On December 19th, in a beautiful Hawaiian ceremony, guitar legend Carlos Santana married the gorgeous Cindy Blackman. Cindy, a jazz and rock drummer often recognized for her work with Lenny Kravitz, is absolutely stunning. Her ‘fro is the definition of fierce, and get this, she’s 51! I know, right?! I caught up with her in Austria and she not only shared her hair secrets, we even got the scoop on her own personal fountain of youth!
CN: Tell us your Hair Story.
CB: I’ve been wearing my hair completely natural for the past four years. Prior to that, I used a softener, but didn’t like what it did to the texture, so I let that grow out. When I was younger I would get hard-core relaxers but when I got to high school, I stopped using them altogether and wore an Afro. So I guess you can say I’ve had a few periods in my life where I’ve used chemicals, but at this point, it’s completely natural.
Have you always liked your natural hair? If not, how did you come to embrace it?
My hair is really thick and full, and while I love it today, in the past, because of the sheer volume, I found it to be a chore to take care of [Laughter]. It took a while for me to figure out what to do with it—my hair is strong yet soft, full of tight, kinky curls, and is very easily damaged. So I have to be careful even with the kinds of products I use on my hair. For example, conditioners high in protein, cause my hair to break. I learned that from Diane Da Costa who used to care for and braid my hair. She told me that at every bend and turn along my highly coily strands, are a potential weak spot. You have to be careful, and using high protein products can do more harm than good. I’ve also learned that my hair dries out easily, so I don’t always use shampoo to cleanse. One time I’ll wash and condition, but then a couple of days later, I’ll just rinse it and condition, and then the next time I’ll wash it and condition it. These are just a few of the things I’ve had to learn in terms of what makes my hair its healthiest and its best.
I love Diane Da Costa. I have her book! Do you dye your hair at all? Your color is gorgeous.
Thank you, I've known Diane for a long time, she's an old friend. My hair color is completely natural. I love it.
What is your current routine?
It depends. Right now I’m on the road, so it’s done a bit more often because I’m working out and sweating every night. I might wash it maybe three times a week. Other than that, I’ll maybe wash once a week, and then condition it a couple of other times within that week. After it’s cleansed and conditioned, I apply a leave-in conditioner and then twist my hair in order to wear a twist-out the next day.
So the twist-out is your staple style?
Yes, definitely. I also like to twist and leave them in for a while which allows my hair to take care of itself. I even rinse and condition in the twists. I like not having to comb or manipulate it everyday, and my hair appreciates the restitution. But I do like wearing it out in an Afro, which is what I do mostly- twisting for the sole purpose of wearing a big 'fro.
You were stunning on your wedding day. Did you style your hair yourself?
Thank you so much! I wore my signature Afro for my wedding. My husband Carlos, actually requested it specifically! He said, ‘How are you going to wear your hair? Will you please wear your Afro?!’ And that’s exactly what I did. I love wearing my hair out. I washed it the night before, applied a couple of different conditioners, and braided it. I think I even lightly blow dried that night as I braided. The next day, I removed the braids, put some sheen on it, and I was ready.
What are your must have products?
There are a few that I’m using currently. I like PhytoSpecific products and use their normal line because it has the fewest proteins in it. Otherwise, I use a natural line called Wachters. They sell chlorophyll and a lot of other natural things for the body, but they also have a lovely shampoo and conditioner. It’s called Nuti-Hair Complex. I love these products because they make my hair feel so good. I also use Ouidad’s shampoo and conditioner. Very, very nice. Between these three companies, my hair is well taken care of.
I also recently found another staple by Karen’s Body Beautiful. I use the Butter Love as a daily moisturizer. It is really nice for after I’ve shampooed and conditioned my hair, because it keeps it soft and prevents it from drying out. I like that it’s completely natural, and it smells delicious too. I also use Wild Growth Hair Oil on my scalp and a little bit of it on my ends. It keeps my hair soft and conditioned. When I’m wearing my hair out in an Afro, it easily dries out, so at night I re-braid it with Karen’s Butter Love and when I wake up in the morning, it’s soft and re-hydrated.
Does the Butter Love help to set or is it more for moisture?
It’s more for moisture… it doesn’t really hold, although depending on what kind of look I want, I may twist it or I may braid it. If I want my Afro to really stand up, and be edgier, I braid it. If I want a softer look, I twist it. And when I apply the Butter Love, and either twist or braid, it seems to help my hair conform to whatever shape I’m trying to achieve. So it doesn’t have hold, but it does help to mold my hair, if that makes sense.
Once you’re braided or twisted up for the night, do you sleep on a stain pillowcase, don a bonnet, or a scarf?
My hair is actually best when I sleep with a silk or satin scarf, but I usually forget to do it. At home I have a stain pillowcase, but when I’m on the road I just sleep on whatever they provide, which is almost always cotton. My hair gets a little bit drier because of this. When I can remember to put it on, the satin scarf holds the moisture in, and I find that my hair is even softer when I wake up.
What do you use as far as hair tools are concerned? Are you a brush girl or a comb girl? Or, do you prefer your fingers?
I use mostly fingers actually; otherwise I use a wide tooth comb. I’m not much of a brusher- - I feel like it pulls my hair out. My older sister, who has beautiful, long, gorgeous hair, is an advocate for brushing. But my hair is quite a bit kinkier than hers, and I don’t really brush. In fact, I comb it as little as possible.
What's the best thing about being curly?
The best thing? My hair looks like only my hair looks! It’s my own look and it’s the look that God gave me. Of course a lot of care, and a lot of feeding goes into keeping my hair this way, but it is so worth it. Especially if you consider chemicals- if you choose to go that route, you are always in jeopardy of your hair breaking off or becoming damaged. But when you’re natural, there is no jeopardy. You just have to make sure you keep it conditioned well enough…washing it enough, but not too much. Once you get the balance down, you’re golden.
I cannot believe you’re 51 years old! What’s your secret?
Thank you, I really appreciate that! I’ve actually been speaking to my older sister… she’s trying to get me to write a book.
You should! We’d all buy it. I’d be the first in line.
Thank you [Laughter]. I’m really considering it because I love the health field and I love to get on the web and research, plus I’m a big advocate of supplementation. Firstly, before anything, I drink a lot of water. I think that’s really healthy for the body. It keeps everything fluid, it keeps everything flowing, and keeps everything as moisturized as possible, from the inside out. It keeps your whole body running efficiently. I take a lot of chlorophyll. I mentioned Wachters' earlier—this is the brand I buy. It’s the best that I’ve tried so far.
I try to eat a healthy diet- - a balanced diet. I don’t want to sound hypocritical because I don’t, rather I can’t, eat this way all the time, but as much as I can eat vegan and raw, I do. I do a lot of vegetable juicing, green juice, green drinks, and also fruit juicing. I also eat a lot of blended foods. For instance, I’ll take avocado, spinach, sprouts, fennel, an apple, and some cinnamon, cayenne, a little sea salt and some turmeric, and I’ll make that into a meal. So I eat a lot of blended foods…as much as I can. I also eat a lot of salads. I eat the salads because you need to chew, and you need the roughage in your system, but I eat the blended foods because you also need to give your body a break from the rigorousness of digestion. Remember, digestion takes a lot of energy and when your body is trying to digest something such as meat or other foods that are hard to assimilate, it doesn’t have time to work on other things… the self-healing aspect of our bodies takes a backseat. So when you give your body a break, and you’re eating blended foods or fasting, then the self-healing capabilities of your body are then able to work better. The energy can go to your skin, or your hair, rather than breaking down a huge chunk of meat.
From a practical standpoint, I tour a lot, and I can’t always eat that way. When I’m at home and in my own environment, I eat that way almost all the time. But again, when I’m on the road, I have to eat something, and even when I’m able to carry my own blender with me, I’m not able to go out and find organic produce in order to bring it back and then blend it, due to time constraints. In that case, I eat the best that’s available to me at the moment.
I eat meat once in a blue moon, and only when my body tells me to, and even then, I don’t eat much. I don’t eat chicken at all. I eat fish. I don’t eat much cheese; I eat dairy once in a while, but not a whole lot. I have desserts occasionally, but I try to avoid them because of the sugar content. At home, I don’t buy sugar. I don’t keep sugar in the house. However, I have been known to satisfy my sweet tooth outside, if I’m at a restaurant, hanging with my friends, or for a special occasion. Then I’ll have a dessert. I try to keep a balance.
Another thing I’ve been doing lately, that’s helping my body tremendously is paying attention to the quality of water that I drink. Carlos and I have a Kangen water machine. This water is amazing- I drink as much of it as I can… all day long… I drink a lot. The machine filters the water and it also adds active hydrogen to it and makes it ‘living water’ which kills bacteria and germs in the body, and helps remove toxins.
Without getting even more specific those are the things that I do. Those things , plus exercise. I carry a jump rope with me, I like to stretch, and love to do yoga whenever I can. And Carlos recently took me for my first tennis lesson, which was awesome. Keeping active and engaging in exercise regularly are really important for the body. Finally, I get as much sleep as I can because rest is important as well.
Wow. Amazing information. I had fallen off the healthy lifestyle wagon, but I’m back on now, thanks to you.
I get lots of emails from 40 and up curlies that often feel left out on Youtube and the Blogs. Some even feel that the new natural hair trend is for younger woman. How do you feel about this? Any words of encouragement?
For me, age is really a mental thing. I’m not a trend kind of person. If I want to wear my hair in an Afro, I will… I don’t care what everyone else is doing. And maybe when everyone is wearing Afros, I'll be into wearing my hair another way. I wear what suits me- I take into consideration the shape of my face and my hair texture when choosing a style. Some styles work better for my hair than others. It’s not about what’s trendy at the moment, do what works for you.
Is there anything you'd like to say to the ladies of CN?
To go along with my response to the previous great question, beauty is feeling comfortable with oneself and being happy with oneself. It’s a different thing for every individual. So, it’s a joy for each one of us to find our own sweet spot in terms of what makes us radiate, and what makes us tick. And to me, that’s what we have to find rather than what’s popular and trendy. There might be products that are out now, that weren’t 5 years ago, a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago. It’s nice to stay up on things and to see what’s available and to even be influenced by styles and trends sometimes. But ultimately the decision for how we wear our hair, what we do to our hair, and how we carry ourselves is something that is completely individual. I find this to be the most important thing to remember. We are our best, when we are ourselves.
Tell us about your current or upcoming projects!
I have a record that came out this year called Another Lifetime on Four Quarters Records. I collaborated with some great musicians- - Mike Stern (guitar), Doug Carne (organ), Vernon Reid (guitar), Patrice Rushen (keyboards), Benny Reitveld (bass), Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone) and others. It's a tribute to my friend and mentor Tony Williams.
I have some really nice projects coming up too. Right now, I’m on tour in Europe with my band. We're doing the songs from Another Lifetime, but the band consists of Mark Cary on the keyboards, Felix Pastorious on the base, and David Gilmore on Guitar. We’re just wrapping up this tour here, and then I’ll go home and play with Vernon Reid's band which will also be a tribute to the late great Tony Williams. We’ll play at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York at the end of the month, January 27th-30th. Come out and see me if you're in town!