On the Couch with Curly-Centric Jamaica

Prepared by Sharifa Grant for CurlyNikki.com

Founder of Curly-Centric Jamaica, Trudy-Ann Hylton, talks about how Jamaica’s first ever natural hair group got started. Plus, she takes us inside a CCJ meet-up--nothing like we’ve seen before.

SH: Tell me about the inspiration behind Curly-Centric? How did it all start?
CCJ: A couple months into my own natural journey I was totally confused as it regarded treatment, styling and overall maintenance of my natural hair. I also went about doing some informal research and found that there were many other naturals in Kingston, Jamaica that needed somewhere to go where they could hear all about taking care of their natural hair. So, I got in touch with owners of natural salons, product lines, a dermatologist, and the first Curly-Centric Jamaica meet-up was held in February 2012.

Read On>>>

Tish Scott of Roatan- Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki

by Sharifa Grant for CurlyNikki 

She was born and raised in Roatan--a tiny island positioned in the Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Honduras. But for Tish Scott, island hopping from Barbados to Grand Cayman opened the door to rediscovering her natural hair and what beauty really means.

SH: You’ve lived in many places across the Caribbean. How does Honduras, Cayman Islands and Barbados all come into play?
I was born and lived in Honduras until I was sixteen. I later migrated to the Cayman Islands. Barbados has always been the Caribbean island I wanted to visit. My best friend being from there and many other good friends, I thought it was where I wanted to live for rest of my life.

SH: Did you live in Barbados too?
No, I did not live in Barbados. My friend circle is a tight knit group of Bajans who have had an influence in my hair growth, guys and girls.

SH: How has living on these islands influenced you and your perception of beauty?
In Roatan, a beautiful little island nestled within the Honduran shores, hair is what it is! Hair is typically worn as perms or braids, and very few people still maintain their natural.

To a large degree, the people of Roatan place great importance on how you wear your hair-- length and texture. Almost like, you're not pretty unless you have very wavy curls as mulattos do. Or you get a perm because you won’t be considered 'beautiful' if you have coarse, drier, less curly or wavy hair.


Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki-- Monique Rose

Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki-- Monique Rose of Kingston, Jamaica

by Sharifa Grant

I chatted with Monique for an hour and immediately I felt like we were long time friends. We had a lot in common. And our journeys to going natural were alike, in that, they were a natural progression--just another step on a path we both already seemed to be taking--as opposed to the result of a tragic affair with a relaxer. The conversation flowed in the same organic way: from the jolt of going from long hair to a cropped-top natural to how exposure to Rasta culture nurtured a natural journey already in motion. See how it unfolded after the jump.


The Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki-- Puerto Rico!

7 Questions With Diosas al Natural

Contributed by S.H. Grant 

Tell me about the inspiration behind Diosas al Natural (Natural Goddesses)?  How did it all start?
Joaquin: Every time I went to visit New York or Philly, I'd see so many natural women proudly rocking their hair. I also saw the natural hair movement in the U.S. through Tumblr, Facebook etc. and I thought: I wish we could have a movement like that in Puerto Rico.

While on vacation in New York City in 2011, I met up with Kali and she had this gorgeous natural hair. We started talking and I told her about some creative projects I had in mind. One of them was to start a natural hair movement in Puerto Rico.

She asked: "Why don’t you do it?... Let’s do it!” She got me hyped and pushed me to get going. I bought a camera and took photography classes at a University. And Kali had been into photography for years, so that helped get the ball rolling. She moved to Puerto Rico in 2012 and we became partners on the project. In November, we launched the page on Facebook and Tumblr.

Why focus the project on natural hair?
Joaquin: Natural hair is a topic we are passionate about. For me, I've always seen naturally curly/coily hair as beautiful. I especially love the African presence in my culture and my people. There was no major movement/community for women with natural hair in Puerto Rico going yet. So, we decided to create it ourselves. We are not exactly bombarded with images of women with naturally curly-kinky hair in the media or in the community, so it was time to even out the playing field on the island!

What was the atmosphere like during the photo shoots?
Joaquin: Every photo shoot has a different vibe. The women and girls love it. We make them feel comfortable and they exude confidence for the most part. Usually, we try to show the character of the woman we are shooting.

And what kind of impact did you hope the project would have?
Joaquin: We want to inspire women on the island and throughout the Americas to feel proud of their hair and their roots. There is a term called “pelo malo,” which translates to “bad hair.” That term is used commonly when referring to curly/kinky textured hair. It represents an ugly perspective and history. We don’t want young girls growing up thinking they were born with something “bad.”

We also want to give encouragement to teenagers and adult women who are faced with society’s pressures and ideals of beauty daily--to keep strong against ignorance and ill-will that they may encounter. Beauty is diverse, it’s important that there are images reflecting all aspects of our heritage and the beauty within it.

How do you think the project influenced perceptions of natural hair in Puerto Rico?
Joaquin: On the island, the natural hair movement is pretty new. So, many women are seeing the beauty and versatility of their hair through the Diosas that we have shown, thus far.

Outside of Puerto Rico, there is a very limited idea of what a Puerto Rican looks like. So, it’s nice to show women on the island a more diverse image of themselves while breaking stereotypes with those who live outside of Puerto Rico.

How was the project received, especially by the natural hair community?
Joaquin: The response has been great! We pass our cards out to natural women we encounter. Seeing the expression on their faces when we hand them the card and explain our purpose makes it all worthwhile. So many Diosas have stories about their experiences with their hair and identity as a whole. It's great to provide a platform for them to share what they’ve been through while encouraging each other. Now, we're getting messages from people who are doing the big chop or transitioning because of our page. And that is pretty dope!

Any new projects around the corner?
Joaquin: We are excited to be planning the first official natural hair meet-up in Puerto Rico--set to take place on Saturday, April 13th.

...Thinking a trip to Puerto Rico is in order...

Keep up with Diosas al Natural via:
Tumblr: http://diosasalnatural.tumblr.com/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DiosasAlNatural

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.

Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki: Monique Kennedy

by Sharifa H. Grant

When I spoke to Monique, she was recouping in her apartment in Kingston, Jamaica. I called her there from New York, on an early Thursday morning. Listen in on our conversation …


S.H.: Yep! You can hear me?

MONIQUE: Yes. I can hear you perfectly.

S.H.: Morning!

MONIQUE: Morning!

S.H.: Let’s start out talking hair… How long have you been natural?

MONIQUE: I’ve been natural most of my life. In 10th grade I got a relaxer, not out of pressure or the need to get a relaxer. Actually, I didn’t really consider it an option. But before I started 10th grade, I went to the hairdresser. I was going to get canerows-- like I always do--and mommy said, “Oh, you want to get your hair relaxed?” And that’s how that happened. [laughs]

S.H.: When did you transition?

MONIQUE: When I went to college. Right about sophomore year, I decided I wanted locs. So, I chopped it all off. I didn’t want to grow it out because I didn’t like the “awkward phase.” So, I kept it low for probably a year-and-a-half. I had loc extensions at some point too. That was fun for a while. Then, I didn’t know what to do with my hair! The sides wouldn’t grow, but the top would grow. I’d always look like I had a mohawk. So, I decided to relax it again for another year.

I had a cute little pixie cut but I found it hard to maintain. The back was short and I couldn’t curl around the back. And I wanted to swim; but when I went to swim, I would mess up my hair. Or if I went to the gym, I would mess up my hair. I was like, “Man, my hair is restricting me!” [laughs] I had to do something about it. I got excited and I said, “Guys, I’m gonna transition for 10 months!” Then after a month and a half, I did the big chop! [laughs]

Dreadlocks, Rastafari & Fashion...


By S.H. Grant for CurlyNikki.com

Twins and dreads. These aren’t the first things that come to mind when talking high-fashion. But Asha and Ayanna Diaz, budding designers hailing from the “sweet-sweet” sister islands of Trinidad & Tobago, admit that is what intrigues people about their fashion line “Wadada Movement.”

Over a fuzzy Skype line, and with Asha on the run, we managed to chat about everything from how a rocky journey to Rastafari led to their transformation to naturalistas and creating a fashion line that, in 2 years, has showcased in New York, Trinidad and Jamaica.

And in true Wadada style, they’ve juggled the changes and challenges with laughter, grace and a natural flow.

SG: How did you come to embrace your natural hair?

Ayanna: Through Rastafari we grew to embrace our natural essence. When I was eighteen, I decided I wanted to grow my locks. I saw myself going down a different path that I don’t think I should’ve been on. So for me, it was a complete lifestyle change. I was seeking Rastafari before [locking my hair]. I was asking questions...talking to people. When I turned eighteen, I knew this is what I wanted. So I cut all my straight hair off, and I started fresh.

Asha: I started growing my hair in September 2006. It was a time of transition for me. I just graduated from University and I was not sure of my position in the world. But in the end, the decision to lock my hair really wasn’t a decision at all. It was something deep down within me, knowing this is what I had to do and it was the way of life I should be living. It was a decision I was toiling with for a long time, especially since Ayanna had been growing hers many years before.

Ayanna: So her hair is much shorter than mine. Her hair is maybe, like, lower back and mine is like under my “bumpsy.” [laughs]

Asha: It’s been 6 years now and it’s a lifestyle change I have never once regretted.

SG: So, how did you transition? Did you do a big chop? Did you twist?

Ayanna: I cut my hair 2-inches from the roots and just twisted it. And that’s it. I put it in a tam for almost 2 years and I left it. My sister, she actually twisted hers straight on the ends. But for some reason, they both came out the same. [laughs] And it looks exactly alike! Her hair looks how mine looked with every stage that she goes through.

SG: Asha, did you do the same?

Asha: Hahaha. At that time, I used to periodically put chemical relaxer in my hair, but had not done it for a few months before locking my hair. I simply pulled sections and tied a knot to the top--by the roots--to keep them sectioned. From there, I let them ‘mat’ naturally. No salon or beeswax or anything. It was around the same time I moved to London, England. So I ended up wearing a lot of tams as well to keep my head warm. In doing that, I noticed my half-straightened half-matted hair started to get shorter as the knots got bigger and bigger.

SG: How do you maintain your locks? Do you follow a routine or use specific products--natural or otherwise?

Asha: It’s pretty easy to maintain for now, as it isn’t extra long yet. I wash it once a week, with normal shampoo and conditioner. Mind you, it takes a little longer and I definitely use way more products than the average person. But it’s not a problem.

Ayanna: I wash my hair in natural spring water at least once a week. I try not to do the chlorine--the pools, that kind of stuff. Basically that’s it--shampoo, conditioner. I don’t wash my hair in my shower. I go to a spring or waterfall close to my house. It’s like a little shower that comes out of the rocks with natural water. So I just use that. It’s cold as ice! That’s the only problem.

SG: They say it’s good for your skin and your hair!

Ayanna: It is! It’s good for your hair and skin because it has all the natural minerals.

SG: So, no butters or oils?

Ayanna: No, not really. I’ve never been a “product person”, to say, I need this particular product. For me, whatever I’m comfortable with at the moment, I’m good.

SG: And you don’t experience dryness or breakage?

Ayanna: No, not really. The weather we have in Trinidad is completely different. When I lived in the states, I used to have to oil my hair at least once a month. I used to use this olive oil thing. But down here, once I wash my hair in the spring, I feel like I’m good. I don’t feel it gets dried out or nothing like that.

SG: There are a lot people in the Caribbean, and abroad, who are not “naturals” or Rastas. What was that part of the transition like for you? What kind of reactions did you get from people when it comes to your hair and lifestyle?

Asha: For the most part, people are educated about Rastas and have a basic understanding of the lifestyle. But I did encounter a hand full of people in the U.K. who were amazed at the way I wear my hair. It’s always entertaining to hear them talk about it and ask to touch it (which I discourage). When I visited Trinidad for the first time, after moving to London and growing my hair, a lot of my friends were shocked. I was the last person they would have expected to change my lifestyle and lock my hair.

Ayanna: I started my locks in America. I lived in Chicago for a year, where I started my locks, and I moved to New York for 4 years. My locks basically grew in New York and then I moved to Florida. So I know the stares, the looks, everything. It was my hair. And then I opened my mouth. I don’t know what people thought my accent was--Jamaican, half-island, I don’t know! [laughs]

So, it was kind of difficult. I lost internships because of my hair. I couldn’t do certain classes. My school had a uniform--the University. I couldn’t wrap my hair in school because it wasn’t part of the uniform. I’ve lost a lot of friends. And family members looked at me as if I was a stranger when they saw me for the first time with the dread on my head. It was a lot. For me, the transition wasn’t just happening. I knew I needed to be very serious about it because changes were happening because of it.

SG: Ayanna, in the beginning you were on your own. How did you handle these challenges?

Ayanna: Well I’ve always been close to my mother and my sister. Once they were okay with it, I didn’t have much of an issue. But, I kept myself around people who were like me. Then around 2007, I started realizing nobody was really shunning me anymore. [laughs]

SG: How did it affect your confidence?

Ayanna: Honestly, my confidence didn’t start to shine until 2008 when I started to feel comfortable as a woman in Rastafari. I used to think people would judge me. Then around 2007, I realized I can still be me and be a Rasta woman. I didn’t have to “study” about people saying things behind my head. Now, I can go anywhere and feel comfortable. I can go any party. I can go anywhere and not feel like people are staring at me or that I don’t belong.

SG: Have people changed their minds now?

Ayanna: Yes. Because they realize I have not changed. My personal views, my religious views might be different. But my personality, my interaction with them hasn’t changed. I think they just got thrown off by seeing my physical change.

SG: Do you think society’s attitude towards locks are changing as a whole?

Asha: Oh yes. The attitude of people are definitely evolving. People are becoming a lot more open minded. More people are accepting that just because we have locks, does not mean we smoke weed and beat drums all day.

Yes, there are still the close minded people who try to fight us down. But overall, people are accepting. From my experience, the U.K. is absolutely more open minded than the U.S. about locks. In the U.S., you still go places and get nasty stares and disgusted looks. But it’s something a lot of people can relate to. Not because of their hair, but perhaps because of their skin color or the shape of their eyes or even because of the language they speak. If you’re confident with who you are, things like these seem so trivial.

The sisters’ spiritual and physical transformation to Rastafari led to creating a fashion line inspired by their culture and lifestyle. Designing clothes to fit their slender 5’ 7” frames is where it all started.

Ayanna: People used to ask us, “Where did you get that?” So, we started the line in 2010. We tried putting out a few pieces to see how people reacted. And the response was amazingly unexpected. So since then, we decided to push a brand and not just clothes.

SG: And that’s where “Wadada” comes in...

Ayanna: As Rastafari, Ethiopia is a part of our culture. “Wadada” is an Amharic word, which is the national language for Ethiopia. It’s literally translated to “a greeting of peace and love.” We wanted to start something that was a positive movement, because we do a lot of charity events as well. Hence we put the word “movement” behind Wadada and not “Clothing” or “Wear.”

SG: We don’t see much high fashion coming out of the Caribbean. What makes Wadada different?

Ayanna: Our stuff is more conservatively fashionable. As Rastafarians, we believe that we carry ourselves with royalty. We find every woman as a queen. To keep that in our designs, we always have something that is conservative, yet, out-the-box fashionable. But, it’s a balance because we’re catering to every woman.

SG: What kind of projects are you currently working on?

Ayanna: We did our first travel to Jamaica for Protoge & Kymani Marley’s video “Rasta Love.” Clothes from our first collection are actually on the lead female for that entire video. This year, we also did Tobago Fashion Week in Tobago and then Caribbean fashion week in Jamaica.

We’re currently working on our third collection. Our second collection was in two parts. One was called “Summer Love” and the second part is called “O.N.E.”, which is One Natural Energy. And we’re looking to put our charity line, “O.N.E.” in stores by Christmas. Twenty percent of the profits from “O.N.E.” go toward charity for women here in Trinidad, for the shelter.

SG: Does building a business ever impact your relationship as sisters?

Asha: Well we’ve always spent a lot of time together, even before we started Wadada. So it’s not new. But I must admit, it makes decisions a little easier. If I am unsure about something, Ayanna is there to give another opinion. If we cannot agree on opinions, we have made a deal to scrap it.

Ayanna: We are sisters before business partners. As any other siblings, we have our disagreements. But we try not to let the stress of business impact our private lives too much.

On the one place in T&T that’s a must to visit, Asha and Ayanna agree...

Asha: Definitely any beach in Blanchisseuse, which is on the North Coast of Trinidad. There’s something about the drive that is very therapeutic. Whatever beach you decide to pull up on will be amazing. Whether you want to ride the waves, soak in a river or just take in the sun…Forget about Maracus and take the extra 45 minutes drive to Blanchisseuse.

Connect with Asha and Ayanna:
Twitter/Instagram: @wadadamovement
Facebook: Wadada Movement
Website: www.wadadamovement.com

CN Says:
Sharifa is conducting 'Caribbean Meets CurlyNikki' interviews, so if you'd like to be profiled, email [email protected] for more info!

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