*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
L: My name is Leomary Rodriguez, but I often go by Leo. I’m from the Bronx, New York. I’m a media artist working towards becoming an established photographer, art director or cinematographer. I love collaborating with different artists, musicians, photographers, etc. and making dope visuals happen.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
L: Early on I was always taught that curly hair was bad hair. Coming from a Dominican household during my personal experiences, curly hair is always called “pelo malo” or “bad hair” while straight hair is always called “pelo bueno.” Because of this toxic upbringing, I initially went natural to get a Japanese straightening treatment or the Brazilian keratin treatment which is like a relaxer, but much more intense with a different type of maintenance.
I figured I had to have natural hair to do this type of treatment, because my hair would fall off if I did this with relaxed hair. But, as time went on, I grew to love my natural hair. YouTube became my best friend. I watched natural hair journeys and tutorials for hours with gurus like Trenellm, nikkimae2003, TarenGuy, even AndreasChoice; women figuring out their beauty with different types of curl patterns. I thought, finally! So many BEAUTIFUL women with different textured hair that I could relate to in so many ways. I began to see my own beauty and wished I saw it earlier. I started to use products that were healthy for my hair and once I became natural the rest of my body followed. From food to toiletries to cleaning supplies, I try to be as natural as possible in all areas of my life. I was relaxed from 1999 until 2008. So I’ve been natural for a good four years. I transitioned and did the big chop in 2010.
How would you describe your texture?
L: My texture is all of the above. I have different types of curl patterns all around my head; overall I’d say my hair is very thick.
Describe your styling regimen over the course of the month.
L: Over a month my styles vary. I used to leave my hair in twists and twist outs, but that causes split ends so I minimize the use of that style. Now I just braid my hair flat on my head overnight and take out my four braids in the morning.
I also use a silk/satin pillowcase since it doesn’t dry my hair the way regular cotton pillowcases would. The best investment I ever made. I think people with all hair types should use this. I used to use a satin bonnet or a scarf, but I move so much in my sleep that it would be on the other side of the bed by the time I woke up.
What does wash day look like for you?
L: My wash days vary. The short variation consists of conditioning my hair, detangling, rinsing and leaving in a bit of conditioner. Once a month I have an intense wash day where I use a bottle with a teaspoon of baking soda diluted with water to cleanse my hair. After that I use a bottle with bit of vinegar diluted with water as my conditioner. I don’t really measure these things I just go with my gut. After using both diluted items in that order, I detangle with Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Restorative Conditioner. If I’m on a budget I use Organix Moroccan Argan Oil. After detangling I rinse then leave a bit of conditioner in. Depending on my mood I style my hair by using braids, twists, or simply air drying.
The last thing I do to my hair to finalize any style is applying a shea butter mixture that I whipped up myself with various oils, while the hair is still damp. If I don’t have that DIY shea butter mix I use Shea Moisture Coconut & Hibiscus Style Conditioning Milk instead.
Describe your favorite go-to hairstyle for days when you don’t have a lot of time to style.
L: I wear yarn braids when I don’t have time to style. I know this might sound crazy since yarn braids take me 12 hours total to put into my hair, but my logic is: I can spend those 12 hours for a protective style that will lock in moisture and ensure hair growth while I leave them in for 2 months. So…12 hours of patience… for 2 months of low maintenance. I think it’s a worthy trade off. Plus, they look like locks the longer I keep them in and I plan to lock my hair soon, so I enjoy this look very much.
How do you combat shrinkage?
L: I don’t. Shrinkage used to bother me so much, but now it doesn’t phase me. But when I do want to see some length, to try something new I use the banding method. The way I do this is by braiding my hair, putting the braids into a single ponytail and tying scrunchies down the braid. I leave this style in normally until the hair is mostly dry then I take it out and presto! Length.
What are some of your problem areas (if any) that require special care and attention?
L: My crown requires a lot of attention. This is the part of my hair that has no curl pattern, no moisture, and it breaks so easily. I treat it like a baby.
What are 2 do’s for your texture?
L: My two do’s are conditioner and water. I could never have enough of either.
What are 2 don’ts for your texture?
L: Bleach and heat. I don’t do flat irons anymore. I also tried to ride this Ombré wave that I’ve been seeing on tumblr and everywhere else. Never again will I bleach my hair. It was too much maintenance and I ended up removing two inches from my hair.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
L: Of course!