By Rinny of MissRiot.com
After rising to the top of the South African charts, multi-platinum selling artist Lira has her sights set on the United States. The gorgeous naturalista was nominated for Best International Artist at this year’s BET awards and was named one of Essence Magazine’s “Five Unique Artists to Change Music in 2012”. She talked to us about her natural hair journey and her growing music career.
On leaving an accounting career to pursue music…
I was studying accounting as an undergrad and was using my skills to exchange for recording time at a local studio. When I graduated, I continued in accounting for a couple years. But turned in my letter of resignation and created a five-year plan for my music career.
When I resigned my job, I had saved up enough to survive for a year, but it took two years to get my first album out and a further year to start making any kind of a living from my music. There were times when I felt like failure because I could no longer afford to take care of myself. I was ashamed and depressed. I could have just gone back to the job market but I opted to see the music thing through. Also, my mother made it kind of easy for me because she said “well since you have something to fall back on (accounting) I’d rather have you happy”. So in those initial days, my mother was the motivation I needed. It helps when a parent is open to the idea of you pursuing your dreams. I took a huge risk by entering into music but I’m happy about my decision.
The title track to my first album All My Love reached the number 2 position on our Billboards, kicking Beyonce’s song “Dangerously in Love” off that spot. This was the first time that a South African artist had received as much air play as our American counterparts. And then being able to go on to perform for Nelson Mandela, meet Oprah Winfrey and continue to make music obviously made it all worth it.
On her love of music…
I was 16 years old and I sang my first composition with my best friend Lebo who was a year younger. My favorite thing about the experience is how it seemed we could connect with an audience of people of different ages and races through song. I think this is still my favorite thing.
My music is deliberately positive and upbeat — it brings messages of hope, comfort, celebration. It’s meant to make you feel good through all of life’s trials and tribulations. I think there’s enough negativity out there in the world and I have no desire to add to it. People seek solace in music and I want mine to be an uplifting experience. We’ve all gone through hardships and we have had to overcome a lot. That’s what I want listeners to take away with them.
On breaking into the American market…
My label has done an excellent job at my introduction into the American market, I feel like I’ve climbed a huge mountain in South Africa and now I’m standing before another one with American audiences, but I’m excited. We released my best of album “Rise Again” this past June to coincide with my BET Award nomination and I’m going back in the studio to record all new music for a release early next year so I’ll be back doing more press then.
On her transition to natural hair…
I kept my hair relaxed and braided for about 10 years. While I was in College, I made extra cash by running a hair salon from my room at the student village. My own hair had to be on point so I always had it relaxed, styled and sometimes I put highlights on it. I kept a Halle Berry type of boy cut for about 6 years. It got to a point where my skull was lifeless and my hair became like plastic. It became thin and weak. So I kept it hidden by braiding it. I kept this up for another 4 years. In 2006 when I finally decided to reveal my real hair, I found that it was badly affected — it was dry and brittle but there was just enough ‘growth’ to start anew. I was recording my second album Feel Good at the time so I was always in the studio. During the first week, I started liking my natural hair, I loved the fact that I could just get up and go. The first week passed and my hair seemed to be responding well to being left alone, so I kept it.
We don’t have as wide a variety of natural hair care products here in South Africa as you do in the United States. It is my opinion that most women wear fake hair mainly as a convenience thing. Most women out here don’t know how to take care of natural hair and find it too limiting. I experienced a lot of hair envy when I was in the US, women have long healthy natural hair, which is something we still struggle with here.
On her hair regimen…
I have a really get up and go hairstyle. It’s very low maintenance. I get my haircut twice a year and give it a good wash about once a week as well as a deep conditioning treatment like once a month. I just work to keep it clean, moisturized and soft. I don’t need much but a afro-pick comb, I use this every morning and run it through my hair in a circular motion to create a nice texture and what I call “The Organized Mess.”
On a day when I wash my hair it’s a 2 hour affair — because I leave the conditioner on so long. But overall, my hair is so low maintenance it’s an absolute pleasure to care for
I keep it moisturized with Soft Sheen-Carson Sta-Sof-Fro natural hair products. It works like magic. They have a lovely gel and braid oil moisturizing spray that I use. I also really like Organix deep conditioner, it leaves my hair very soft. I recently got turned on to Carol’s Daughter so I’m trying out their products as well.