Chaka Khan Talks Natural Hair

Reposting 'cause Chaka's on Piers Morgan... right now! Tune into CNN!

Yes, you read right! The queen of BIG hair is On the Couch! The legendary singer/songwriter and 10 time Grammy award winning diva gave me a moment of her time to reflect on her hair story. There aren't even words to describe how amazing it was to speak with the woman who inspired an entire generation. Her music, her fashion, her hair... all so revolutionary and timeless. When I asked her how it felt to be a natural hair icon, she showed a humility that doesn't always accompany such greatness, and said she had no idea. She reflects-
My mother used to braid my hair in three braids- - one one each side that she'd pin at the top, and one in the back. There was a lot of duplication... she would use the hot comb and we'd wear the Page Boy. That's pretty much it. I was wearing a perm when I was 15 or 16, which was also around the time the Afros came out. I remember, I cut all of the perm out and wore a short 'fro for a long time. I wore it for years before growing it out.

When asked how she felt about her TWA (teeny weeny afro), she responded,
I loved it. That's how I wore it on my first album cover with Rufus. I was actually pregnant at the time. Since then, throughout my career, I've experimented with a thousand colors and a thousand styles... everything from microbraids to blow outs. I've done it all.

Chaka still reps team natural to this day but enjoys experimenting with different looks--
Sometimes I'll go for a straighter look, but I really don't like straight hair on me, it's not my favorite hair at all. I find it... unlikely [laughter]. I like a lot of hair. I'm about the wild things.
Today, Chaka admits, she's "not really fussy" when it comes to her hair and is a self-proclaimed "wash and wear" girl. Most days, she just spritzes with a conditioner and keeps it moving. Her favorite products are Mixed Chicks and Peter Lamas. She goes on-
For me, it's the wilder the better. I love big hair! I don't like the coiffed look. I'm not a coif hair girl. I don't like to look neat like I just walked out of the beauty shop!
Much to the dismay of her stylist, there have been times that she's spritzed her freshly straightened and barrel curled hair with water to give it some "umph!"

Chaka is just as busy as ever. Last year, she not only got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame ('bout damn time), but she and her former band Rufus, were jointly nominated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame! She continues to tour and is clocking tons of studio hours in prep for her next album. She is humbled that we in the natural hair community tout her as Natural Hair Style and Hair Icon and appreciates our support and love.


Keep up with Chaka and her tour on her website-
and on Facebook-

On the Couch with Recording Artist, Alex Young

Prepared for by Alex Smith

This talented curly haired beauty just released her new single titled “Don’t Play with Me” which will be available for special download under the jump. During our chat I was able to dig deep into Alex’s personal hair story which I think a lot of you will enjoy and be able to relate to. We talked about everything from products, bad relaxers experiences and hair care on the road while touring. I hope you all love Alex’s hair story as much as I did, enjoy!

On her hair and love for products:
My hair is very curly and big, so I have a lot to deal with! My hair also gets bored with products fairly quickly so I am constantly changing the products that I use. Right now I am using shampoo and conditioner by Free Your Mane and it’s amazing! The products are very moisturizing and they give my curls great definition. I also switch between that and the Organix line so whenever I feel like my hair starts getting bored I just switch back to that. When I use Organix products I love to wash with their Shea Butter shampoo and the Hydrating Tea Tree Mint conditioner. Sometimes I even use Living Proof’s frizz shampoo, Warren Tricomi products and Ojon! Yes, I use a lot of different products! I especially love Ojon's Dry Recovery product because my hair is so prone to dryness and it can get very brittle. That specific product helps prevent that issue by keeping my hair moisturized with a frizz free shine. I am constantly on the lookout for new products; I have to make sure my hair is happy and content.

On her hair type:
My hair type is a difficult to pin point because I have so many different textures throughout my head. I think not knowing my exact hair type is what leads me to try so many different products! Sometimes I can’t decide what exactly to use but for the most part my hair has a tight wave and there are also some parts where my hair is kinkier than others. It’s so hard to pin down my exact type though; I just try to keep my hair happy and healthy, overall.

On the products she cannot live without:

I cannot live without the Bamboo Kendi Dry Oil mist, Phyto Flage Protective Sun Veil and Ojon’s Damage Reverse Oil. These products are great for my hair because they not only help protect my strands but they keep them moisturized while leaving a healthy glow so that my hair doesn’t look or feel dry.

On the road and hair maintenance:
I am actually getting ready for my radio tour and will be traveling to a lot of different cities in the country. During this time my products become even more important to me because I am maintaining the health of my hair myself. I rely on the shampoos, conditioners and deep conditioners that I use, a lot while on the road. Being on the road and in a bus I find that my hair needs extra attention and care so I try and make sure I cater its needs.

On professional stylists and her hair:
I have definitely had some hair trauma in the past so I try and be very specific about the amount of heat that is put on my hair when wearing it straight. If I am having my hair heat styled, I make sure that they there is some type of heat protectant applied to prevent any damage. I don’t think anybody should ever feel bad about asking your hair stylist to make changes in order to cater to your specific hair needs. Like I mentioned, I have had some hair horror stories because I didn’t speak up and ask certain questions. I’ve had pieces of my hair just break off, which was TERRIBLE! Now, I know that with my hair I need some type of protection and definitely a lot of moisture to maintain the overall health. If I am good to my hair, it will pretty much do whatever I ask of it to do. My hair can take a lot of heat and styling for the most part without getting too mad at me but there is a point where we have to know when to give it a rest.

Her relaxer experience…
I tried a relaxer once when I was younger, I was about 15 and ALL of my hair broke off. I really didn’t know the proper way to care for my hair at the time. The people around me were saying “it’ll be great! Just get the perm, you’ll wake up in the morning and it’ll be easy to maintain...,” I went with it. I know now that everyone’s hair is different and I learned that mine is sensitive to certain things; relaxers being one of them. When I first got the relaxer, I put it on and it started BURNING! I woke up the day after and all of my hair had just fallen out, it just broke off. It was horrifying! I was in high school and at that age, you know, image is even more important. I had to go back of the salon and get it cut off. It was so short! I had about 4 inches of hair after the cut. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a weave while it grew out. That was my wake up call! I told myself that when my hair grew out, I would treat it with all the love and care that I possibly could.

Growing up with curly insecurities…
I think that the grass is always kind of “greener” when you’re younger and at the time I wanted to be like my idol which was Little Mermaid…LOL. I wanted to have that red, long luxurious hair like her. But then when you get older you learn to appreciate what you have and my hair has definitely become one of my signatures. So, if I had to look back and choose between Little Mermaid’s hair and mine, I would definitely choose my own.

Her go to style on a regular day…
I wear my hair naturally curly, most days. I love wearing it half up and half down, while letting to do what it wants. When I am performing, I usually always wear my hair down. While on stage I feel like having my hair out gives my performance so much more life and energy!

What she adores about her hair…
I would say that I love the color and the body of my hair, especially in the summertime! My hair gets this strange kind of golden glow to it and I absolutely love it. There a quite a few different hues in my hair and it looks very weird and strange I guess; but I really like that.

Where can we find Alex on the web…
Twitter: @AlexYoungMusic
Facebook/YouTube: AlexYoungMusic
Download: "Dont Play with Me"

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...


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-

Jesse Boykins on His Natural Hair and Music

prepared by Weusi for

Thanks to a hook from CurlyNikki, I had the chance to speak with one of the most talked about up and coming artists in the WORLD! Yes ... I said the WORLD! This brother is making an impact from continent to continent. I looked at his show listing the other day and I saw him booked for shows in 3 different CONTINENTS. AND ... As popular as his music is, his hair has also garnished a certain level of fame itself!

His collaborations with artist like The Foreign Exchange, Theophilus London, MeLo-X, Machine Drum and Phantom Lover have the streets and studios buzzing. In 2010, he was recognized by BET as "One to Watch" and became a major component in their MUSIC MATTERS campaign. in 2011 he was also tapped as a guest participant and lecturer for the esteemed RED BULL MUSIC ACADEMY, which took him all over the world! You don't believe me do you!?!

Here he is just the other day on 106 & Park speaking about it ...

SO ... if you didn't know about him or his hair before... I introduce you to...

JESSE BOYKINS III and this is his hairstory!

Q: Let's talk a little about the hair. What inspired it?

I wore braids for a long time. They were the style back then. A lot of people were wearing them. I guess there were kind of a lot of singers out there with them too. Because of that, I was put in an artistic box. I wanted to be free. Me wearing my hear out is symbolic of being alive. Getting out of that box. Being free.

Q: So how do you care for it?

I usually keep it in French braids and, while it's out, I treat my scalp and brush it. I sometimes wear it in a bun also. I try to tend to it every week and a half. As far as the wash goes, I wash it with peppermint shampoo. My hair stylist, DeeDee, makes a garlic conditioner for me and I use olive oil on it. I'm pretty simple

Q: But your style is special. I know that you were influenced by your early upbringing in Jamaica, Miami and New York. How did that impact your ideas of and around aesthetics and style?

It just made me aware of the different cultures I've been blessed to experience. To witness the importance of culture and tradition and the symbolism in certain style permeated into my lifestyle. Everywhere I went I was influenced. In terms of fashion and style, it is really all about energy.

Q: Many people speak about "energy" as something that is only for the "creative/hippie/artsy." You seem to use it as a very practical reference in your everyday life. How do you define it? How does it influence your everyday life?

We are all made up of energy. We are all connected. It is how we find common ground with friends. It's how we find the love of our lives and how we co-exist. It all depends on the kind of energy you receive from someone or something. Sensitivity and awareness teaches and helps you grow.

Q: Who were some of the people/celebrities that you saw as beautiful growing up?

Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Andre 3000, Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder

Q: These are all heavy hitters ... musically and in style. This a great segue to talk about music.

Cool. I love music. I've been around music all my life. You can say that I've been doing music all my life. I have a musically inclined family that has always supported me creatively. I got serious about music when I went to college at the New School University. I was 17 and I thought there was nothing cooler than being creative and being around music and inspiration. I decided that was how I wanted to live my life.

Q: What are you listening to now to be influenced?

I'm working on my new album right now. It's called called, "Love Apparatus." So I'm listening to a lot of the artist that I'm working with now. The Romantic Movement - MoRuf, Mara Hruby, Chris Turner & MeLo-X. These are (a few) artist that I am collaborating with on various projects. They keep progressive energy around me.

Q: Your crew keeps banging out great product! I'm digging the new single "B4 the Night is Thru" and the video!

Thank you. It was done by my man Dr Woo hooked it up.

Q: In closing ... can you share a guilty pleasure?

My guilty pleasure is movie hopping. I love cinema and the feeling I get when I am in the theaters and watching something for the 1st time.

Q: I don't want to take too much of your time ... plus your music really speaks for itself, so I'm gonna direct people to your site where they can get all the past albums (Dopamine: My Life On My Back & The Beauty Created) and keep up with all news that is JESSE BOYKINS III.

SO as you can see ... Jesse Boykins III is a real cool cat ... please be sure to check out his albums.
In this clip ... you can hear him croon a little and get a quick glimpse into his world as he stops by the Translation office in NYC run by Steve Stoute. He speaks on his musical journey, The Romantic Movement and performs a couple tunes accompanied by David Linaberg on acoustic guitar.

I hope that you enjoyed this, I did. JESSE BOYKINS III is really a good dude that not only has incredible hair, he understands the process, beauty, work, role of art in our lives and community. PLUS, he is an independent artist, so PLEASE support him!

Beverly Johnson Reveals Her Real Hair!

Beverly Johnson is On the Couch! Ms. Johnson was the first Black woman to grace the cover of Vogue in 1974. Since then she's been on the cover of more than 500 magazines, ripped all the runways, authored books and appeared on television. Currently, you can find her on the Oprah Winfrey Network, starring in her own reality show, Beverly's Full House', as well as find her new hair care products on the shelves at your local Target. During the interview, Beverly talked staying young, weaving as a protective style and revealed pics of her real hair! Enjoy!

On her new hair care line, 'Hair by Beverly'...

I've been chasing the formula for 10 years, so I can't really take all of the credit. I was the spokesperson for this line... that's how much I loved it. When I was doing my hair care line for Target, I decided to check back in and see if it was available. It's the most incredible products in the sense that we take science and also natural ingredients and put them together. I feel that there is a huge void in the market for an affordable, quality product and this should fill that space. With all the perms and improperly installed weaves, our hair has gotten really, really beat up, so my line promotes healthy hair and growth.

I'm proud to say that there is no compromise in the quality of the products. And I don't get to say that a lot. I've represented a lot of products... I'm a model, that's what I do. But with this, I'm really happy to be an owner, in the sense that I manufacture, distribute... every single ingredient, every single step of the way has been this amazing team effort that I've been very involved with. I'm blown away and I hope you will be as well.

On her hair...

I don't perm my hair. When I take my hair down, people don't even believe it's all mine! It's so thick and long. It's crazy. Also, I'm proud to say, I have all of my edges, all of them.

What happened was 14 years ago, a wig and weave care company approached me and I wasn't even wearing extensions at the time. My manager was like, 'you can't do that... don't even go there'. But I'm glad I did... it really paid off because we went from a 3 million dollar company to an 80 million dollar company.

That was a fantastic and interesting journey in that I really got to know the hair business. We, people of color, have had a love affair with our hair since the beginning of time and that's not going anywhere. But what I found is that through all of this experimentation with relaxers, wigs and hair extensions, is that our own natural hair took a serious beating. And the relaxers are just deadly. You look under a microscope at a hair strand from a perm... forget about it... it's amazing that it can exist on our heads. So what I started to do was not to relax my hair at all, use good products, braid my hair up and use a regular sew-on weave, netting the hair. This is what jump started my hair growth. Whenever my hair is out, I'm careful not to wet it too much and I only use wide tooth combs. Once a year I let my hair down for a while and people just can't believe the growth. For me, it's easier with my schedule to have extensions. I like my hair to look a certain way all the time. I don't care what you do to your hair or how you wear it, as long as you feel beautiful.

Beverly's natural, heat styled hair-

On weaves as a protective style...

I know a lot of women, my daughter included that wear clip in pony tails. That's a great protective style that's easy and not very invasive. My daughter doesn't wear weaves at all, but for shoots, she'll use a clip in. It's fun, we like to change it up. Every woman has a bad hair day every now and then which is why I have the line of ponytails as well.

Also, if you choose to wear extensions, you really have to go to someone that knows what they're doing. And please, stay away from the glue at all cost. Try the clip ons, you can clip it in, take them out and there is no damage to your hair. The sew ins with the net on top is what I use and it really does protect the hair and your edges. My stylist braids in hair with the edges to reduce the tension and then puts the netting around just the edges and then proceeds. I get my hair done a lot. I don't leave my hair in for long periods of time. And my real hair is conditioned and maintained in between.

On keeping it tight and smooth as we age...

This scientist went around and interviewed regions of the world where people live the longest, where people are over 100, and he asked them their secrets to longevity. He discovered four things about them. Most of them had daily exercise and routines. A lot of them live in the mountains so just walking around is exercise, but they work in the fields, etc. that was one of the main components. Everyday, doing something, moving your body. And we have a generation with the TVs and computers... we sit on our asses a lot and it's not good. Another thing they do is of course eat their fruits, veggies and fish and just about everyone ate meat only in moderation if at all. I've tried to incorporate this into my life. The other thing is that they have frequent and meaningful communication with family and friends, a very tight network. And finally, a place of worship... finding faith in something other than themselves. Those are the 4 things that are keeping me vibrant and young.

On her new reality show on OWN...

I'm a business woman. I manufacture and distribute beauty products. Oprah I've known and loved for many years so I pitched her some shows. I didn't think she would pick my reality show! I trust and love Oprah and absolutely loved the idea we developed. It's about the mother, daughter relationship. It's so interesting... that relationship. It's a show about building bonds and the whole thing of better communication. Hopefully people will laugh and cry a lot and have a lot of fun. Even though I'm the executive producer, I've only seen a couple of the episodes, so I'm a little scared [laughter]. It should be a lot of fun. Check it out on March 31st! Everyone can always go to my website and I'll keep you abreast of what's going on!

Esperanza Talks Natural Hair!- Exclusive

**Below you'll find an interview I completed back in July 2010 with Grammy Award Winning artist, Esperanza Spalding. I'm re-posting for those asking about her Grammy 2012 hair! Enjoy!**


As promised, Esperanza is On the Couch!

This jazz bassist and singer is not only amazingly gorgeous and talented, she was also a child prodigy! Finished with high school by 16, she was hired at Berklee College of Music at 20, becoming one of the youngest professors in the institutions history. How's that for brains and beauty?!
Last month, she paid homage to Prince, singing "If I Was Your Girlfriend' at the BET music awards. Her performance was noteworthy and Prince clearly thought so as well-- his nod of approval was seen by all.

The curly world has always adored Esperanza Spalding- - her music, her chic style, her beautiful face. But it's her perfectly executed 'fro that makes her a permanent fixture in our inspirational photo albums. During the interview, there was one word swirling in my mind... Pure. Her routine is probably one of the most simplistic I've come across! Check her out:

On her natural hair story...

I've been natural my entire life! My mother didn't believe in relaxers, and vowed never to put lye on her child's scalp. Lye is very toxic and your scalp is among the thinnest skin that you have on your body. The harm this stuff can do should not be taken lightly. I've never had a relaxer, and I never will.

On embracing her natural texture...

I've pretty much always loved my hair but there were a few years where I really didn't know how to take care of it. My hair is not as thick as it used to be... when I was younger it was SO, so thick! I didn't know what to do with it and found it to be very frustrating. Around age 13 or 14, I began to learn new techniques which expanded my styling options, and that's about the time that I truly began to embrace it.

On her experiences in the entertainment industry...

Wow... I never really think about it. I mean, it certainly makes me 'identifiable' when I show up with my Afro, but, to me, that's the most obvious way to wear my hair. That's how it grows out of my scalp. Having big natural hair makes me stand out to people at first take. I think of myself as an artist, as a musician, and I'm happy that my hair is just one more way that I can express myself.

On her current routine and achieving her signature Afro...

I usually wash my hair once a week-- a really thorough wash using a shampoo bar full of oils and natural cleansing agents. I then apply a mix of Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Olive Oil and Tea Tree Oil to my wet hair, brush it through using a typical Goody Brush (the white one with the red plastic bed and teeth), set my hair in 8 twists and allow it to air dry. The twists not only help to set my hair, but they also keep it from tangling as it dries. In between washing sessions, I'll re-apply my butter mix and twist my hair. I find that I don't really need conditioner. My hair fairs well with little product. My routine is very simple, very natural.

On routine changes while touring...

I keep the same routine when I can. I do find that I have to moisturize it a lot more often because the air gets so dry. I usually do my hair myself-- whenever I've let others try, they usually mess it up, LOL. People just don't know what to do with it! The few times that I've gone to a hair dresser to get it cut, I'd let them brush through it, and blow it out in order to get it even, but I'd lose so much hair! Not cool, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going that route again.
Luckily my hair regimen is simple-- it's not much to it, it's just an Afro, so it's easy for me to maintain on my own while on tour. My hair is the least of my concerns while I'm out here trying to lead my band and put on a show every night.

On protecting her hair at night...

I usually just re-twist it to keep it from matting up or tangling while I'm asleep. In the morning, I release the twists, and fluff it out. I moisturize with the butter mix as needed.

On being natural...

Embracing and freely wearing my natural hair is like a form of self- exploration. I'm not White, I'm not European, and my hair is not straight. So I don't have any desire to make it straight-- it doesn't speak to who I am as a person. I am very mixed and I like that my hair is a reflection of that. My hair is an extension of me, and that's how it should be.

On getting others to embrace their natural hair...

Don't get discouraged when at first your hair doesn't do what you want it to do. That's part of the beauty of it! You have to learn to work with whatever you have. Some people get frustrated when it doesn't 'respond'. Just give it time, be patient, and enjoy it! I love seeing people do their thing and embrace what ever type of hair they have. I also find it inspiring to see naturals that rock crazy, creative and artistic styles.

On her upcoming projects and ventures...

Please check out Chamber Music Society, my new album set to be released August 17th in the U.S. It's inspired by the classical training of my younger years-- it weaves the innovative elements of jazz, folk and world music into the enduring foundations of classical chamber music traditions. Pick it up!

To the Community:

Rock it proud! Be proud of the unique combination of genetics, cultures, and people that allow your hair to be the unique entity that it is. Let it be!

Corinne Bailey Rae on Her Natural Hair

After the Grammys last night, many of you have requested that I get Corinne On the Couch. So, I'm reposting my interview from last fall for those that may have missed it!

In the world of natural hair, there are tons of community and celebrity hair idols floating around. Folks whose hair we admire and appreciate even if ours is in no way similar. We want nothing more than to know their routine, their fave products, or 'how they got THAT look, in THAT picture'.

Corinne Bailey Rae, and I think you'd agree, is the definition of a Natural Hair Idol. When she and her amazing ringlets hit the scene in 2006, I remember feeling awe struck... to this day, I Google her images for twist-out inspiration.
Well, good news divas! The British singer and songwriter is *finally* 'On the Couch' and telling all... even how at one point, she wanted to start a natural hair site! It was a challenge tracking her down but it was so worth it... she has a beautiful soul and I'm honored to deliver her story to you! Enjoy!

On her hair story...
I was natural until I was about 13 and then got my hair permed, weirdly. I didn't really look after my hair before that and didn't know that it would actually grow 'curly' on its own. So yeah, I had a perm, and when I was about 16, I had it relaxed because I had my hair cut really short. It was kinda like Indie... like a white boy's hair style [Laughter], because I was in this guitar band. It was really, really straight and I'd wear it off to the side. I remember, hoping it wouldn't grow... you know, so it'd stay sort of as it was when you just had it done (relaxed). That's very unhealthy... horrible even.

So anyway, the summer before I went to University, a guy stopped me in the street and asked if I'd like to be a hair model for a project he was doing. I said yes, thinking at least I'd get a free relaxer out of it, because at the time, that was a really expensive process. So I did it, but the style was pretty extreme-- he dyed the tips of my hair red and cut it really short in the middle. It was this really ghastly hair style... a weird vampire theme. I remembered my friend's mother was getting married like 2 days after I had it done, and I said to the stylist, 'okay, I need you to do my hair before this wedding, because I have red tips... I've essentially got horns... I need it transformed back, relaxed and dyed back to black'. He claimed there wasn't enough time! Really? And this was the entire reason I did it (went natural). Just before that wedding, he basically cut my hair down to like an inch or two inches long, cut all the relaxer and hair dye out, and that was it. That was my style. So when I went to University, I had this natural hair style- like a tiny afro, really, really short hair- and I'd always wear jeans and a leather jacket and everyone thought I was a Black Panther.

I quickly got used to it. I liked the fact that you could wash your hair regularly and I loved that my hair was curly. I had never noticed it before because I was always pulling it and combing it straight. Finally, I discovered this really good, moisturizing shampoo. I think they were giving away a shampoo at the time on the front of some magazine... Wella? So I had a whole load of those and I would wash my hair, get right to the scalp, comb it and then twist it a bit with moisturizing cream and just leave it. And it was a revelation to me that my hair had that kind of texture. And because it didn't have a lot of length, it curled really easily and I thought, I'm just gonna keep it like this. But of course, it just sort of grew out over time. I remember I used to twist the front and the rest would be in this baby afro and then as it got longer and longer, I'd wind it around my fingers to make more of ringletly type curls.

On her current routine...
These days, I've embraced the texture even more. What I do now is wash it, put the conditioner in and detangle it with a big paddle brush which takes 40 minutes... it takes a while. I do it from the ends to the roots and then I put it in 4 or so plaits-- I plait the front section and then one in the crown and two at the sides. I leave that for a day or a day and a half.... it has to be a day where you're just hanging out at home. When I take them down, it's in those loose kinks from the plaits, but it's still a bit wet, so then my natural curl kind of comes back in a bit and it's a combination between those kind of kinks and my normal curls. That's my staple style.

On her hair in promotionals for her latest album...
That was the result of the plaits. You put them where you want them, in the direction you want your hair to go in... I personally like a side part. So yeah, you just make the big plaits and dry your hair in those. A lot of stylists tried drying my hair with a blow dryer, but it makes it straight. It's really weird, the heat pulls out the curl and flattens it. So generally, I just braid it up and let them dry.

On personal hair care and stylists...
I do my own hair much of the time. But when I'm working, I have different stylists. I have one in London, he's brilliant actually. He's this White guy, the same age as me, British... his name is Kenna and he has this studio called KennaLand. I find that he has a real sort of fashion forward focus, and he's really into Afro hair. He does Emily Sande's hair, this girl that just came out, she has an awesome shaved, blonde height. He also does Shingai Shoniwa's hair. He loves Afro hair, he loves the texture and he never tries to change it or work against it. He'll think really careful how it curls and how to cut it... making sure it's not too wet, keeping shrinkage in mind. He's got really great insight. I don't care for the hairstylists that make you feel like 'ooh, this is going to be hard work', especially the stylists in England, a lot of Black stylists in England are really loathsome to Afro hair and make you feel there's something wrong with you if you're not relaxed, or they'll say things like, 'if you ever straightened it, imagine how long it would be', but I'm like, 'I don't want straight hair'. So yes, Kenna is very good and likes to work with texture and I appreciate that.

The woman that does my hair in New York is from the salon Eva Scrivo. And she does the same... puts it in the plaits and dries it. But for the pieces that don't go curly enough, she'll wind them around the iron. But that thing with doing your whole head with an iron and looking like Orphan Annie... I don't like that.

On her favorite products...
I use an Aveda shampoo called Shampure. I find that it's nice. When I wash my hair, I tend to only really wash the roots. I spoke to someone that said when you have long hair, remember that the hair on the ends has been washed so many times because it's 4 years old, and when you wash your hair all you should focus on is the product build up at the scalp and to keep your scalp from feeling itchy or whatever. So when I wash my hair, I just put the shampoo at my roots, and move it around gently... I don't really mush it, I don't want to disturb the curls too much. If I'm doing my hair and I just washed it 4 days ago, I won't wash it with shampoo at all. I'd just put water in it and then just use conditioner. If it feels like it needs cleaning, which is every 8 or 9 days, then I'll use that shampoo and then I'd wash it out and put conditioner in it. There are two different conditioners that I use, one is by Aveda called Damage Remedy. I hate the name of it, because I don't like to think my hair is damaged, but it does need the moisture. And there's also a conditioner that I get from Eva Scrivo called Ruhua . Sometimes, to help it stretch, I mix it with another conditioner because it's expensive. But it's really nice because it has honey in it.

So, I just put conditioner on my hair, then detangle with the big paddle brush I got from Aveda. The bristles or spines on the brush are very flexible so it may not get the knots out the first or even the second time...I spend a while detangling. If I'm brushing my hair out, I'll watch TV, or go and sit in the garden... it takes me 45 minutes, but I'm patient. The key is to not get frustrated and know that all those tangles are going to come out eventually.

I detangle from the ends up and I naturally divide it into sections as I go. Once it's fully detangled, I'll put a shower cap on my head and leave it for a couple of hours. When I take it off, my hair is really black and shiny, and it's still soaking wet even though much of the conditioner is gone. But it's still easy to comb through. And then I'll just put it in the plaits. I do this styling process every 9 to 10 days.

On night time maintenance...
I usually just leave it. I try to position it so that it's up and over the pillow so that I don't smoosh or flatten the curls. I don't fuss too much with it and I'm not afraid of having wild hair. This is Rock & Roll... all of my hair idols, people like Yoko Ono, Grace Covington, and Janice Joplin, have this awesome big, messy hair. I love their hair! I'm not looking for it to be perfect, I like the cycle it goes through, from being wet and sort of polished looking and then it dries and gets bigger and bigger.

If there are sections that look a bit messy, I will section it out, put conditioner in it and put another plait there. So I think of it like a work in progress. But on most days, I just wake up and it just looks like it looks. You don't have to to do it that day. I find that it's quite low maintenance compared to relaxed hair because you don't have to do it everyday.

Sometimes, at night, I do apply an oil to my dry ends, but I can't remember the name of it. It nourishes and adds shine.

But you know what, I have stages where I just put Vaseline in my hair if it's dry. I put the Vaseline in it and comb it through. I remember after using it for a while, I went to my hairdresser and she said, 'your hair is in really good condition, what have you been using?' and I told her! She couldn't believe it. I like to put essential oil in it and it gives it a really nice smell. It's cheap and I think that's a myth... that you have to use really expensive products and you don't. You can add stuff like Olive Oil, Almond oil or things you just find in the health food store to help expensive products last longer. Experiment is what I say. What works for one person may not work for you. Everyone was raving to me about Moroccan Oil but I found it way too drying.

On length retention...
I haven't always had such a regimen, but I can say that you have to get your hair cut reasonably often. I get my hair cut about 3 times a year... Kenna does it. Find a hairstylist to trim those ends. I have so many friends that say, 'oh, my hair won't grow'. But of course, every one's hair grows, what happens is the ends break cause they get dry, they split into two and you put tension on the last few inches and they pop off. And people think 'I want to grow my hair so I'm not going to get it cut', but it's the opposite. If you're going to grow your hair, you need to get it trimmed, even if it's the tiniest bit, just so you stop the ends from breaking.

Obviously eating well and drinking water helps. It's also a myth that Afro hair can't grow long and it can. You just have to give it time, plus it's growing in a spiral and it's takes a bit to show length.

I want to grow mine longer!

On her ventures and current projects...
At the moment I'm writing an album. I'm really enjoying it, the process. It won't be out until next year. Today, I'm just here at home playing my guitar and relaxing.

I was at Fashion Week in November and I'll probably pop back over in February. At this time, I just feel like I want to engage with creative people and I'd like to do different collaborations with people that aren't necessarily musicians. It's fun and inspiring to talk to other creative people. I really like that website Lecoil. I think she has some really good pictures on there and it's really inspiring as well. The thing I found most depressing about that Chris Rock documentary Good Hair was that lawyer. She had this very beautiful afro and the other black girls were like, 'I think your hair is cute and all but when you become a lawyer no one is going to take you seriously because of your hair', and she was like, 'yeah I know I'm going to have to change it when I become a lawyer'. So, so sad. So the thing I love about Lecoil is that when you click on a picture, you find that this person is the CEO of a company, or a journalist, or the creator of a website! I think it's really important to show more and more people in influential positions that just let their hair be.

Believe it or not, at one point I wanted to start a natural hair site. Naturally, I came across your site and Lecoil... it was like 2 years ago and I was researching it and I felt that there were already enough sites and that people were doing a good job. I didn't think I needed to get into that arena, but we'll see what the future brings! Thanks Nikki!

Denise Richards Talks Big, Wavy Hair!

Lately, my Google searches go something like this--

'at home hair thickening treatment',

'naturally volumize fine ass hair',

'mousse for bigger hair'

...and things of that nature. Hundreds of henna, beer rinse, oat flour and sexually inappropriate results later, I happened upon something that caught me off guard. Apparently, Denise Richards has a volumizing hair care line. Denise Richards. You know...actress, model, white she-devil from Undercover Brother... Charlie Sheen's ex-wife? I couldn't help but reach out and I'm glad I did! She's super down to earth, friendly and a fellow curly. She'll also be in the new Tyler Perry movie! #WINNING

CN: Your hair is stunning! It's obviously naturally textured, but how would you describe it?

Thank you! My hair is thick with a bit of natural wave. Although it's very full, I feel like it's gotten less curly over the years.

CN: What was it like growing up with wavy hair? Did you always like it?

As a kid, we always want to be part of the ‘status quo”, which usually means having perfectly straight, shiny hair. I battled with my hair at the time (hey, it was the 80’s!) but through the years I stopped fighting my hair and found a style that works for me.

CN: What are your go-to products?

Speaking of the 80’s…. it’s all about the hairspray! But a much more grown up version, like the Volumizing Hair Spray from my Volume Extend line. I’m currently obsessed with my new line of products- they’re so luxurious and make my beauty routine a breeze.

CN: Tell me of this new volumizing haircare line?

My new hair care line, Volume Extend, is a volumizing line I created with celebrity hairstylist, Cristophe that uses cutting-edge formulas to achieve the perfect balance of volume and thickness without any frizz! It should go without saying, but these products are never tested on animals and are sulfate and paraben free.

CN: What is your current routine? How does it differ when you're working?

When I’m working, I have the best in the biz making sure I look perfect from every angle; I just let them work their magic! But when I’m at home, it’s all about my kids, which means my beauty routine is pared down to the bare minimum. I think the best way to keep it simple is to adopt a beauty routine that keeps your hair healthy and your skin glowing.

CN: As a new mother, I always ask celeb moms this question- How the hell do you do it? How do you save your last nerve while juggling career and kids?

I think it’s important to take time out for yourself. As a working mother, it’s easy to lose yourself in the demands of others, but what’s most important is maintaining a healthy, happy ‘self’. I recommend taking an hour to go for a walk, meditate, spend quality time with your friends – these are the things that maintain sanity.

CN: Any new and upcoming movie projects?

I recently guest starred on 30 Rock and I am currently working on a new Tyler Perry film, “Madea’s Witness Protection”!

CN: Dope. Can't wait! Where can we connect with you on the web?

You can follow me on Twitter (@DENISE_RICHARDS) or on my website at You can buy my products at!

Thandie Newton on Her Natural Hair

by Kay Montano of

Bafta winning actress Thandie Newton and I first met on a Vogue shoot about 6 years ago. It didn’t take long before I felt that I’d always known her. She is one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met and I’ve been fortunate enough to make-up, wax lyrical and travel with her ever since. I have made her up more than anyone else in my whole career, in an entirely different way each time. We often discuss what it is like to be mixed race, our experiences, what it means to us, what we continue to discover and most importantly perhaps, find ways of celebrating it. Our hair is not easy hair. It frizzes, it tangles and it knots and takes a lot to understand. There is still much stigma with a large ‘hair culture’ surrounding it, plus a multi-million dollar industry supplying women with ways of taming it.

Thandie has been growing out her hair relaxer for the last year and she’s now 100% Lye-free, (the controversial chemical in black hair straightening products) and is finding that wearing it big and natural is extremely liberating.

Your hair looks so different, what made you decide to go natural?

Its taken about 2 years to fully grow out my relaxer. I always thought I would go back to curly, because I didn’t want my daughters to judge their beautiful curls. I assumed they’d want to be like their Mum, and they’ve only ever known me with straight hair. However, it turns out they’re so secure in who they are as individuals that I don’t think it occurs to them to be like anyone else, and that includes me.

What inspired you to allow your hair return to it’s natural state?

So, the ultimate personal wake up call was when I saw Chris Rock’s documentary Good Hair, and saw how the active ingredient-Lye (that’s in all black hair relaxing products)- can melt a Coke can. Also the fact that the FDA take no responsibility with harmful chemicals when it comes to beauty products. Scary.

How does having wilder looking, bigger hair make you feel as opposed to the elegantly-on-trend hairstyles we’re used to seeing you with on the red carpet?

I have to feel comfortable with having ‘all eyes on me‘, which I do when I work, less so in life. Ironically I don’t want to draw attention to myself because of celeb spotting, but my big hair, for a time will work as a disguise! Straight hair has been ‘on trend’ for years and years, so having big-ass curly hair means “I’m stepping outside the mould, outside what’s accepted and applauded”. It takes a little courage to do that. Mainly, I want to wear it natural because it looks amazing!

Do you think cultural attitudes within the black community are changing with regards their hair?

The kinky-haired Afro has been practically ironed out (pun intended!) within the mainstream black community. Now, black women have silkier, smoother longer hair than any other women. And there’s no stigma attached to black women and false hair (weaves, extension, wigs) whereas if a white woman wore false hair they’d seem more of a phony and inadequate. That’s changing a lot, but men certainly don’t expect white women to have false hair, whereas black boys know that there’s ‘No touching above the neck!’ And there’s no embarrassment about it.

Being mixed race myself, know that there is a lot of stigma steeped in history surrounding black hair and it still exists today. Tell me a bit about your experiences.

The stigma with some black women seems to be that ‘nappy hair’ is almost as bad as loo roll trailing from your shoe. I have always let my daughter’s hair be wild and scruffy. I love the shapes and fluffy halo. But when they were ‘papped‘ in the States I had remarks about how I don’t take care of their hair. The truth is I choose to keep it that way. When I see hair that’s been pulled, stretched, brushed till bullet smooth I just think ‘ouch‘. I have my limits mind, sometimes I have to beg Nico to let me tidy it up for fear of her looking like she’s been neglected!

It was relatively easy for me growing up in West London amongst all colours and cultures, but how was it for you, growing up in Penzance, Cornwall?

Well for a start I only visited a hairdressers once in my entire childhood. It was a nightmare. They washed it and then (drumroll…) blowdried and BRUSHED it. It was like a huge candy floss – no curl definition. It looked ridiculous. And it cost my Mum 20 quid – that was the thing I hated most, that my Mum had to say thank you, pretend she was pleased and pay all that money. The truth is the salon had no idea – we were a loooong way from London. A long way from any other black person. I don’t think you could even buy a decent conditioner. Vitapoint was the only product, I bloody loved Vitapoint. The smell meant ‘friend’.

Without the support of a black ‘hair culture’ around you, how did you learn to manage your hair?

I think the closest thing I had to long, straight tangle-free hair was when I had it braided into ‘singles’ during the Summer holidays. By the time I was 13 I could do it myself. That’s one huge plus, I’m REALLY good at doing hair – I HAD to learn, and I did and I can do it all. I can braid, fit extensions, do my own weave, cut it, blow dry it bone straight, make hair pieces, fit wigs, style it beehive, forties, Afro, you name it. I started young and then from 16 when I started acting, I learned from the best of the best.

How was it for your Mum, coming to a culture where her ‘normal hair’ was suddenly non-’normal’, then having children, and approaching their hair in this alien place. What was her approach to your hair?

Mum wanted me to fit in, and I don’t blame her. My hair hampered that. Poor Mum. I remember when I was 7 at my convent school, it was school photo day so all the kids came looking their best. Mum did my hair in 20 or so ‘corn rows’ with green wooden beads on each end to match my school uniform. The nuns were appalled, they wouldn’t let me have my picture taken. I felt embarrassed, disappointed, ashamed. Can you imagine how my Mum must have felt? There was a mild rukus and the next day I had my picture taken. But then I read this year a piece in The Independent about a student who appealed against not being able to wear his hair in (what the school felt was a hoodlum style) braids, and he won. That’s 30 years since the Nun’s dissed me… This shit keeps going round and round.

Apart from the school photo incident it was 1 or 2 plaits every single day, and a bun when I was doing ballet. Never, ever, ever loose. Never.

So when did you discover hair products designed for black hair?

There wasn’t any ‘Dark & Lovely’ in Cornwall but I can say it was like Christmas when we discovered that a ‘home perm’ has the effect of loosening curls. I was around 14 then.

So what is your experience of modern hairdressers today-are they all clued up about how to manage your hair?

To be honest I do struggle with hairdressers, even now. The main problem is that hairdressers (and some at the top of their game) don’t understand how my type of hair changes dramatically depending on what climate, substance, effects it. Water in any form is like a cheeky magic wand – even mist! But with the correct tools ad managing my kind of hair can do ANYTHING, which is brilliant! So hairdressers like the genius Kerry Warn, or Maarit Niemela, are leagues better than others because they can work black hair from wet to dry in any style.
I’m surprised that more people don’t understand this (even though hair salons still seems to be culturally divided between ‘black’ hairdressing or ‘caucasian’ hairdressing), there are many black models and actresses around that they work with.

I think a problem for top hairdressers is that most black models and high end clients have weaves (Indian hair), so the technicians never work on authentic black hair. Whether black, white, blonde, brunette, I’d head to a local black hairdressers any day of the week- because if a technician can work black hair, you can work ANY hair.

So tell me about products. You’ve been an international actress all of your adult life, you must have tried everything!

My favourite shampoos, conditioner, serums and sprays etc are from John Masters Organics and the ‘Brilliant’ range by Aveda.

I have lots of ‘beauty icons’ that, to my mind, represent a more diverse attitude to beauty, that hopefully represent a wider scope of womanhood. Do you have any ‘hair icons’?

I just watched Flashdance with my girls. Jennifer Beales hair! In the same breath I get a total wide on for my friend Laura Bailey‘s hair. It’s unreal. Thick, shiny, heavy swinging blanket of the good stuff. Who doesn’t love Rihanna’s red? Or Stevie Wonder’s braids?

What would you say to young girls and women of colour who struggle with hair ‘issues’?

Ultimately the goal is to be free to do whatever you want with your hair. But what we ‘want’ is influenced by so many factors. When I was little I insisted my parents stopped calling me Thandie because it was so ‘different‘, my desire was influenced by a community where the way I looked was not celebrated, where my uniqueness was seen as suspect. Whatever we are repelled by, or don’t want – right there is the bud to a root we need to dig up and investigate.

Once we’re conscious of the story behind our discomfort, we can reject that story and be free. And then we can have it all, and love it all.

Watch a trailer of Thandie’s next movie, GOOD DEEDS (out in US Feb 14th) HERE

Watch Thandie’s talk on ‘Embracing Otherness, Embracing Myself’ at TED HERE

Watch the trailer to Chris Rock’s insightful documentary GOOD HAIR HERE

Read writer Funmi Fetto’s honest account of her hair from British VOGUE HERE

See my Pinterest board full of work that Thandie & I have done together HERE

Kay Montano's make-up career started at 16 and she learned her skill on the job within the edgy London fashion world. At 25 Kay moved to NY and worked regularly on glossies such as Vogue, Allure, Bazaar, W and Elle. From there she was introduced to a clientele of actresses that she still works with today including Salma Hayek, Nicole Kidman, Keira Knightley and Thandie Newton. Kay is now based in London but continues to travel for press junkets, premieres and ad campaigns. She is a Chanel ambassador and creative director of MyFace Cosmetics. View her agency portfolio here.

Follow Kay on Twitter at

Malcolm Jamal-Warner on Natural Hair

by Weusi of Hairscapades

Malcom-Jamal Warner is recognized by most as “Theo” from the legendary Cosby Show. What many do not know is that he is also an accomplished director, poet, bass player, voice actor, author, activist, speaker, producer and director. He’s been low-key for a while, but has stayed relevant with recent re-occurring roles on Sherri, Dexter and Community. But now he’s back in the spotlight starring in and co-producing a show on BET called REED BETWEEN THE LINES with co-star (and co-producer) Tracee Ellis-Ross.

After an episode that addressed natural hair and self-image, I felt that it was perfect timing for me to reach out and ask him a few questions for Hairscapades. So, without further ado … Mr. Malcolm-Jamal Warner …

Q: Who were some of the people/celebrities that you saw as beautiful growing up, peers and elders (natural, straightened and/or relaxed hair)?
The woman who I thought were beautiful totally ran the gamut. I had a wall full of Ola Ray pictures. We all loved Janet Jackson and Kim Fields. My mother and the majority of her circle of strong, independent Black woman for the most part had either fros, short fros or really close-cropped cuts.

Q: Your mother wears her hair natural now. Has she always? If not, do you remember how you felt when she went through her “big chop?” How did people around you respond to her hair? Did you ever get jokes about your mother having more waves than you?
My mother always had short hair. She did go through a period where she had braids and then enough hair to perm, which was such a huge difference because, ever since I was a baby, she had always worn her hair natural. I think she went through a period where she decided she wanted to try something different just to say that she did it. When she did the big chop after her locs, we all kinda said, “Ahhh, there’s the Pam Warner we know.” Lol. But it has been cool to see her take her journey with her hair.

Q: Did you grow up around other women that had relaxers or natural hair styles? How did that influence your idea of beauty?
Because I grew up around those strong, independent Black woman with natural hair styles, I think that may have had a significant impact on my attraction to women with natural hair. There’s a certain confidence that a woman has to have to rock natural hair, especially a short do. And, given the prevalence of perms, extensions and weaves, that confidence is often pretty sexy.

Q: You recently aired an episode of your new show, Reed Between the Lines, where you touched on the dynamics and “politics” of women with natural hair. Can you talk about how that came about and why you felt it was a worthy topic for an entire episode?
It was a storyline the writers came to us with already. Everyone felt that it was an important topic – none of us had seen it handled like this in a sitcom before. Tracee especially gravitated toward it, because it was something she could relate to given that her hair may even have a bigger fan-base than she does! It was also important to us to handle it in a way that, though the topic is specific to the Black family dynamic, it could still be told within the universal message of letting young girls (and all people for that matter) know that changing yourself just so someone would like you is never a good idea.

Q: Your co-host and co-producer of the show is an ICON in the natural hair care world. Does her hair always look great? Do you have any idea what she uses on her hair?
I haven’t the slightest clue! Lol!

Q: You used to have locs. For how long? What was the inspiration for them and what prompted you to cut them?
It’s crazy, because during my early 20s, my best friend and I worshipped Das-EFX. We took the time to decipher practically every verse from that first CD, which was no easy feat. But, as much as we loved them, whenever we asked ourselves if we’d ever grow locs, we were both like, “No.” Some years later, my mother started growing locs. And, as you know, when locking, you have many a “not good” hair day. I used to see her rock those days with a little extra pep in her step and her head held a little higher because, for her, it wasn’t about how her locs looked; it was about how they made her feel. I admired that self-assurance she carried, no matter what anyone else thought (Not even me – I used to tease her when she was twisting, only because I didn’t think she’d commit to it. But to my surprise she did.). The year I did my first 10 day fast, I spent a lot of time by myself on a mini-spiritual journey. It was the end of the first season of “Malcolm & Eddie” and, once I knew we were picked up for a second season, and therefore had job security, I decided to loc. I said I would give myself 10 years. Once the show ended, my manager, agent, and publicist were all suggesting I cut my locs, because they felt that they were getting in the way of my getting jobs. My feeling was that I didn’t grow my locs for anyone else and I wasn’t going to cut them for anyone else. I knew people who cut them before they were ready and regretted it. I did a show with Goapele shortly after she cut hers. And, in her post-loc glow, she told me to only cut them when I was absolutely ready. I knew I wanted to glow like her, so I waited until I was absolutely, beyond a shadow of a doubt ready. I had done enough acting work to document my locs, had gotten out of the journey what I needed and was ready to move on. Turns out, it was exactly 10 and a half years.

Q: Can you talk about the power dynamics and the community’s response to men with locked hair? (Don’t front and act like I was the only one getting pulled over on the highway and asked if I had any weed when I was walking down the block!)
Generally, I had a positive response to my locs. Of course, there were women who would say, “Why’d you do that? You look better without dreads.” But even now, since I cut them, there are women who say they think I looked better with them, thus proving, you can’t please everybody. Lol! I’ve been told by many people that, because of my public “mainstream” image, my wearing locs eased the threat a bit and helped make them more “acceptable.” I think as long as people refer to them as “dreadlocks,” there will always be a level of intimidation and prejudice because, as we know, there is nothing dreadful about wearing locs.

Q: Have you ever kept up with the hair regimen of your lady? Like, do you keep up with her? Do you know how often she washes her hair? Conditions? Colors? Deep conditions? Etc.?
No, actually. I just know I like it.

Q: Have you ever been one to know what your lady uses on her hair? If you were walking down the beauty aisle, would you know what to pick up for her?
There’s a gang of stuff in her bathroom cabinets, but I don’t know which stuff she uses regularly.

Q: Her hair is ALWAYS fly. Does she allow you to play in her hair or does she keep it wrapped up in scarves and bonnets?
She only wraps it when she goes to sleep.

Q: Have you ever dated a sister that HAS to wear “headgear” to bed? What kind? How do/would you deal with that? What’s your preference … bonnet, scarf, do-rag, hat!?!
The funny thing is, when I had to work with that the most, we both had locs. So, she’d wear a bonnet and I’d rock the do-rag to bed. Some nights, it made for some interesting night-time fun!

Q: Have you ever dealt with someone who had braids/extensions? How do you feel about the “purchased” hair?
I’ve never really been big on extensions and weaves and the sort. I get why some women prefer them or feel they may need them. I also know that, in some cases, it’s just easier to rock the purchased hair. I don’t discriminate. But personally, I want to run my fingers through my woman’s hair and play with it without concern for pulling something out.

Q: Is there anything that you want to share about hair, hair politics, black men caring for daughters with natural hair (Hint, hint! Haha!)?
A fly hairstyle with a whack attitude is a waste, but a pretty [email protected]#$ smile trumps a bad hair day every time.

Q: You are a good-looking, stable, intelligent, socially conscious, spiritually and community grounded brother … why don’t you have any kids and/or why aren’t you married (Haha!!)?
Hahahaha. Don’t count me out just yet, brother …

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