Meet Shani... she helps us to remember that 'there’s more to life than just hair'!
CN: Have you always embraced your natural curls? If not, who or what inspired you?
No, I can’t say I’ve always embraced my natural curls because I didn’t learn how to care for
them until I was about 23 years old. I remember being a young girl with an afro that was always
brushed out. My mother herself has 3b/3c hair that is a massive explosion of curls! She didn’t
always wear her hair curly either. I remember her blow drying her hair and putting it into roller
sets and then she would blow my hair out and put it in a ponytail.
When I was about 21, I started locking my hair and went through the process of that until I saw Lorraine Massey’s book, “Curly Girl”. At the time, I was working in a bookstore and saw it on the shelf. There I was, with a head full of brown dreadlocks, thumbing through the pages and seeing how gorgeous all these women’s hair was. This was right around the time where natural hair was making a comeback. Being Latina, I always related to my hair being ethnic, so I always followed the trends of Black and Latina women. After buying the book, I committed myself to the idea that I would cut off my locks, and start fresh with a head of curls.
CN: How have family, friends, and strangers responded to your curls? How do you respond to them?
My mother was happy when she heard I cut my locks off. She wasn’t very accepting of the hair
style because she thought it was 'unsanitary' and very 'unsightly' on me. I expected her to be
happy. A lot of my friends were shocked because my hair was about an inch long, so it was
more that I cut my locks off than the fact that I was going curly. As far as responding to them,
well, I accepted their compliments and occasional gasps gracefully, but I didn’t look at their
responses as validations or rejections. It was outside of the journey that I knew I was beginning.
CN: What are your must have products?
For the moment, I use Suave Naturals Coconut conditioner as a co-wash, then I finish with
Tresemme Naturals conditioner. It does change though and after 7 years on the CG program,
I’ve been through a lot of products and a lot of routines. As far as gels, creams and mousses
go, I have been steering clear of the –cones, parabens, and –xanes. At this moment, I adore
Aussie’s Opposites Attract spray gel. It has a pleasant scent and doesn’t leave my hair crunchy.
I hope to try Kinky-Curly Curling Custard, but that’s the only new product I’ll be trying. Being a
curly girl can lead to obsessive product hoarding which is a real sickness if you think about it.
I’m trying to separate myself from the addiction and it’s been two months since I have bought
any new products. I’m doing good.
CN: Routine for the the perfect curl?
I basically start by letting water run through my hair. I allow it to become drenched. But, it’s
not textbook how it is explained in Massey’s book. My hair doesn’t untangle on its own, so I
use my fingers to separate the curls. Then I fingercomb it until it’s all at it’s length. It’s usually
well conditioned before I go in the shower so I don’t have to put conditioner to detangle it all
After I rinse, I take Suave Naturals Coconut conditioner and put A LOT in my hair to smooth it through and massage my scalp. I let it sit for a moment while I clean myself, and then I rinse it through. It’s usually very slippery so I rinse and massage at the same time.
After I co-wash, I then condition with Tresemme naturals conditioner. Just regular 3 minutes of
conditioning. I rinse in cold water with my head upside down while scrunching the water out. I
scrunch a couple of more times after I cut off the water and then I take a towel put it over my
back and let my hair relax for a minute. I do my best not to overhandle it while it’s wet. I just let it be. At some point, I spray the gel in, making sure to get the roots and I might scunch again, but it needs to be very wet. After that, I sort of arrange the loose waves where I want it parted and I LEAVE IT ALONE. It takes about 4 hours to completely dry. Sometimes I will take a nap while I rest my face on my arm and my hair is fanned out. It’s like I’m so used to the routine, I never roll over.
CN: How do you deal with the high dew points and humidity of summer?
For the summer, I usually bun 4 or 5 days out of the week to keep my ends from being exposed
to the strong sun of Florida. It also takes my mind off of my hair. Sometimes, it’s good because I
can free my mind to do other things besides playing with my hair. It’s amazing how many hours
I have spent, unknowingly, pulling my curls. It’s the best feeling ever, it’s like a drug. Pulling the
curls and feeling it spring back, it’s my guilty pleasure, but it does eventually cause splits and
CN: Anything else you'd like to add
It’s funny because I used to obsess over getting the CG routine done exactly the way it was
described. I was very to the book about it. Then, time passed, hormones changed and I aged.
The realization I have had is that your hair IS going to change. You might have a set of tight
curls today and some event will pass (pregnancy, stress, a move to a new location) and you will
end up with a head full of different textures and sizes of curls. Enjoy the ride! THERE IS NO
PERFECT CURL. My theory is that if the hair is well taken care of and trimmed regularly, it will
reflect that. If you take good care of your body and your emotional state of mind, that will also
show in your hair. I have so many stories I could tell, but they all have the running theme of
whatever happens in your life, it will reflect in your health, state of mind and your hair. My hair
is not the priority in my life. This is why my hair looks good. Some days I’ll see some waves on
the canopy and a thick row of 3b/3c curls underneath. One day long ago I would have been
so bothered by it, but nowadays I look at it differently. I have a relationship with my hair, not an
attachment to it. It has freed me. If you think that curly girls gone straight are the only ones in
denial, it’s not completely true. I was in denial with curly hair for a very long time. Attached to
the idea of what it ‘should’ look like. Detach yourself from the idea that hair shouldn’t be frizzy,
from the idea that all the curls should look the same, from not cutting your ends. And lastly, if
you are a product junkie, it’s important to reign that all in, after all, you could use that money to
buy vitamins or food that will make you feel better as a person. Pick up an instrument or learn a
language. Play with your kids. There’s more to life than just hair!
Muah muah muah XOXO all my Curly Sisters.