CN: Tell us your Hair Story!
Y: I've been natural for about 12 years. Before that, I've had every style known to man...relaxers, braids, press & curl, you name it, I had it! I decided to go natural because I realized that my hair had been manipulated or processed in some way from the time I was 6 or 7. Which is true for most of us. Most black women don't know what their natural texture is because most of us have never seen it. Growing up, I always admired the curls of Cree Summer ("A Different World") and Karyn Parsons ("Fresh Prince of Bel Air"). Never knowing that without a relaxer, my hair would curl in exactly the same way. I transitioned before anyone was talking about things like "the big chop". I just let my new-growth continue to come in. A mild texturizer is another way to ease your way into a natural style...it blurs the line between natural and relaxed hair a bit. But it does prolong the time it takes to get to completely natural hair.
CN: Have you always liked your curls? If not, how did you come to embrace your natural hair?
Y: My hair's pretty thick, so I have always been grateful for it, no matter what form it's in (pressed, relaxed, natural, etc...) But natural hair is my favorite because it's healthier and can withstand most weather conditions. Rain doesn't scare me. LOL! And though it may get bigger when faced with humidity, I love big hair so I just let it swell! :)
CN: What is your current routine?
Y: I wrote a long blog on my website all about my process, so I won't bore you guys by repeating all that here. Simply put, I used to wash my hair just about every day but I've heard that that isn't good for black hair. Now I'm down to two or three times a week. It all depends on the demands of my job, as well. Last year, on "Community" I wore a lot of wigs because I was worried about my curls looking the same from scene to scene in an episode...as natural girls know, curls have a mind of their own. :) But this year, I decided to wear my own hair on the show so I wash it more or less depending on whether the scene we're shooting that day has to match something we shot before. It's a delicate dance, but me and my AWESOME hairstylist on the show, Pauletta, work it out every day. :)
CN: How does your routine change when you're working?
Y: I sleep much more carefully when I'm working. :) Frizz is not a good thing on camera. But other than that, my routine remains the same.
CN: What are your must have products?!
Y: I still use all the products I mentioned in my website blog, but I've recently discovered some new favorites to add to the list. I'm in love with all the curl products by Curlz and Mixed Roots. I alternate using their Curl Souffles and Whipped Cream type products. They all smell divine and they hold your hair ALL DAY without being crunchy. Mixed chicks and Kinky Curly are still favs, as well. I've found that varying the products I use keeps my curls from getting used to any one thing. Alternating is the key.
CN: What are your staple hair styles? How do you achieve them?
Y: If it were left up to me I'd wash and wear my hair just wild and crazy. But as I mentioned above, it's pretty thick and it can get really BIG. I don't know if polite society is ready for all that. LOL! So I usually put it up in a full ponytail on top of my head. If it's a fancy type of event, I will bobby-pin it into a bun of some sort. It's usually big and messy, but again, big hair is cool with me! :) If it's a busy day and I don't have time to fuss with my hair, I just slick it back into a low pony tail with lots of gel. It's usually a helmet by the time it dries (lol!) but it's easy for a day when I'm running errands, etc. And my methods are simple, I don't like a lot of fuss. I just use large headband elastics from Goody. I think you can get 8 of 'em for like $2.50 from a drug store.
CN: How do you protect your hair at night?
Y: I'm the worst when it comes to protecting my hair. I've heard that silk pillowcases are awesome. I keep telling myself I need to invest in one of those. I don't really do anything at night. I don't wrap my hair, pin curl it or anything else. I just lay down and go to sleep. I know, that's horrible, right? What tips do you guys have? :)
CN: What's the best thing about being curly?
Y: The best thing about being curly is that I can just wash my hair and go. Don't get me wrong, I like to sit under the dryer because the dripping drives me crazy, but on a day when I'm rushing, I can truly just wash my hair in the shower, towel dry it, put a quick dab of a leave-in or curl souffle type product on it and walk out the door. Also, whenever it's unruly, a little water and a elastic band and all is well. It's the easiest hairstyle I've ever had!
CN: Do you believe your curls have ever prevented you from getting a role or being cast as a particular character? Have they ever helped?
Y: I believe having big, curly hair has helped me book in this industry, especially when it comes to commercials. When I started doing commercials ten years ago, no one had hair like mine. All the girls booking commercials back then were relaxed. In fact, the only black woman with natural hair at all back then was Diane Amos, the Pine Sol Lady. She and her braids paved the way for natural hair to be accepted in commercials. I hope my curly hair did the same. I do see a lot of curly haired girls in commercials these days. And I've been blessed to meet commercial sisters (with gorgeous locs and relaxed hair, etc...) who've told me that they went out and got curly wigs because they saw how much I was booking with my hair. And they rock those curly wigs and book like crazy! LOL! They think it's the hair, I know it's their talent. :) But whatever the reason, it's nice to see curly hair (real or wigged) having its moment.
CN: When on set, do you do your own hair or allow a stylist to step in?
Y: On "Community" I let my fabulous hairstylist, Pauletta do whatever she wants to my hair. She understands curly hair and I trust her. When I guest star on another show or do a movie or commercial, I usually come with my hair already done. It's just easier. I've found that most folks immediately put water or some other mystery product on curls. I don't know about anybody else's hair, but mine will frizz up and act a fool with mystery products and random water. LOL! I use water to slick my hair down when it's crazy, never to style it. And I've tried so many products I know the ones that work. You don't want to be a product guinea pig right before you're about to go in front of a camera. That's a recipe for disaster. I've talked to other actor friends with natural hair and we all have a tendency to come to set camera-ready or with a wig in hand. It's just easier. :)
CN: What would you tell a woman who has yet to embrace her natural curls?
Y: I feel like every black woman should go natural at least once in her life, just to see what she has! As I said before, most of us don't know what's growing out of our heads because we've been processed most of our lives. If you go natural and your texture is something you can't or don't wanna work with every morning, then it's easy to go back to a press or relaxer or braids. But what if you have a beautiful head of kinky/curly spirals or ringlets just waiting to have their moment to shine? All curly/kinky heads of hair are different; but I find them all to beautiful! The journey from processed to natural is not easy, if you don't opt for the "big chop" the transition process could take over a year. But I've found that seeing my hair grow out of my head in its unruly, crazy way is freeing. My hair is big, wild and crazy just like me. It's unique...as I am unique. It's truly something cool to embrace...if only for a little while. :)
CN: Tell us about your current or upcoming projects!
Y: I currently play "Shirley" on the NBC comedy "Community". It airs every Thursday night at 8pm. I also voice one of the characters on the animated show,"Pound Puppies", it will airs on the brand new network for kids called The Hub. Between those two projects I stay pretty busy.
CN: Is there anything you'd like to say to the CurlyNikki
Y: Just "thank you" for thinking of me for a feature on the site! :-)