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 immediately jumped on it, and managed to get Dennisha on the couch! Check out what she had to say:
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.
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!