could help me along the way. Sites like BGLH and YouTube were game changers, for me.
So, I guess you could say that I did “transition,” in a way, because I transitioned from a complete lack of hair care practices to proper hair care practices. While it has been a process, and I’m still getting it completely sorted, my hair is no longer mad at me. In fact, it’s the happiest, healthiest and longest it has ever been.
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
N: Switching from not caring or worrying about my hair to taking care of my hair properly has been empowering. People often say “it’s just hair,” but I don’t agree with that at all. Taking on the task of trying to grow my hair longer may, indeed, sound trivial, but succeeding in it has fostered greater confidence in myself for much more daunting tasks.
In the literal sense, yes, of course it is just hair. But, there was a time that I thought that my hair simply could not grow longer. After taking the time to research and learn about caring for my hair, I’ve realized that I could’ve done this any time I wanted, so long as I was armed with the proper techniques and information. Whether it’s my hair, my career or attempting a really tough lift at a weightlifting meet, I always remind myself that the first step to achieving anything is assuming that it is possible.
How would you describe your hair? (In terms of texture, thickness, behavior, etc)
N: My hair texture varies, throughout my head. For the most part, I have kinky, curly strands, that are about the size of a pen spring, but some sections that are wavy or have a much looser curl. Some of my individual strands are thick and some are fine, but the density of my hair, overall, is average. My hair strands are deeply in love with one another, so they love to wrap around each other in tender embraces (in other words, they TANGLE), but I have learned to work with my hair so that I can keep the tangles at a manageable level.
What is a brief description of your regimen (please include the products you use)?
N: First, a couple of disclaimers: I don’t really use the word “regimen,” because I really just have more of a routine, than a regimen. I don’t have a regimen of any particular products, because I believe firmly that what matters most are hair care practices, not products. Besides, I haven’t used any product(s) with enough regularity to credit “Conditioner X” with any of the length I’ve retained in the last two years. The only thing that can be credited is my dedication, patience and hard work. So, until I’m on the payroll for the folks who own Conditioner X, I remain a big believer that what you do is way more important that what you buy!
Now, having said all of that, my routine is actually pretty boring. I wash my hair every 2–3 weeks, and in the past couple of months I’ve been skipping the shampoo and washing with conditioner, because shampoo really just does nothing good for my hair. I also limit my use of combs, because I experience less breakage when I detangle with my fingers. About once a month, I do a henna gloss to keep my hair strengthened. I was henna-phobic for ages– not to mention I couldn’t be bothered with the mess. But, I gave in, and I’ve found that it’s the only thing that helps to reduce my breakage noticeably.
When it comes to styling, I pick style that will last me one week, minimum, but usually 2–3 weeks. I confess, I live most of my life in 6–8 “Celie braids,” so I’m being charitable when I call what I usually do a “style.” To look presentable, I’ll put my braids in a bun, rock a phony afro puff, wear a headwrap/turban or even wig out, on occasion. Once or twice a year, I’ll do some kinky twists to spice things up. I also want to get my flat twisting game on point, so I can start doing some cool updos.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
N: All of the years I spent mistreating my already dry hair by yanking a blow dryer on HIGH and HOT through my ‘fro so I could rush out the door are behind me. I know so much more about caring for my hair now, that I cringe when I think about the kind of things I used to do to my poor strands.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
N: Detangling with my fingers is a big one. It is time consuming, but I hope to be 100% comb-free by the end of this year. At this time, I haven’t used a comb since early January, so I’m very happy about that! Also, I haven’t used a blow dryer since May of 2010, and I’m diligent about keeping my hair moisturized and stretched.
Avoiding heat and keeping the hair moisturized are beneficial for obvious reasons. Keeping my hair stretched is important because it reduces the opportunity for my strands to get together in one of those tender embraces, I was talking about earlier. I see a lot of lovely ladies who are ride or die wash and goers, which is fantastic; but, the idea of doing a wash and go on my hair gives me night terrors. (The tangles! The dryness! Nooooo!) So, I stick to protective styles. They make my life easier, and I love how they look.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
N: I have a Tumblr blog, called Hair It Is, and I’m also NappyHeadedJojoba on YouTube. You can also catch me in the BGLH Forum, of course! I’m the one to blame for starting the Protect Ya Ends Challenge, we have going on, right now!
Anything else you want to add?
N: Much to my own surprise, I’m a finalist in the 2012 contest for America’s Next Natural Model. Voting is still open, so I’d love it if the BGLH nation could help me bring home the title!