She has portrayed complex characters who find their way through challenges in such films/shows as “Beloved,” “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” “For Colored Girls,” “Girlfriends,” and “Hit the Floor.” We got a chance to speak with critically acclaimed actress Kimberly Elise about her natural hair, acting, and her show “Hit the Floor”.
Let me first say that you and your hair are gorgeous! When and why did you go natural?
KE: Thank you so much!! I’ve been natural since about 2000. I just wanted to be my most true self. I was so excited with the idea of my own hair. But I didn’t stop using heat until 2011. I didn’t big chop; I kind of mini chopped. I’d been pressing my hair, so I had heat damage and I just had to have that cut off. That was maybe 4 or 5 inches.
What is your current hair care regimen and what products do you use?
KE: I wear a lot of protective styles, usually twists, braids. Pretty much five days a week, and then I let it all hang out on the weekends. I find that keeps my hair it’s happiest and works better for my lifestyle. I wash and deep condition weekly and moisturize morning and night. I love both Qhemet Biologics and Oyin Handmade lines. I like Qhemet’s Burdock Root Butter Cream, Aethiopika Hydrate & Twist Butter, and Amla & Olive Oil Heavy Cream. For Oyin, I love their Hair Dew and Shine & Define.
How did you get into acting?
KE: Acting was always what I knew I was going to do. It’s just the way I came wired; I knew that I would be an actor. I started in theatre. Did a lot of theatre in Minnesota, and then came out here [California], auditioned, and started booking jobs.
Are there any particular roles or projects you gravitate towards?
KE: Just good material. Things that resonate in one way or another to an audience. Good stories. I like triumphant stories. People who come over, beat the odds, and end up being inspiring. So a lot of my movies are about someone who has faced a lot of challenges and she finds her way through it.
On your website, you touch upon the topic of wearing natural hair as a celebrity. How has your natural hair been received in Hollywood?
KE: Great! People love it. They would love for me to wear my hair. I won’t do that because most people don’t know how to do it and my hair would end up very damaged. So I’ll wear wigs usually for my characters. When I wear my hair out, they’re like, “Oh, why don’t you wear your hair?” I tell them, “Because … I would be bald,” and my hair is my hair for me. So people love it.
I wish that there was more support within the industry in training people to style and care for natural hair though. A lot of beauty schools have not trained their students for that so many of the best natural hair technicians are self-taught and therefore not in the film/television union. Fortunately, on “Hit the Floor”, I work with a talented hair crew that does an amazing job with Sloane’s hair. But that is not always the case. I personally believe every licensed technician should, in addition to the traditional training, also be trained in and get many, many practice hours in natural hair care and styling before being certified. And then a concerted effort should be made to get them in the film and tv unions.
What is the hardest thing about being natural? What is the best thing?
KE: The hardest thing is my hair is very fragile. I would like to be able to wear it out more, but I know that I’ll end up with single-strand knots or it’ll be very dry. It’s just very fragile and sensitive, and that’s challenging because I’d like to be able to just wear it out everyday and all the time. But then what’s great about it is it’s unique; it’s me. People love it. I love it. It’s different. It’s just me. That’s what’s the best thing about it. It’s soft and fluffy and cottony … yeah, love it.
Your daughters – are either of them natural as well?
KE: My younger daughter went ‘natural’ too. I started about six months before her. She was inspired by me and YouTube videos. She’s always been natural, actually. I got her a keratin treatment because I didn’t know it was a permanent, heat damage thing. So in one fell swoop, she was “keratin-ed” up. We both wanted her to just go back to her natural hair. Her natural hair was just astonishing. She’s got amazing hair.
You look so fit and beautiful on your show, “Hit the Floor,” that it is not hard to believe your character was once a top professional cheerleader. What are your fitness and skin care routines?
KE: Taking care of my body is important to me. It’s funny because over the years it’s become less about how I look and more about how I feel. I lift weights three times a week, as well as cardio, and I do yoga in between. For cardio, it’s the treadmill or usually biking. I like to break it up. If I feel like going outside, I’ll go hiking. I get bored so I have to change things up. I feel great and the looking great is just the icing on the cake!
For skin care, less is more. I will use a natural cleanser of some sort to clean up my makeup after work. Other than that, I try to do as little as possible. I use natural oils for moisture and keep it very simple.
What has been your most favorite scene on the show?
KE: Well, there’s some really exciting stuff we’ve done for Season 2 that I can’t tell you about, but from Season 1, everything I do with Dean Cain is a lot of fun. I think because we’ve both been in the industry for so long, we just know how to have fun and not take it all too seriously. So the work experience is fun. That comes through in the work I think.
Are there any upcoming projects we can expect from you?
KE: “Hit the Floor”, Season 2 on May 26. Season 2 will be like Season 1 but on turbo charge! We have lots of surprises, lots of twists and turns, lots of dancing and of course lots of sexy. I literally can barely wait for our fans to see what we have been doing. It will blow your mind.
Where can viewers go to catch up on Season 1?
KE: VH1 is doing a lot of marathons right now. You can also get it On Demand with some cable providers. You can buy the DVD on Amazon, the whole first season. And I think it’s on iTunes too.
If you were not an actress, what would you be doing?
KE: I’d be a musician because I love music. I have so much respect for musicians and their artistry. I would be playing music somewhere.
KE: The guitar!