February 5, 2013

Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki: Irie Diva

Ever vibrant, MONIQUE “IRIE DIVA” SOLOMON of Kingston, Jamaica, talks about rocking her natural in high-def color and how going natural helped her shed 25-pounds. Want to know how she did it? Read on.

S.H.: Having your daughter seemed to play a big part in you deciding to go natural...
I.D.: I always felt I wanted to go natural. But I’m not sure what took me so long to bite the bullet. Then, I had a baby. When munchkin’ was about 2-years-old, I started to transition. Then 2 months later, I decided to cut off all of my hair. I didn’t want her saying: “Mommy, I want your hair!"-- if I had straight hair. So, I decided to cut my hair, so she could have a role model in me.

S.H: What was your journey like when it came to learning about your hair?
I.D.: Cutting my hair--it was like something else opened up. When you cut your hair, that’s when you start to do research, and say: "Okay, I cut my hair. What now?” So, I started to Google haircare blogs, and I found huge blogs dedicated to natural hair. I had no idea it was such a movement.
I started to research ingredients and I realized people were using things found in the kitchen. They were using mayonnaise. They were using eggs... Then, I realized people were talking about stuff to put on your face and skin. I got introduced to shea butter and black soap, which I had no idea what that was.
I got introduced to aloe vera, which was in my backyard all along. But I never [used it]. I only knew it as this bitter thing my grandmother always tried to take. And I’d think: Why is she swallowing this extremely bitter thing?! [laughs] So, it was really all the blogs that introduced me to this stuff.

S.H.: Many naturals have ideas about what their hair will look like when they transition or big chop. Some get frustrated and have to learn to accept themselves all over again. What was your experience like?
I.D.: Actually, I thought my texture would be a lot kinkier based on how I remember it from high school. Then based on my daughter’s hair, I thought it would be closer to her hair type. But when I cut it off, I realized it was a lot closer to my father’s hair type. He has more curly hair. So, it’s much curlier than I expected. But, it's kind of annoying when people say to me: "Oh you can cut off your hair. You have ‘pretty’ hair."

I cut my hair is to show you can have nice hair--nice hairstyles, even if your hair is kinky. That's what I want to instill in my daughter. She has kinkier hair than me and I still love when I do her twist outs.

S.H.: Speaking of hairstyles...you’re brave! You experiment a lot with color. How do you do it?
I.D.: First, I did a box color--which was horrible. It was red and it didn’t get red enough. So, I did a bleach, which is like the ultimate sin right? [laughs] And I didn’t even get it professionally done!

S.H.: I told you! You’re brave! [laughs]
I.D.: Over the bleach, I put a pink rinse. Then, I decided I wanted to go blue; so I put blue food coloring in it. Now, the thing with blue food coloring is you should only use a couple drops. I used half the bottle, so the blue is not going anywhere.

S.H.: Oh, wow...
I.D.: So, I’m going to henna and see what color I get when the henna is finished. If I don’t like it, I’m going to put a black rinse over it because I’m kind of over the blue. I ultimately want to be blonde. Even when I was relaxed, I was always blonde. I’m going to go back blonde eventually, but not right now. I think [my hair] has gotten enough of a beating.

S.H.: Is it easy to find stylist down there to do your hair if you wanted to?
I.D.: I’ve seen natural hair salons popping up and getting more popular. But down here, the culture is very strong. Probably in the States, it’s common to find persons with relaxed hair--even little kids. In Jamaica, I think it’s the opposite. It’s more common to find persons with their natural hair. You don’t normally get a relaxer in Jamaica until you’re probably in high school. Christianity is still a big thing in the islands; and people who choose to follow religion don’t normally get a relaxer at all.
Therefore, it’s common to see natural hair persons at the stylist. But if your hair is natural, you do it yourself. You don’t really go to the stylist unless you want them to put in a cornrow style or give you some flat twists.

S.H.: What's your hair care routine like then?
ID: Because I tried different colors, I try to deep condition every single week. I concoct my own aloe vera, shea butter, honey deep-conditioner and sit with that in my hair on a Saturday morning. I have a huge aloe vera plant in my yard and I’m wishing that I’m not using it too much because I don’t want it to all go on me one day.

S.H.: Any other products that are a “must-have”?
ID: My conditioner has to include aloe vera, honey and coconut oil. Of course, we’re also famous for black castor oil. I use it to seal in my hair. It’s a little heavy. So, I put mine in Argon oil to lighten it.

S.H.: So, how would you describe the natural hair scene in Jamaica?
ID: You know how you’ll have a CurlyNikki MeetUp? We actually have a couple meet-ups, I’d say, every 3 months or so. People are taking on to it, and they want to learn how to take care of their natural hair. People who have been relaxed are thinking about going back natural.They always say: “If America catches a cold, Jamaica’s gonna cough.” [laugh] So, the same way it’s exploding in America right now, it’s the same way I’m seeing people, here, taking on the lifestyle--going natural and investing in their curls.

S.H.: Going natural also brought on a healthier lifestyle for you too. How did that happen?
ID: The more you research hair, the more you find information on ingredients to use-- healthy stuff. And it just filtered out into the rest of my life. I started to juice vegetables and take on a more holistic lifestyle all around. Before I started juicing, all the greens that were in my life were lettuce and callaloo--which is like a local version of spinach. So, I started following "green smoothie" accounts on Instagram. That's when I found out that greens existed called kale and arugula. I had no idea what these were. [laughs] These are not common things in Jamaica.

So, I decided I was going to mix them up every morning. I really didn’t do it for any kind of weight loss. But 3 months later, I tried on a dress I knew fit me in a “certain way.” And I realized I had lost about 25 pounds by just juicing spinach and callaloo in the morning. It led to this huge change in my body. When I realized what was happening, I jumped into it even more.

S.H.: What was your diet like before?
I.D.: I was eating a lot of pasta! And for lunch: rice and peas with fry chicken or jerk chicken. I wanted to switch that up. So, I started to include more salads in my diet; and I was never ever a salad girl. That’s one of the reasons I started juicing because I knew I wasn’t going to make a salad everyday. It’s just changed my life so much.

Keep up with IrieDiva:
Twitter: @iriediva
Website: www.iriediva.com

If you want to be featured in the “CurlyNikki Meets The Caribbean” series email shgrant.cn@gmail.com or Tweet @sh_grant.

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