Eric Benét on Natural Hair + I Reflect on Celeb Interviews

So somehow, I forgot I had an interview with Eric Benet scheduled for today. It’s been planned for weeks and I’ve been pursuing him (in a completely non-stalkerish way) for more than a year. Hubby laughed at the ridiculousness that I could forget such a thing… which got me to reflecting on this whole celebrity interview phenomenon.

Let me tell y’all. It hasn’t been easy. My first interview was with Syesha Mercado back in May of 2009 and it's been a long road. I’ve been laughed off phones (seriously) and my emails have been ignored, trashed and spammed (delete, delete, delete), like I’m a Nigerian princess asking for help in exchange for millions. But through humorously uninhibited persistence and the influence of the Natural Hair community, I’m proud to say that the reception is much warmer now.

Only recently has Hollywood been able to appreciate the full potential and benefits of the internet and social media. People who had already achieved a certain amount of fame generally tended to see the Internet as an alleyway of negativity—a place where their reputation is defamed and where malicious rumors are spread without the ability to defend themselves (where the heck would they possibly get that idea?). Also, and I'm sure this won't come as a surprise, but blogs weren't very much respected until recently.

But now, once I get past the hard ass publicists…



…the celebs are excited and enthusiastic to share their hair journeys. They're just people too, and it turns out that they have the same issues and struggles that we do. They face the same challenges with their hair, only sometimes more intensely because they’re under the microscope of the media and at the mercy of production companies that may or may not value natural hair. So it’s fascinating that they are willing to share what their struggles have been, and how they’ve used this information to empower themselves the same way we have.

Their willingness to share, is in large part because of you, the community-- The CurlyNikki community, and the other communities of which I’m sure you are a part. I’d like to encourage you to continue to participate and participate more fully as the benefits are many. Hair companies are adjusting the chemicals in their products and switching up their marketing techniques, all because of what they’re learning from you. We’re providing real time feedback. The quality of what we now have in the marketplace has improved because they know what we want, what we demand. And in a very real sense, the celebs are also taking cues from our community. They’re active participants as well. When you write a comment, know that Wanda Sykes, Kim Wayans, Janet Hubert and others are reading, listening and learning. For example: TMI ALERT! I never shared this before, but the morning that Chrisette Michele emailed me, I was in the bathroom and I literally shit a brick. I requested a call ‘cause I didn’t believe it was her… thought I was being punked. When I asked her how she heard about the site, she said she tweeted her fans looking for natural hair info and they shared the web address with her. Now, she frequently tunes in to see what the latest crazes are and what products we're loving.

At this point, I’ve lost count of how many interviews there are and quite honestly, the actual number is unimportant. I’ve worked hard to bring you these stories and have been rejected countless times (I think Michelle's secret service team has me on some kind of list), but I'm proud to say that this unique resource is available because of the power of our community. The reality is that nowhere else on the internet, in a magazine, or on TV, can you get this many real sisters sharing their real hair stories. But next up, we have a real brother...


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https://docs.google.com/a/curlynikki.com/viewer?a=v&pid=gmail&attid=0.1&thid=1361c1cddc0b5fdb&mt=application/pdf&url=https://mail.google.com/mail/u/1/?ui%3D2%26ik%3Db5aa1fffb8%26view%3Datt%26th%3D1361c1cddc0b5fdb%26attid%3D0.1%26disp%3Dsafe%26zw&sig=AHIEtbQuln653r5twKPcd0YM_-lVFhDSbg&pli=1



Eric Benet needs no introduction (although the one above gets the award for longest ever). The singer, style icon and fellow natural dishes on his upbringing, inspiration and upcoming projects. Enjoy!

CN: Growing up, were the women in your life relaxed or natural?
Both. I saw both growing up. My sisters and my mom would, from time to time straighten their hair, but they felt comfortable wearing their hair naturally. It was the '70s so it was quite the statement to wear it, but they did and often. But sometimes, things like Easter would come around, and you'd have to get your hair straightened [Laughter]. From a psychological and cognitive standpoint, I can see how what you see growing up will influence what you see as beautiful, so I guess I'm blessed in that way.

CN: Raising India, concerning hair, were you a 'strict all-natural daddy' or indifferent?
I was very much against straightening. I guess it's the biased 'you're beautiful just like you are' perspective of Daddy. Forever her baby, even though I was Dad, my mother would say, 'boy you need to be quiet, you need to let her get her hair straightened'. I was pretty much a single dad and my mom was very instrumental in raising India too, so I'd come back from touring or traveling and India would have her hair straightened and of course she was still adorable and cute. But I've just always thought natural was more beautiful.

CN: Tell me about your locking experience.
I didn't anticipate it. I never really expected to have long, flowing locs that hung down to my elbows. I just really liked being able to have a very free and natural look to my hair. I got really lazy with my hair cuts, started wearing twists and they just eventually started loc'ing up. I did twists for a while and once the twists started to naturally loc, I just went with it. It felt good for me at the time. I was having this conversation with someone else. You go through different stages in your life... whatever is happening inside of you emotionally is somehow represented on your exterior, both in the clothes that you wear and also with your hair in some obscure way. And it was a time in my life where I felt very free and almost like... I wanted to be a leaf in the wind, like I was just going to do my music and let it take me where it was going to take me. That really reflected in my exterior. I found it interesting that everytime someone got close enough to my locs they would say, 'your hair smells really good,really clean'. I mean, I washed my hair all the time. To keep it real, during the first 4 months of the period before they actually loc'ed up, I'd wash once a week and re-twist, but after that, I'd wash all the time.

CN: So with that, dealing with folks assuming your hair was dirty, how were your locs received by your fans and fam and friends? Was it all good or did some people have reservations?
It was pretty much all good. It was interesting what kind of sex appeal and lure the locs had on women at the time. That wasn't the reason I started growing them, but once they were there, there was some kind of heightened sexual attraction from women. It was very interesting to me, almost like a Samson and his mane type of thing. It was received very well, one of the only things I could say is that it was always interesting whenever I'd leave the country... when I'd come back and have to go through customs at the airport, there was usually some type of incident [Laughter]. There was an assumption that, 'I know we're gonna find some drugs on this bohemian dressed, dread locked dude'. There were quite a few times when I got pulled in the back and they checked my stuff, went through my pockets... pretty interesting.

CN: Why'd you cut them?
When I cut them, I don't know, I guess I had just reached another stage in my life. It was less about free flowing and became more about structure. This is what it represented for me... it's not to say that people that have locs are just free flowing in the wind. But for whatever reason, for me, I just felt like I needed a change. I needed a little bit more structure in my life and as that structure applied, it felt like I needed to cut my hair. That's how it happened for me.

CN: You're still wearing it a little long though right? Comparatively speaking to other Black men with the bald fades and such...
I don't do the bald fade thing. I feel as long as God, Mother Nature or whoever has me in the 'hair growing' category, I might as well utilize it. I don't have it very long, but I still like to keep some hair. I actually just got it cut yesterday. I keep it lined most of the time with my lazy self, sometimes I don't even get around to doing that for a couple of weeks. But usually I keep it faded around the bottom... but I don't really comb it. I wash it regularly, 3 times a week and then put some leave-in conditioner in it and keep it moving.

CN: What types of products are you liking right now?
Really anything that my wife has in the bathroom [Laughter]!


CN: Spoken like a man.
One particular pomade that I like to put in my hair is called Free Your Mane. I wish I could think of the other products, but I use what my wife has around. I pretty much try whatever she has on hand that particular week and then apply the pomade on top of that. It's not greasy... not sure how they do it... maybe the glycerin base? Whatever the case, I appreciate that it doesn't make my hair feel weighed down with product. It keeps my lil' nappy vibe I'm going for.

CN: Your new addition, Lucia Bella, is gorgeous! How has it been for you this second time around?
It's been a challenge. A beautiful and most welcomed challenge. For the past few months I've been working on this album and this wonderful new addition to our lives has been around for the last few months as well. So I've been spending many many hours in the studio and then I'd come home and if I'm lucky, get a few hours of sleep before the baby would wake up. It's been amazing being able to do this again... my daughter India is 20 years old now. The thought that this happened 20 years ago... that I was changing diapers 20 years ago, that's blowing my mind. Time is a beast, it just moves so quickly. I'm at this really mature, evolved comfortable place in my life where it just feels like there is so much less trepidation. I was a kid when India was born with feelings of , 'I don't know if I'm going to be able to do this type of thing'. But there is none of that this time around. And I have an incredible and amazing life partner, Manuela, to do it with. It's been wonderful.

CN: Tell me about your new album, "The One".
The album is going to be a must have. Listening to this record so far... it's hot! My first thought was if you love R&B, you have to get this record, but it's not even like that... it's just so good that if you love music, you're going to have to get this record. There's so much craftsmanship put into it. There's actually a duet I do with my daughter India called 'Music'. And she is so incredibly talented and it's a beautiful showcase for her voice. We actually co-wrote the song. The album is going to be released on May 8th and will be a wonderful soundtrack for the summer.

Keep up with Eric on Twitter, Facebook and at his website- www.ericbenet.net

30 Weigh in!:
Anonymous said...

Halle Berry eat your heart out--hahahahaha, Eric made sure he added that picture huh!

jkeysism said...

Wooo hoooo! Milwaukee's own! Great read! And he's a great talent!!

Anonymous said...

Hopefully, both Eric and Halle have moved on with their lives. It seems that they are both in a better place than when they were together.

lovinmeNaturally said...

Great interview, I have always loved the natural look on a man... Just sexy lol!! Happy to hear that he has a new album on the way, I am a huge fan!!!

Anonymous said...

Um, since he was admittedly a cheater and sex addict, what exactly is Halle Berry supposed to be eating her heart out about.

He just seems to be one of many of bad man choices in her life, but the fact that he is attractive doesn't make the fact that she left him a bad thing since he cheated on her.

I just don't get some women's priorities regarding what makes a good man...

Nat99 said...

Great interview! He seems like a genuinely warm and sincere individual.

Jeannette said...

Great interview! I love Men that love their daughters in natural hair. When he said, "from a psychological and cognitive standpoint, I can see how what you see growing up will influence what you see as beautiful," made me realize how Men like him actually get it, that their upbringing can mess with their minds as to what is beautiful. This was a real good interview and his beau is beautiful :). Nice looking couple!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all of your hardwork Nikki! Excellent interview!

Anonymous said...

I would hate for someone to keep bringing up my past, especially negativity. What do his past relationships have to do with the price of tea in China???!!

Dr. Heather said...

Ugh! Can we please move on from the *sex addict/cheater* history?!

Eric Benet is a great talent, took his time to respond to the interview, and is now married with a new baby. Halle has also moved on with her daughter and relationship. Neither one of them is thinking about the other.

Thanks, CN and EB, for the interview. It's nice to read about the natural hair journey through a man's eyes.

Anonymous said...

I'm crazy about Eric...and love his music. IMO he doesnt get the props he deserves but he is truly talented. I got a chance to see him on the Capital Jazz Cruise last year and he was amazing!!!! Great read Nikki!

Minah Marie said...

Great interview from a great artist who has maintained a positive image despite the whole above mentioned he is still a great talent and true to himself we all have faults and besides its not like he did it to us and as it appears Halle still has man problems and issues of her own so let us not male bash ladies because we all have out issues and problems to face. Great interview I love Eric's music!!

Anonymous said...

Appreciative of your hard work, Nikki!! Was this interview on the phone? Was his voice sexy? =)

I've always loved his look.. the longer hair and the 5 o'clock shadow.. so handsome.

Ok, lemme go back and READ the interview. lol

Anonymous said...

Great interview, Nikki. Keep'em coming. Love Eric's music. :)

purplgirl48 said...

Ahhh! (SWOON) He is such a talent. Beautiful man with a beautiful voice. Great interview.

And thank you Nikki for all the hard work you in securing these celebrity interviews.

Anonymous said...

Great interview. I always loved his music and I am looking forward to the new album ! YAY!! :)

Caray said...

One of your best interviews!!
And, did you really say "shit a brick"...LMAO!!

Annie L. said...

Nikki how could you forget about gorgeous Eric Benet, Lol! I loved your thoughtful intro too. Also, like it or not there's no expiration on history, it always follows people and is fortunately or unfortunately a matter for public discourse.

Jeannette said...

Dr. Heather @ 6:51 PM...Thank you, I totally agree! I completely understand how some can feel slighted for Halle or others who were wronged but when years have gone by, leave the past in the past and move on. Too many dwell on the past and forget about redemption. I too appreciate that he did the interview and I like how he gravitates to natural hair.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous at 6:14 I completely agree with you. Why exactly does Halle have to eat her heart out! That comment was just ugly and uncalled for. It never cease to amaze me how black women are so quick to defend a man in a situation where a black woman has been wronged, dogged out, embarrassed and or mistreated. It's so ridiculous. How after he cheated on her with numerous women does he still get support from black women who put more importance on his looks while Halle gets the bad name for simply divorcing a man who cheated on her? Black women are our own worst enemies.

Anonymous said...

I for one have never heard Eric's side of that whole rumor/story. Isn't it unfair to simply assume we know what happened in their relationship. Also, it seems Halle has her own problems with many men, not just Eric...just saying. Meanwhile, this interview has nothing to do with Halle.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 3:58, I agree with you. Black women will forever and a day support a black man regardless of what he does, but will bash a another sister without blinking an eye. The sad part is that die hard, I will love you know matter what attitude is never reciprocated from the men.

@Anon 6:08, it was another poster who in bad taste tried to make it seem like Halle missed out on something. yes she has relationship issues, but given that some women stay for DECADES in abusive/toxic relationships, I wouldn't give Eric a pass simply because he has managed to stay married. Who knows, may BET will do an 'unsung' episode about his life where we find out that he never stopped abusing women....just saying

Anonymous said...

Love that he is and was adamant about natural hair for India, who is a beautiful girl. He is so handsome. Something about that 5 o'clock shadow does something to me lol (as well as on other men)

Ellie said...

His wife and daughter are both very pretty. If I hadn't read it here I would have believed that was her child. Beautiful family and I love this interview! =] All that other drama is obviously in the past for him so need to bring it up here?

Anonymous said...

Is that Halle in the picture with him.?

Anonymous said...

Great interview. No life is perfect; there's a flaw in all relationships. Who am I to judge him? but I'm glad Nikki that you did the interview. Good stuff.

Godz Kidz: The Jackson Family Blog said...

Way to go Nikki! Great interview!

Anonymous said...

For us all, "let he who is without sin casts the first stone."

ShoeHOTLINE said...

Great interview Nikki. I can completely relate to your intro and I'm truly grateful that you remained persistent. I enjoy seeing the human side of these celebrities.

Anonymous said...

Excellent!

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