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June 8, 2010

On the Couch with Dennisha Pratt of PBS


I must admit, I'm not what one would call a viewer of the PBS Kids Sprout channel. I'm not exactly in their target demographic, but then again, I will be soon! So when I received this email from Tamika R., my ears perked up:

Hi Curly Nikki,

I love your blog, it is so informative. I especially like reading about celebrity curlies...their whole routine and how they maintain their hair.
I was wondering if you could interview Dennisha Pratt of PBS Kids Sprout for a celebrity spotlight? She recently shocked her viewers by coming on air with a short, curly fro! Previously, her hair was long and straight, and needless to say I was so excited when I saw her show today! I was like,"OMG, she's a curly now! Yaa! You go girl". According to Twitter, "Dennisha is wearing her hair naturally curly instead of straightening it". However, she's been receiving some criticism (of course) from viewers on Facebook and on Twitter, etc. who are less knowledgeable about curly hair.
I went on Facebook and explained that, a lot of women stop relaxing their hair, and transition or 'Big Chop' in order to achieve healthier hair. I also explained that she is an example to all the children who watch her show and that they don't have to conform to today's society that states we must have long bone straight hair to be beautiful.
I'm sure, once the word gets out, other curlies will want to know why and also what her regimen is, what products she uses, how long she transitioned, what convinced her to Big Chop, and what are her go-to styles are, etc.
I immediately jumped on it, and managed to get Dennisha on the couch! Check out what she had to say:



CN: What is your hair story?

DP: Well, let me begin by saying, when I made the decision 10 months ago to transition, I had no idea that I would be doing it on national television! Getting relaxers every 6-8 weeks was all that I knew. Growing up, I didn't know of women who were proud of their natural hair. It wasn't until last year, when I was sitting in the hair shop with relaxer in my head that I asked myself, "Why are you doing this? Why are you hiding who you are? What would happen if you didn't do this anymore?" That turned out to be my last relaxer. In the past, during middle school, high school and college days, I would get micro braids and always enjoyed the textured "new growth" that was coming in but would then rush off to get it straightened. I didn't realize that I could keep that textured hair forever. I later decided to go natural for the following reasons: I was curious what my actual hair looked like and felt like, I wanted to be free from relaxers and harsh chemicals, I was searching for my identity, I found it to be empowering that I was able to do different things with my texture, I wanted a change in my appearance and I felt that going natural was a truer representation of my personality. So I decided to transition long term from relaxed to natural hair. I was offered my dream job hosting a national kids television show called The Sunny Side Up Show for Sprout, the first 24-hour preschool television channel. At the time, I was hired with flat ironed hair and very nervously informed the network of my decision to go natural. They were very understanding and completely supported my desire to keep my hair curly for the show. I was overjoyed that I would no longer have to risk heat damage and could announce to the world that I'm on my way to the hair that I was intended to have.

CN: What or who inspired you to go natural? Was it a spontaneous decision or a process?

DP:
While living in NYC, a couple of close friends encouraged me to look into going natural. I eagerly began to research natural hair care. I quickly became obsessed with learning as much as possible and began watching YouTube tutorials and reading blogs and books. The more I learned the more excited I became about going natural. It was a spontaneous decision that has become a process!

CN: How have your family and close friends reacted to your decision? Are they supportive?

DP:
I have received so much support from friends and relatives. My biggest support has been my husband throughout this emotional journey. There are days when I don't know what to do with my growing hair and he tells me that I'm beautiful and reminds me that I need to be patient because I always figure something out. It hit my mother hard because she was used to me having long relaxed hair for over twenty years and didn't understand. I am happy to say that she is coming around to the idea of me being natural.

CN: What do you think of the pressure you will inevitably experience from the industry to return to a straight style? How do you plan to deal with it?

DP:
I feel that the acting industry has become more open to natural hair over the past several years as more women are embracing their texture. Transitioning to natural hair is a decision that I feel strongly about and will fight to stay true to my decision.

CN: What products have you used or would like to try?

DP: I have slowly been cleaning out my hair products by throwing away things that have no benefit to my hair (products with mineral oil, petroleum, etc.). For the first time ever, I'm paying attention to the ingredients label and making choices based off that. It feels good to know what I'm putting on my hair and body. Right now, I like Carol's Daughter products, Organic Roots Stimulator products, Cantu Shea Butter Leave-in Conditioner, and my favorite, Extra Virgin Cold Pressed Coconut Oil. I feel that as my hair continues to grow, some products may change, but this is what works for me right now. I am careful with my purchases as well and won't allow myself to buy new products until I've used all of another product. This can be hard at times but it keeps me from becoming a "product junkie".

CN: What's your current routine/regimen? Do you do your own hair?

DP: Because I've made the decision to transition long term rather than big chop, I go to a local natural hair salon in Philadelphia called Bigwigs to get straw sets for the show. After my on-air week is over, I then use conditioner to help detangle and prepoo. Straw sets can make my ends dry so I co-wash and use Organic Roots Stimulator Olive Oil Replenishing Deep Conditioner and pay close attention to my ends. Once I've completed this, I follow up with the Cantu Shea Butter Leave-In Conditioner and either set my hair on perm rods and head for my hooded dryer, or wet bun my hair, or do flat twists. I'm excited about continuing to learn how to style my own hair.

CN:
Who are your natural inspirations?

DP: I have many natural inspirations that range from my friends who are natural or transitioning, to the ladies of YouTube who are brave enough to share their journey and tips with others, ladies of hair care blogs and forums, to Jill Scott, Esperanza Spalding, Corrine Bailey Rae...this list goes on and on.

CN:
What would you tell someone toying with the idea of transitioning or Big Chopping?

DP: Take your time in making this decision because it is a BIG one. I made the decision to transition and it takes a tremendous amount of patience and commitment. Sometimes I feel that things would be so much easier if I big chopped, but I chose to take this path. I usually seem to do things the hard way, so why not carry that over to my hair as well?! Seriously, take your time and do your research.

CN: Do you feel that your natural hair will ever help or hinder your chances of getting a specific role? How so?

DP: I don't feel that my natural hair will be a hindrance to me because I'm embracing it and am building confidence. As long as I'm true to myself on all levels, I can never go wrong.

CN:
Is there anything else you'd like to add?

DP: I am so thankful to be a part of a movement that shows African American girls and all girls with curly hair that it's ok to embrace your texture and be confident in yourself!

28 Chime in!:

Anonymous said...

I love Sprout. (I have a preschooler) Way ta go, Dennisha! Love the new look.

I can just hear Dennisha singing the "Happy, Happy Birthday to You" song right now. :-)

Redbonegirl97 said...

Cool beans. I know nothing about Sprout since my kids are 10 and older, but I think it's great that she doing her thing.

Peace, Love and Chocolate
Tiffany

kisha said...

my son used to watch sprout too but spongebob and icarly took over **sigh** congrats on ur decision, you wont regret it AT ALL!!! i respect the fact that you made ur decision despite what the corporate "rules" are and u are an EXCELLENT example to show young girls we are beautiful as we are **cue mary j song** take meeee as i am...or have nooothing at all.

MzMannerz said...

I am deep in the days of watching Sprout since I have two year old twins, and am so excited about this interview! I can also hear her singing the Happy Birthday song.

Dennisha looks gorgeous with her curly hair. Yay!

Angelina said...

Shame on the parents that actually took the time to criticize her hair without educating themselves on why she made the decision to wear her hair curly in the first place. Dennisha is setting the best example of teaching young children to be themselves. I think she is also going to make such a positive impact on many black children watching that show. I wish I would have seen more women like her on T.V. when I was growing up. I find it funny it's okay for a non-black woman to choose wear their hair curly when she wants, but when a black woman (especially on TV) chooses to wear her hair curly, people make it out to be some kind of political statement.

Anonymous said...

where is the salon bigwigs located in philadelphia? i dont know anyone who does a straw set anymore

exhale1913 said...

My daughters LOVE LOVE LOVE they Sunny Side Up morning show! Love your hair Dennisha!! What an awesome role model you are for our natural curly girls! keep up the good work!!1

af said...

Great interview, might have to tune into the channel to see what it's about.

She looks so much more youthful and vibrant with curly hair.

NaturallyCurlyDee said...

I love Sprout!!! I have a 5 year old godson, and a niece on the way so I love Sprout!! So happy you made an educated and personal decision to benefit yourself...not only that Sprout supported your decision yayyyyy hats off to them!!! Your hair is beautiful loving the curls!!

E D Lewis said...

We watch Sprout and consider Dennisha a positive role model. My 4 year old is proud to say she has curly hair like her. WTG!!!

Kelly said...

AAAAAH!!! This MADE my day!!! My family loves sprout and as a CA mommy of an AA daughter, a CA daughter, and a CA son we all about flipped our lids when we saw Dennisha's new hair! We were so excited to see it natural and curly and beautiful! My 4 year old CA daughter was the most excited because Dennisha now has hair like her AA little sister! Thanks for taking the time to interview her! I'm so glad that overall she is getting such a positive response. She looks great! And I'm grateful my little girlie has more and more examples around her that her natural hair is beautiful hair!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this story! "The Sunny Side Up Show" is my 2 year old nephew's favorite show!

Anonymous said...

I Love LOVE LOVE The Sunny Side Up Show!! I was very happy when I saw Dennisha added to the show. Her hair is beautiful!!!! My 4 year old LOVES Dennisha!!! I think her being on the show is a great thing!

Beads, Braids & Beyond said...

This is definitely one of my favorite interviews. The only two channels I really allow my daughter to watch is Sprout and Noggin so we know the birthday show all too well! (I have her on camera singing the song.) We were both excited to see Dennisha with her "curlies" (as A likes to call them). My daughter took notice very quickly.

Thanks for being a role model Dennisha. Keep up the great work!

Notthecoolmom said...

I am so excited to see this interview, I was going to tell you about her because when I was off I saw her and thought, hmm I think she's going natural. I love it! Especially for my little one to see. I can't imagine doing a live show, let alone for children, but I know how the "industry" can be about change period. Love the interview.

Anonymous said...

My curly comrades...let's embrace Dennisha. I have a pre-schooler and we watch Sprout's Sunny Side Up show quite a bit. I also read updates on Facebook for Sprout. There are some unnecessary comments out there. Let us rally around Dennisha. If you have kids, know people with kids, like kids, were once a kid (LOL), or just want to support a fellow curly...let Sprout know we appreciate her being there.

battlekat said...

I love sprout and I am excited about seeing Dennisha on the show.

Anonymous said...

i watch with my 1 year old all the time. her hair looks wonderful.

Tamika R. said...

OMG! I am ecstatic about this interview! My family and I LOVE Sprout. When I saw Dennisha on the Sprout show and saw that she was newly natural I just had to write to Nikki. My children said "Hey Mommy, she has hair like you!" (I BC'd in Dec. 2009). I am thrilled that she was able to get an interview. My children were excited to read the interview as well (and to see mommy's name!) Wow Dennisha has really put alot of thought into her transition. And it shows thru her dedication that her hair is thriving from her efforts. We just finished watching her on Sprout and her hair was FABULOUS! I'm glad that the TV network has supported her in her decision to be natural and that she has a supportive husband,family & friends. Dennisha is definatly a breath of fresh air to watch. Big and Little Curlies everywhere now have an example to watch on TV. Great job Dennisha-you've set the bar and thank you again Nikki for the Excellent Interview! This made my day :-)

Loveleemama said...

My toddler loves the sunny side up show. I was excited when Dennisha started and even more excited to she that she went natural. I think she looks great and it seems to fit her personality better. I pointed it out to my baby that she has curly hair like us. More power to Dennisha. I read some of the comments when she first started but I think its because like some kids, parents dont take change very well.

Steve Marshal said...

An interesting story.Thanks a lot for sharing the post.To know about natural hair growth....

Tamikko said...

Congrats to Dennisha and PBS for being brave, and not being afraid of change. For so many years, ethnic hair has been looked upon as being a bad thing, but many fail to realize that super curly hair has options. Super curly hair can be worn straight, wavy or curly without being chemically treated. I hope PBS doesn't stop there, Dennisha's hair can be styled many ways. Society style themselves after role models like Dennisha. FYI, "Bigwigs Hair Studio" is located at 1604 South street, Phila Pa. (215)545-5277. Thankyou Nikki and viewers for taking notice and your pleasant compliments- Dennisha's stylist

Kristen said...

This is great to see! I rarely see the good morning show, but was home with my toddler and noticed that Dennisha's hair looked different and thought she had possible gone natural. I will have to make sure that my 5 year old gets to see her and point it out for her. :-)

Anonymous said...

Straight, natural; what ever. I just want to say that I went on a month of leave (vacation) from the Army and wound up having to watch Sprout with my 9 month old while my wife was at work for most of that time. However, it didn't take long before I found myself looking forward to the days when Dennisha was hosting. :)

Anonymous said...

The tide is turning! I pary for the day when more people on TV will wear they natural texture without it being associated as a political statement! Watch this space! :D

Seoulmama said...

I love her and always look forward to when she is hosting. I love her singing I hear her all day long!

Angie said...

I love her hair natural. I think she will open doors for other celebrities to go natural. I wish you the best.

Anonymous said...

Are you pregnant?

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