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Natalie Wachen of Boardwalk Empire // Natural Hair Style Icon

• Sep 9, 2012

By Rinny of

From time to time we discover that some of BGLH’s fans and readers are in the entertainment industry, like Natalie Wachen, who plays Lenore on HBO’s hit series Boardwalk Empire and Mimi in Rent off Broadway.

We have a lot of natural, curly hair in our RENT dressing room, and is often up on Amber Iman’s laptop backstage. We’re all stoked!,” Natalie shared.

We definitely wanted to hear more about Natalie’s hair regimen and story so we invited the actress to do a style icon profile 🙂 Check it out:

You’ve recently finished filming the second season of HBO’s popular series Boardwalk Empire. Tell us a little bit about your role as Lenore White.
Lenore is a proud mommy. She takes pride in her kids, her house, and herself. She’s well-mannered, educated, and accustomed to nice things.  When I first auditioned, I asked where she was from, knowing “Chalky White” was a little bit country. Casting wasn’t sure, so I read the lines three times with three different voices/accents. The one that made it into the show is a mix of “Claire Huxtable,” Lena Horne, and my mother.

You play the wife of a familiar face, Michael K. Williams or as many folks know him, “Omar from the Wire.” What was the atmosphere like on set?
The atmosphere on set is a dream come true!! Not only am I surrounded by incredible artists, the vibe is so positive and friendly! Every time I go back to Boardwalk Empire, I grow as an actor. Each table read, each day of shooting… is like a master class. Watching Michael work has taught me so much about how to take my time. I’m from the school of “bigger, faster, funnier,” which is great for some jobs, but obviously, Boardwalk is different. Working with Steve, Shea and Michael my first day on set was unbelievable. I was nervous and kept making jokes. Steve laughed at them, and I felt better.

Are you a fan of the Wire? What would be the “code” you live by?
A woman’s gotta have a code!! Mine: Treat others the way you would have them treat you, and treat yourself as well as you treat others.

What made you pursue entertaining as a career?
I fell in love with performing arts in church, where we used to put on big musicals. I found acting and music to be such moving ways to tell important stories. I remember my first solo in church. I was 4, and the words were “In my song, Lord, be glorified.” Being a very serious kid, I remember singing those lyrics from the deepest part of me. I felt it was the beginning of something very important. I wanted to use my gifts, my voice, to shine a light, and I feel like that’s what we’re doing with RENT.

You’ve played a variety of theater roles; from Deena in Dreamgirls to Nala in The Lion King to your most recent off broadway role as Mimi Marquez in RENT. What would you say is the best part of performing in theatre?
There are so many! One of my favorite things about theater is being able to feel the connection to the audience. We actors get to play out stories for a living, breathing, laughing, crying (and sometimes singing) group of people, and there is a sense of togetherness- of community in that. There’s also a knowledge that this thing you’re all experiencing together will never be seen, felt or heard again in exactly the same way. That makes each moment so special and so important. It’s very different from TV.

Theatre or Film?
And TV, too. All of it! I love it. They’re all such different kinds of storytelling, and I have my favorite things about teach form.

So what’s your hair story? Have you always been natural?
I grew up loving my hair. I loved my curls, but I hated that I always had to strap them down, so to speak. My hair was in braids 24/7 until I started relaxing it. As a kid, I really wanted to just let it loose and run around the playground, but de-tangling took hours. My big sister started relaxing her hair. It was more coarse than mine, and she could make it stand straight up. She looked like a rock star, and I thought that was the coolest thing in the world (along with everything else my big sis did). I thought I’d be able to do that if I relaxed mine. So I begged my mother for a relaxer, got it, and although it wouldn’t stand up straight, I could finally let it loose at school. I missed my curls, so I used gel to add some texture for a few years. In high school, straight hair was “in,” so I ironed it, and wore it as long as possible.

When I started studying musical theater in college, some of my classmates asked me why I was singing from black musicals so much. They didn’t even know I was Black. I thought, ‘Wow. It’s time for my roots to show.’ So I let ’em grow out, and I’m so happy I did. Looking back, I can’t believe how much time I spent straightening all this hair, and how I was avoided swimming, dancing, working out, just to keep it straight. The natural look is a much better fit for my busy life.

How did you transition?
I let my relaxer grow out about 12 years ago, but I kept wearing it straight for a few years. I just kept blowing and ironing out the roots and trimming the relaxed hair until it was all gone.

What’s your hair routine?
My routine for RENT is different than my normal routine. Normally, I only wet my hair twice a week. I just let it be, and only spend about an hour or so on it per week. But as Mimi, I get so much fake snow and glitter in my hair. Plus there is tangle-inducing “neck-ography” in the show. So I have to rinse and condition it every day except Tuesday (our day off). Back home in Cali I always air dried my hair. I’d just let the sun do its thing.

Now, my hair regimen goes like this:
6:15PM — condition at the theater with Tresemme Moisture Rich Conditioner
6:30PM: gently squeeze water out of hair with a t‑shirt or paper towels
6:45PM: separate hair into about 8 sections and apply SO MUCH Tresemme Bouncy Curls gel. So much.
7:15PM: flip my head upside down and dry it with the company diffuser. …I’m gonna miss that thing.
7:25PM: work a tiny bit of Citre Shine Anti Frizz Serum through my hair. It makes it soft and shiny, and smoothes out any crunchiness from the gel.
7:30 Half hour! Time to get in costume and make up, and hang out with the beautiful and talented ladies of RENT.

What are some of your must-have products?
Tresemme Bouncy Curl gel. Lots of it. Tresemme Moisture Rich Conditioner, Citre Shine anti-frizz serum, Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme, Jane Carter Solution SLS-free shampoo, and the whole Chocolat line from Carol’s Daughter in case I ever blow my hair straight again.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned when it comes to taking care of your hair?
Never go to a salon for a cut without a referral from a curly friend!!

How can we find you on the web?
Twitter: @HappiestActress

About Rinny

Texan by birth, Los Angeleno by situation. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Comedian by trade. Macaroni and Cheese connoisseur by appetite.

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9 years ago

Beautiful hair!!

9 years ago

Her regime is long, wow. I couldn’t spend that much time on my hair, weekly. Shampoo, condition, dry and style in a bun,that’s it. I tried watching board-walk empire show once and it was terribly boring. I thought it would be entertaining like Dowton Abbey but it was boring.

9 years ago
Reply to  Mia_p

She was describing her pre-performance routine, which actually isn’t that long if you really think about it. On her other days her regimen is even simpler.

I’ve never watched the show (don’t watch much TV in general) but I like the fact that her Twitter tag says “HappiestActress.” I want to be able to call myself the “happiest” whatever. 🙂

9 years ago

Beautiful hair! I will have to check out this show!

9 years ago

I’m a huge fan of Boardwalk Empire. You and your hair are gorgeous!!

Home daycare
9 years ago
Reply to  Kweenie

Me too! I can’t wait for the show to begin. I love your hair and pictures!

9 years ago

Very nice feature! Her hair is beautiful and she is gorg! On a side note however, I wondered about the switch to posting the pics at the bottom rather than throughout the article. I don’t see these pics on my phone unless I read article on my desktop … A rare feat! Lol

9 years ago

Did I hear her say, “The natural look is a much better fit for my busy life”?! Wow! I thought I was the only one who felt that way! Love this interview. An extremely talented and busy woman taking the time out to make sure her hair is healthy! Kudos!

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