Very rarely in show business the confluence of pure vocal talent, charisma, performance ability, and flawless choice of material align to create a moment of pure magic. To witness Syesha Mercado’s rendition of Sir Andrew Lloyd Weber’s “One Rock and Roll Too Many” from Starlight Express on the seventh season of American Idol was such a defining moment. That performance brought the audience to its feet and elicited rapturous praise from judges Randy Jackson (“you will be a huge Broadway star”), Paula Abdul (“you brought the house down!”) and even generally sour Simon Cowell (“as sexy as Michelle Pfieffer – one of your strongest performances!”).
Though only twenty-two years old, show business has been on Syesha’s mind from a very young age. Born in Connecticut, she spent her formative years in and around Sarasota Florida, where she began singing in the church choir. Her mother, Zelda, exposed young Syesha to a wide range of music, including everything from contemporary pop and R&B to musical theatre classics like The Wiz. Her father Jose’s car radio was tuned the oldies station with a healthy dose of Latin music. “When I was young, I was exposed to many kinds of music in my home,” Syesha explained. “I loved everything from gospel legend Yolanda Adams to Lauryn Hill. My sister had ‘The Mideducation of Lauryn Hill’, and I would listen to that over and over.” “For my sixteenth birthday, my mom bought me the first Alicia Keys CD, which was a major influence.”
In 2008, encouraged by her success in the previous competitions (such as ABC’s The One: Making A Music Star, and Florida Super Singer) Syesha decided to audition for the seventh season of American Idol, Fox’s phenomenally popular show and one of the top-rated programs in the country. That season saw a record turn out of over 100,000 hopefuls, but Mercado breezed through the audition process, nailing Aretha Franklin’s “Think” with the confidence and poise of a skilled veteran.
Syesha’s A.I. experience in Hollywood, found her rubbing elbows with legends like Dolly Parton and winning the hearts of millions of fans who responded to her warmth, beauty and stylistic range. Ultimately, Syesha ended the season as second runner-up, creating many memorable moments, like her stirring rendition of the classic “A Change Is Gonna Come.” While effortlessly bowling over the competition, she was proudly sporting a fierce curly fro…not to mention the chicest dresses! The natural hair community was all a buzz as she rocked her hair with style and grace- showing everyone that natural hair IS beautiful.
Dying to know Syesha’s hair care regimen, I reached out to her. Needless to say I was very surprised when she responded so quickly, and graciously divulged her hair story and beauty secrets. Check it out:
CN: We all have one…tell us your Hair Story?
Syesha: My entire life I’ve always been described as unique and creative, and I blame most of that on my hair. It makes me who I am. I feel most comfortable and completely myself when my hair is wild and crazy. I’ve explored many looks and it’s okay to change it up if you feel it. But it’s not cool to change your style for others or to fit the mold.
I’ve had many people tell me when I was younger that I needed to straighten my hair, or get a relaxer, or just comb it because it was nappy. It affected me then, because I wasn’t comfortable with my image. I was afraid to stand out. When my mom stopped doing my hair with Pink Lotion, I would wear my hair gelled back in a bun or pony-tail. It was tamed and I didn’t have to worry about getting picked on.
My mom is Bahamian and my dad is Puerto Rican. In Elementary school people always asked me what I was mixed with. Kids thought I had a Jheri Curl. My mom always did my hair and it stayed healthy that way. But we never had money to get it trimmed. So, over time I had lots of breakage.
I was born with fine straight hair and the older I got, the thicker it became. It also got shorter and shorter due to unhealthy habits. I used to use gel to style my hair, until I realized the damage it caused. I always struggled with finding the right products until I found Miss Jessie’s during my Idol Experience. I started using her products during the summer tour, and I fell in love.
My whole life I dealt with what the look is for pretty. With my curls I got a lot of “Your Cute”. I was so confused, because every time I styled my hair and made it big and crazy I was told it looked nappy or I should do something to it.
I had to make the decision that pretty is loving yourself even if you don’t fit the mold of what is stereotypically beautiful. Pretty is knowing that you are unique and one of a kind. Pretty is looking in the mirror and embracing the reflection you see.
It is the acceptance of who you are naturally.
When I wear my hair natural, I feel bold, creative… I feel like an individual, I feel free, I feel like me and I feel pretty 🙂
CN: Your hair always looks fab! We’re all dying to know how you achieve your different looks? Do you do it yourself?
Syesha: For all my hair-styles I start with a wet head of hair, I then towel dry, and distribute the product evenly throughout my damp hair.
My curls have a mind of their own. So, I use Miss Jessie’s line because she has a variety to choose from and it’s perfect for unpredictable hair.
I wash my hair daily with Miss Jessie’s Crème De La Curl and I use her Crème De La Crème Conditioner. I make sure three times a week to use Miss Jessie’s Rapid Recovery Treatment. I part my hair into four sections in the shower and I distribute a golf ball size evenly throughout my hair, then I comb and place a shower cap on for 10-15 minutes. Then, I rinse.
Depending on what look I want, I do one of the following:
When I wear the “Mohawk Performance Look” I use Curly Buttercreme (it has peppermint in it and makes your scalp tingle) or I use baby Buttercreme. I apply the product throughout my hair and part my hair into sections that I twist. I take a bobby pin and clip the twists back and blow dry. I also take a hair tie and pull my hair back, then blow-dry it more to stretch the curls. After it’s dry I take out the pins and shape the Mohawk. But some days instead of leaving the back out I pin it up.
For the “Curly Fro” look I use Curly Pudding. I apply the product and comb through my hair with the product in it. I let it air dry for a little, shake the curls out and blow dry. I twist the front so my bangs have some wave, then I’m ready to go.
CN: What are your two must have products or tools?
Syesha: Miss Jessie’s Curly Pudding- I have to have it! Oh, and a blow dryer/diffuser.
CN: What advice would you give to a natural newbie?
Syesha: You have to understand that no two heads are alike. You will never be happy until you’re able to look in the mirror and accept and love yourself for who you are. Do you…be yourself…use the products that work for you and steer clear of trends and bandwagons. Try not to compare your curls to others or else you will always find something wrong. Acceptance is the key.
Remember, it’s okay to stand out and be different…We all have bad hair days. Be encouraged.
CN: What do the fans have to look forward to? What projects are in the works?
Syesha: I’ve been in the studio working with Grammy-Award winning writers and producers.I’ve had the opportunity to work with song writer’s of some of my favorite tunes; Diane Warren, Christopher Rojas, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven, Harvey Mason, Greg Pagani, and the list goes on. I’ve spent a lot of time after the tour working on my song writing and artistry. I’ve done a ton of soul searching since Idol.
I’ve also been pursuing acting as well. Before Idol I was living in Miami pursing a Theater Degree and I was working as an actress. Even though I was booking a ton of commercials and content in Florida I decided to make the move to Hollywood after Idol was complete and I quickly learned how different and heartless this industry is. So, the more confidence and preparation you have the better off you are. I am extremely optimistic that an opportunity will come again for a movie role. I believe what is for me will be for me regardless of the obstacles. So, despite the lack of highly textured hair on the big screen I know there will be a change soon. As of right now I am doing my part and taking Acting Classes and private coaching with the best of teachers.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time in the studio working on my POP album. I understand that time is of the essence, but I don’t want to sell myself or my fans short. It’ll be out in due time, and it will most certainly be a breath of fresh air! Hard work always pays off.
My website syesha.com is not owned by me. So, I am currently working on syeshaonline.com as the official site for my fans. It isn’t up yet, but I just finished an exclusive photo shoot that will be available soon as well as exclusive video footage. For now you can get to know me and stay updated by following me on Twitter.com/Syesha or Myspace.com/syesha.
I have a few shows coming up in L.A. , Chicago, and Connecticut. All the dates and info, are on my Myspace.com/Syesha. Check it out and stay informed.