Tanika Ray's Natural Hair Journey


Tanika Ray, TV Host and Pop Culture Specialist extraordinaire, is On the Couch! She dishes on how she came to discover her curls, her different 'hair phases', and how she's wearing her hair today.

CN: Your hair is stunning! Have you always been a curly girl?

TR: As a kid, I would wash and go, I think because I grew up in Los Angeles. The only pressure to get a perm was from my mother, who was from Ohio. Other than that, I was in the pool almost every other day so it didn’t make sense to spend much time on my hair. That’s actually where all of my dreams kind of came to life. [Laughter] It was like this little magical world under there, and I felt like the Little Mermaid, or Diana Ross! I used to love swimming, and my hair was really, really long, I mean I was probably sitting on it at the time, and I loved to get it wet, and feel it move with the water.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw Diana Ross on television. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s what I look like!’ I embraced the poof and I embraced the largeness of it all. I think that’s when I discovered the power of my hair.

That's so cool! For me, when I saw her daughter Tracee, I wanted her hair, which definitely inspired me to start experimenting with my curls.

What’s funny is that when I was young, I never knew my hair was curly. My mom doesn’t have the same hair that I have. My dad’s hair is very straight, and my mom has very coarse hair. So the combination of the two made my hair. My mom was old school and only knew that when you get out of the shower, you comb or brush your hair. She never knew that that would disrupt the curl pattern. So for a long time I didn’t even know I had curly hair, until I was a preteen and took control over my locks. I got really lazy one day and didn’t do anything to it and was like, are those curls? Wow, that’s kinda cool. And realized the magic of NEVER EVER brushing your hair outside of the shower.

When I started high school, I remember my hairstylist, who had been trimming and conditioning my hair since I was 3, said, ‘you know your edges are a little rough. How about we start a little mild relaxer on your edges, just the new growth?’ I allowed her to do it, but after a while, of course, my whole head was permed, because new growth becomes your length as it grows out. My hair didn’t curl up as much as it used to, but I was okay with it because it was actually a little easier to manage. It was straight with a slight wave and I rocked it like that for a while. So much so that folks thought my hair was naturally straight. I had a lot of people in my head at the time. They would say things like, ‘it’s so pretty straight’, ‘I like it better that way’… you know all the pressures you get from people who are conditioned that Black women should wear their hair a certain way.

So I did that for a while, I even went to college that way. And then I got sick of putting chemicals on my head. But I did want to experiment with color. And I knew with my type of hair, perm and color was a dangerous combination. It wasn’t worth me having hair break off, or me living in the hair salon to keep it conditioned. It’s not my favorite place to be. I’m going to be perfectly honest, I feel like there’s another way to spend 8 hours of your day than sitting in the hair salon. And this hair salon was social central. She would do 3 people at once, so you’d sit, and you’d talk, and it was your whole Saturday! I loved being outside, I wanted to do things, I wanted to go see my boyfriend... whatever it was, I didn’t want to be stuck in the hair salon all day. So I had to pick one or the other. And I picked hair color over perming.

Did you transition out of the relaxer, or big chop?

I went through a transition where I was kind of sick of the hair thing. Everybody else was like 'your hair is so pretty', 'so long', it became everybody else’s thing, versus mine. It became the thing that everyone wanted to talk about except for me. It became the thing that everybody put so much pressure on me about, and at the end of the day, I was like, it’s just hair. I realized that I had to take my hair power back... reclaim it. So I chopped it all off. I don’t know if you’ve ever been short before, but there is nothing like a woman finding her beauty, her self-esteem, and her sexuality, sans hair, and I loved it. It was powerful.

I cut it to like about an inch and a half, and rocked a really short 'do for a while… for nearly 8 years. I've always been interested in hairstyles that I could visualize and clearly describe but according to hairstylists a 'lil tricky to execute. I went to all the top black salons in LA and said, 'I want a short, cute, rock 'n roll, spiky ‘do'. Most of all, I wanted it be low maintenance. Can you believe I was turned away?! Every hair salon was like, 'no, no, you gotta get a perm, you gotta do this, gotta blow dry it, gotta use a curling iron'. It seemed so daunting, and I all I wanted was a cute, spiky ‘do- - I wanted to wash, let it get spiky, and go. I wanted to be like 30 seconds, in and out of my bathroom. So I finally succumbed, and returned to the relaxer, thinking it would be easier. And let me tell you, I hated it! Hated it, hated it, hated it! It was so stringy and thin. The perm was too strong, and proved too much for my poor strands. I actually shared this on the Today Show. We were talking about worst hair styles, and that was the picture I showed- - with my hair short, really, really straight, and spiky. On top of it damaging my hair, it still was too much work, and wasn’t the easy wash and wear style I was hoping for. It was time to move on.

So you decided to stop perming and grow it out?

I’m a curly girl, I know this… I always knew this. It just sucked that once I was out of the short, straight hair phase, that I had to wait for my hair to grow back out. I wanted to just snap my fingers and have my curls back. But you have to be willing to be patient enough to go through a year and a half of bad hair days, and just embrace it and work with what you have. And eventually, it will evolve into something beautiful! Big and curly... this is me! And luckily as the perm grew out, my curls came back in. And that’s the hair that you saw me on Extra with.


Then I found the right person to cut it- - A Japanese phenom who is really great with razor cuts. My other stylist was about maintenance. So she would trim the ends, and he would cut it for the shape. He kept it choppy, no two strands were the same length, and it worked wonders. That is the only way to rock your fro—disheveled, asymmetrical, and choppy! I’m no ‘perfect fro’ girl. His cuts changed my life! So fierce!

I rocked my hair like this for 6-7 years and I loved it. It got blonder and blonder and at some point, I got bored. Even though I got so much love, especially from the sistas, which was so unexpected, and so appreciated. It was an amazing hair style, but you just can’t keep doing the same thing over and over. I was ready to grow my hair out, and that’s what I did! And maybe I’ll go back to that style one day.


How do you feel about the natural hair movement?

I love that so many people are experimenting with their natural hair because they’ve seen me on a television show, or Kim Coles, who I love, that just went natural, or any of the other natural hair celebs. I love that we’re inspiring each other to go outside of the box and know that you can look beautiful and at your best, without listening to the masses saying you have to be or look a certain way. So the Natural Hair movement thrills me to no end that we are empowering each other, rooting each other on and celebrating the results.

How are you wearing your hair today?

These days I'm wet-setting my hair. I'm working on a couple of projects and wanted versatility. I love embracing a more glam look but refuse to use heat in the form of curling irons and blow dryers if at all possible. I'm frequenting Dominican Hair salons. They have mastered the wet-set and my hair is looking awesome awesome awesome! It seems that wet-setting my hair is the healthiest way to preserve my hair color and health. I'm so excited to hear what the viewers will have to say about my hair when the shows air. Stay tuned...All I can say is that I'm having a total blast with my new projects and I can't wait for everyone to see them and my hair!

click image to enlarge

Tell me how you style your hair when you’re not working?


I wash and go as often as I can. If I’m not working, I am ‘hair in a bun’. I’m talking right out of the shower, put a little product in it, Moroccan Oil, Aveda Be Curly, roll it up in a bun to generate those curls, and put it on top of my head and go. That's kind of my everyday look. And it can be chic from time to time with the right earrings and lip gloss! [Laughter]. In the winter, I love letting my hair dry this way. Sometimes I’ll wash my hair the night before and sleep with my hair in the high bun, and in the morning when I let it down it’s gorgeous. This technique works for me because it straightens the back and the sides so that the curls hang a little looser. It’s little tips like this that I’ve picked up along the way that really help. For the most part if I’m not working, I am curly wash and go. I’m talking the easiest possible process ever.

I heard you say you like Moroccan Oil and Aveda Be Curly. Any other must haves?

Another must have is Living Proof. It’s a new great brand at Sephora. They have a No Frizz line that is unbelievable. It seems to lock in the curl and keep the frizz down. I really like it. It’s not too expensive, so you can experiment with it. I recommend everyone try it at least once. Which reminds me, us curly girls, we’re all so different. What works for some doesn’t work for all. No two curlies are alike! And it's so funny, when we see each other, even complete strangers will touch each others hair and share product tips. It's an easy conversation that will perk up our day!

Follow me @tanikaray

69 Weigh in!:
Sue said...

I've always admired her curls, so beautiful. That roller set is fierce!

AnalyticsOlayemi said...

OMG! I am so happy you interviewed TR! I have been wondering when you were going to have her on the couch. TR is my hair idol and inspired me to wear my curls years ago while in high school.
Love your hair Tanika and you seem like an amazing women.

Anonymous said...

OMG I LOVE THIS! And i love her! Now all you have to do is get Tracee Ellis Ross, Hannah Hodson and little Katy from my wife and kids =) lol but great interview Nikki

Toya | The Limerick Lane said...

I love her and her hair! I need her hair color on my head.

Kulem said...

Youtubing roller set! I want to try it!!!

Laleepop14 said...

Wow her and her hair are absolutely gorgeous!!! Im gonna have to go pick up the products she recommended even though our hair tyoes are nothing alike!! Her roller set is beyond fierce!!!

I love watching her and her hair on tv!!! Great job Nikki!!

GGmadeit said...

Her hair is to die for! Almost makes me want to grow it out! Hahahahahahaa

Luscious Mahogany said...

I absolutely love her hair, especially her big curly fro love it love it love it. Great interview Nikki!!!

CocoEuro said...

Oh! Thank you for that interview Nikki!! I always admired Ms. Ray!! and her hair LOL! I too recently fell in love with Roller Sets and buns!!

Anonymous said...

Love Tanika Ray!....Now we just need an interview with Marsha Ambrosius!

sarah said...

"Everybody else was like 'your hair is so pretty', 'so long', it became everybody else’s thing, versus mine."

could 100% relate to that and is the reason i went natural. loved the interview! good job Nik!

Anonymous said...

Nikki, can you find out the name of the stylist that cut her hair? My hair is fine and all one length and so BLAH. I think if I can get someone to cut it to give it the fierce factor, I will happily cut off some hair.

Thank you

april said...

I love watching the Wayans Brothers episode "Dee's Dilemma" with Tanika Ray! She was SO young and her curls were popping among other things lol. Her hair has always been beautiful.

Anonymous said...

She has very pretty curls and I love the color. If I'm not mistaken, she was just on the Elgin Charles show that airs on VH1 getting a weave. I wonder if her interview with Nikki was prior to the show taping?

Anonymous said...

Her hair always looks like a weave to me. Not trying to be negative, just an observation.

Anonymous said...

I always things it's weird that Diana Ross, who wears fake hair, is anyone's inspiration for having "natural hair." I remember asking my mom about the "wig" that Diana Ross was wearing in the Wiz, and she just said "hush" b/c I think to her it was impolite to point out when someone was wearing a wig.
Tracee Ellis Ross's hair is real but I doubt Diana Ross has seen her real hair since the Wiz, and she certainly hasn't shown it out in public.
I guess in 10 years we'll be reading about girls who were inspired to go natural by Beyonce's
"hair", which while a bit extreme are usually very large and textured looking hair.
I mean, at least acknowledge the irony of that...I just can't imagine how someone who always hides her true self would inspire anyone.
But nice to see this lady getting exposed to a different audience, b/c I know I don't watch anything she does and probably wouldn't know who she was if it wasn't for her getting interviewed about her hair.

Anonymous said...

"I discovered the power of my hair." Love it!!
Simply gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

She wasn't that young on the Wayan's Bros b/c she's about 40 now...that's the beauty of darker skin, and hers looks great.

Anonymous said...

Such a sweetheart!

Anonymous said...

I smell a hater!

Anonymous said...

I love her hair, it is beautiful and so is she :)!

And can we have one interview without going into the negative comments?!?!? What matters is that we all love our individual hair, who are we to judge other people's hair??? It just bugs me that every time Nikki posts a great interview about a great head of hair, there has to be at least one person talking negatively about her hair. I don't know about you, but if I were a celebrity and took that time to speak with Nikki and share with you a little piece of my world, I would not want to come on here and read some of the comments that are left. Every one doesn't think our curly/kinky hair is beautiful, the least we can do is uplift and support each other. Just my 2 cents...

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview Nikki!

Unknown said...

I also saw her getting a weave on Elgin Charles VH1 reality show. Her natural hair, which appeared the same color was braided... I don't think it's hating to state facts gals. It's hard to know with celebrities when they are showing their REAL hair and this instance is no different.

Aside from that-- great interview and her hair is pretty.

Anonymous said...

It is obvious Tanika's curls are real. I will refrain from responding to the negavtive comments because I know that they arise from when we were in bondage 400 years ago. But, I will say this, I will definitely be going to Tanika's stylist Yumi. My coils need shaping and it is hard to find stylists, (Black White, Asian), who can cut coily hair that has a mind of its own. Great interview as always.

Anonymous said...

Her hair is gorgeous! whether it's installs or not. Why must we always find something negative to say? whether a natural wears extensions or not it doesn't make them any less natural than kinky afro wearing sistas who choose not to. Both white and hispanic women have been wearing installs for years. J-Lo, Parish Hilton, Brittany Spears. Why do the women on these natural blogs make such a big deal of it and always find a way to bring some sort of division to the black community. Beyonce's hair is natural and very healthy probably because she avoids heat and chooses to wear protective styles. uugh can't we stop the hating and give a beautiful sista her props.

Anonymous said...

If people are so bothered by comments that state the obvious or ask questions about a celebrity's hair, then perhaps the comments should be turned off for celebrity interviews?
I for one just find it disengenous to have someone with a weave talking about "their" hair when we aren't looking at it. I don't think it is "hating" or being negative when one points out the obvious.

Nikki Aimee said...

"I don’t know if you’ve ever been short before, but there is nothing like a woman finding her beauty, her self-esteem, and her sexuality, sans hair, and I loved it. It was powerful."

YAASSS!!! I remember cutting my BSL hair completely off. It was such an exhilarating feeling. I'm waist length now and I want to cut it all off again at times but I think I'm too determined to see it at my tailbone... *shrug*.

Love Tanika Ray!! Awesome Interview. Always wanted to know about her hair journey.

Anonymous said...

Anyone looking for a person in the L.A. area who knows how to cut multi-textured hair?
Try Shaie Amiel at his salon in Studio City, CA.- Capella Salon. He uses the Devachan cutting technique (established by Lorraine Massey-Curly Girl author). Each curl is cut individually, while dry and then, if necessary again while wet.

AusetAbena said...

I love her. I see you my Spelman sister.

Anonymous said...

If this is a weave, at least it's a textured one. I , personally , do not like fake hair (at all), except for use in cases of people who suffer from hair loss due to medical reasons. However, with all the women in Hollywood seeking to get that yaki straight/very loosely wavy Indian hair, Tanika Ray's curly look (fake or not) is refreshing.

Shaun said...

Here is a closer look at her over-processed hair. Sry, I just hate deception in the natural hair community. All textures are so beautiful, why front?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QIIIuGtnSg8

Anonymous said...

Why can't a girl just be having a bad hair day Shaun? It looks great here
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahTr8STuuAc&feature=related

Tanika, I think your hair is beautiful, shake the haters and keep doing what you're doing, repping for Team Natural when not many are, AND doing it in Hollywood, where most women WON"T!

Anonymous said...

I currently have a curly weave, my first one, just because I wanted to try it as a protective style choice (somewhat regretting it now as I pray that my edges are still in tact :)However I am a type 4 natural, 3 years now, and I wondered the same thing about Elgin's show; just wondering if she had one because he spoke as if she was a regular client of his. Nothing wrong with a weave, the show just gave the impression that she wore weaves regularly which stumped me because I always thought her curly hair was hers (she did get a straight weave on the show). I still think her hair is beautiful and have always loved it; whether it's hers or not, I guess is her buisness :) But I had the same exact question as others had, just too afraid to ask it; but I dare never to judge anyone for what they do to their hair.

Crystal said...

I know Tanika personally and she has gorgeous hair, it's real ladies, call off the dogs!

Anonymous said...

She's absolutely gorgeous! Have always loved her hair!

In other news- I see the natural hair nazis are at it again. Crabs in a barrel. Here's a tip, if you don't have anything positive to say, don't say anything at all. Lots of naturals get weaves to give their hair a break from styling, but in these pics, that's her hair. Who are you to call her out for being dishonest? That's just rude! Oloshi.

Anonymous said...

I love her hair! As far the negative comments go- and there are few on this post, I think it's about the way you express your viewpoints. Insinuating that somebody is lying about their hair is just wrong. You don't know that person. You haven't examined her hair in person to come to that conclusion. There's nothing wrong with having a differing opinion, but if your delivery is rude, then it's going to rub people the wrong way. We're all here to uplift one another, not tear each other down.

Anonymous said...

Nikki, I LOVE the blog. One of the reasons I've been such a loyal follower of the blog is because it's educational, inspirational and welcoming. I've followed other popular natural hair websites that just had an atmosphere of negativity. I fear that the tone of the comments section is taking a turn towards negativity. Please, please, please address this. Everbody has a right to their opinion; however, tact and respect are key.

Jessica said...

I always loved Tanika's hair. I think its wonderful that she is representing the natural hair and showing how beautiful it is. It doesn't matter if its her natural hair or not. The fact that she is not mainstream "long silky-straight" gives lots of inspiration! Especially to young black girls who think only straight hair is pretty.

I love her hair color. I wish I could find a good colorist in Dallas to give me that look!

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Tanika RAY! I wonder why her career never really took off? She is so much better than half these so-called journalists in Hollywood. Regarding her hair, I do believe it is all hers just not her true texture. Looks like a really good banu knot-out, but in the end, who cares, it's on her head.

Anonymous said...

Women can be so vicious. I am assuming that we are all adults here. There are ways to voice your opinions without tearing others down. Does it occur to you that Tameka who so kindly took time out of her day to give this interview to
Nikki might read these comments? Also if people keep tearing down every celebrity that is interviewed then others might not be interested in being featured. Please be respectful.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! Can you please interview Debbi Morgan of All My Children and Eve's Bayou fame soon.

Anonymous said...

her hair is gorgeous! i dream of having a roller set THAT beautiful....maybe ONE DAY! :-)

Anonymous said...

I am a relaxed but Tanika's hair is so gorgeous. I love her and Tracey ellis ross's hair. Im sure her hair is real because i remember the controversy when barbara walters pulled on her hair to see if it was fake. Even if she wore extensions sometimes thats ok too we all need a break and a change sometimes.

KCAS said...

Well, I really like her curly look more than the one she has nowadays, but that´s her choice. I must say that I live in Brazil and embrancing my natural texture was hard. There was no one I could take as an example. I was so in doubt if I should give my natural hair a go... Then I found a picture of Tanika (with the blue blouse) and found her so fierce!! That was when I saw that natural hair could also be awesome!!

Anonymous said...

I always thought that she was wearing a fierce curly wig! When I was looking for a curly wig, I wanted it in the style and shape of hers because I
thought it was so cute.
That's cool that it is actually her natural hair. Go girl!
SN: I believe that natural celebrities are more apart of the natural movement rather than the inspiration for it. I think that women who want to go natural are inspired by everyday naturals that they have access to in person and on the internet. I think that when celebs like Tanika Ray get comments it is more of then appreciating that type of hair more now. I definitely don't think that any recent natural celebrities can take credit for inspiring the natural movement.

Anonymous said...

who da woman? where she at?

Curly Nikki it is you girlfriend!!!!!

I am talking about a "fo real natural hair interview getting sista from some long admired sistas!!!"

you da one.

absolutely enjoyed every line of this post! I have admired Taneka for the longest so thank ya!!!

loved it!

and love your site! fantastic!

ikkin said...

I love when she said that Her hair became everyones elses subject to talk about and obsess about when she wanted to transition. That's exactly what co-workers, friends and family did to me. Love this interview

Sweetlady said...

OMG...I have been wanting you to interview the beautiful and talented Ms Tanika Ray.Her hair & color are so fierce.Nikki,we really appericate the time and dedication you put into getting celebrity interviews.Also,the time they take out of their busy schedule to share their experience with us is noted and appricated as well.May all of us continue in our hair journey weather natural,relaxed or straight, with kindness to others no matter their hair choice(s) maybe.

Anonymous said...

Excellent interview Nikki! Love Tanika's hair, always have. Can't wait till my hair grows out!

Anonymous said...

and i can't wait to hear what new projects you have in store!

keisha said...

Love love love the interview! She is definately an inspiration and OMG the hair LUST!!!!

Anonymous said...

I love Tanika and her hair is fierce.

When I was young, I didn't know Diana Ross's hair was fake until my Mother told me. I also wanted to be like her and Latoya Jackson and Karen White, etc. Nothing wrong with that. This are beautiful black women weaves and all.

Anonymous said...

This interview made the Karyn Parsons's one even more refreshing!

Anonymous said...

I've always loved Tanika Ray's hair. She was one of my inspirations when I decided that I wanted to go natural.

Anonymous said...

Great interview! I've loved her hair. She rocks it! :) ~KF519

Anonymous said...

Great interview! She's lovely and vivacious!

Anonymous said...

Here is a link that will silence all of the Tanika Ray haters! I love you Tanika,and I love your hair!

http://www.naturallyjunky.com/2011/03/tanika-rays-hair-revealed.html

Rayna said...

Anonymous @1:02

"with all the women in Hollywood seeking to get that yaki straight/very loosely wavy Indian hair, Tanika Ray's curly look (fake or not) is refreshing."

That is why I always liked the way Diana Ross chose to wear her hair.

Anonymous said...

OMG she has amazing hair!! I do wish she would be more forth-coming with how she achieves her fluffy curls b/c this is obviously not a wash-n-go.

Anonymous said...

Her hair looks very much like a wash and go to me; what makes it "obviously" not so???
Once a stranger asked me "how do you make your hair curl".
When I said I just shower and shake it dry she got mad and said "why don't you be honest and tell me what you really do"!
Another time a stranger asked me "where to you BUY your hair"?
When I said it grows out of my head like this she got mad at me and said "whatever"!
Some people are so limited in their view of our natural beauty.

Anonymous said...

OMG Tanika...I wish I had found your blog yesterday. I have the same curl pattern and a very similar length as you and last week I decided that I wanted to get my hair colored and styled to look like yours. I took your photo to a stylist for a consultation today and she assure me that she could cut, color and style my hair like yours and today I look like Ronald McDonald.

Needless to say, I as SICK TO DEATH about this. I am a breast cancer survivor and have been growing my hair out since chemo just over two years ago and on Thursday 5/26, I will be graduating with my Masters and my hair is sooo ugly, I am too embarrassed to walk across the stage. I am crying as I write this comment.

The stylist is going to put some tracts in my hair tomorrow to try to fix it. I HAVE NEVER WORN WEAVE!!

Can I please have the name of the "Japanese phenom" that cut your hair. I also live in LA and hope that maybe I can salvage some of my beautiful hair.

My email is [email protected]

Thanks and God Bless You!!

Kyunda said...

I love her!!!! She is my hair idol, i love her/your hair and color. Thanks CN for speaking with Tanika.

Anonymous said...

Love Love Love her hair :)

Anonymous said...

Great interview and she is so beautiful i just want to know whaat her hair color is....

Anonymous said...

Tanika and Tracee Ellis Ross are my hair idols!! Thanks for this interview with her. My choice of color over a texturizer is why I went natural a year and a half ago, its so cool we have that in common!

And lets face it, in this day and age all women of all ethnicities on television wear weaves from time to time! It has nothing to do with whether they're relaxed, natural curly, kinky or wavy. Its about volume, glamour and protecting your real hair from daily styling damage.

Anonymous said...

Tanika is the reason I went curly! I loved watching her and her hair on Extra!

Anonymous said...

her hair doesn't even look like a wig. She's mixed obviously. Many of the people on this website are mixed

Dr. Heather said...

My hair is similar to TR's, but much shorter. I love her color! I think this summer, I will get a beautiful bronzey/caramely color to accentuate my skin tone, like Tanika's...

Anonymous said...

Yeay! Im dominican, and yes we are good at doing hair. Wet roller setting makes ur hair grow like crazy. Unfortunately we also love to relax. But im a natural dominican chick and can say for certainty tghathat we have wonderful hair care. I love tanika 's hair n i can so relate

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