CN: Have you always liked your curls? If not, how did you come to embrace your natural hair?
I definitely did not always like my curls. Hair is a touchy subject for a lot of women in the African-American community, as it was for me when I was growing up, and once I graduated high school, I was ready to be honest with myself about my hair and what it meant to me. It turned out that I had an unhealthy obsession with long, straight hair, because I wanted it for myself — I wanted to BE like the white girls around me, I wanted to embody all the traits that were heralded in my community, and long, flowing straight hair seemed to be the only thing that was just beyond my reach.
Once I got to college, that was no longer a good reason to want to have straight hair. So I started wearing it curly. And about a year after that, I chopped it all off, so not only did I not have straight hair anymore, it wasn’t even long. My decision was deliberate and symbolic in a lot of ways, and now I can’t even imagine having hair that isn’t cropped.
CN: Have your curls ever helped or hindered in securing a role?
I was once cast for a sitcom pilot that shot in L.A. When I arrived from NYC and we started doing rehearsals, there were lots of whispers amongst the producers and the hair department, and they finally informed me that they they wanted me to get fitted for a wig. I found out later that they didn’t think my hair looked “glamorous” enough for the role, but they didn’t want to recast me, they just wanted to do something different to my hair.
So I went to the wig shop and came back to the studio with a long, chestnut brown wig. Later that day, after I was in hair and makeup, people working on the show kept coming up to me backstage and re-introducing themselves because they didn’t recognize me from earlier that morning (and I was in the exact same clothes!). Casting directors in NYC don’t seem to be phased by my hair at all, but in L.A. it was another story — I don’t think there are as many people on the west coast who wear their hair curly, so when they do come across it, it is a bit of an issue.
CN: What is your current routine? How does it change when you’re shooting a movie or show?
Normal routine is to wash, condition, comb, scrunch/rinse out, apply leave-in conditioner and gel, comb out any frizzies, about 40 minutes of air drying, then 15 or 20 minutes of blow drying with a diffuser. All of that takes about an hour and a half, and when I am not shooting I do it maybe twice a week. When I’m shooting, I have to wash my hair more often for continuity’s sake, and to keep it looking fresh, but I can usually get away with doing my full routine every other day.
I like the way my hair looks when it’s big and frizzy, so I wash it as little as I have to when I’m not working. I deep-conditioned more when I was living in NY than I do in Vancouver, where we’re now shooting, but I think that has something to do with the change in humidity (it rains every day in Vancouver in the winter, and as a result, my hair is less dry). I try to deep-condition every 6 weeks, which is when I get a cut (to keep it the same length throughout the show cause it grows super fast), and also when I give myself a touch-up with a mild relaxer (yes, my hair is this curly and I have a mild relaxer!)
CN: What are your staple hair styles?
Curly, curly, and curly. For a while, I had my head shaved on one side but I had to forgo that look because it was too edgy for some roles I was being considered for. Sometimes I pin up my bangs to the side with a clip, and I like wearing thin ribbon headbands in it, though my hair usually covers up anything I put in it. I generally keep it simple — one of the things I love about my hair is that it is its own accessory.
CN: Must-have products?!
I have been using DEVA CURL for about 3 years now. I have yet to find a reason to switch to another set of products cause it doesn’t dry my hair out the way a lot of others do. I use the Mist-er Right curl reviver spray, the conditioner and the An-GEL, but my prized possession is the No-Poo Shampoo. It’s a cleansing shampoo that doesn’t lather, it’s more like a cream that you rub into your scalp and then rinse out, but I immediately noticed a difference in the texture and feel of my curls once I stopped using regular shampoos; with the No-Poo, there was no product buildup and the curls were less frizzy. Oh yeah, and I also sleep on a silk pillowcase.
CN: How do you protect your hair when wearing straightened styles?
Honestly, I don’t get my hair straightened often enough to know much about how to protect it. I have a love/hate relationship with straight hair, in that I used to pine for it when I was younger, but now I am completely uninterested in it. The last time I got my hair straightened was a year ago, and within 2 days I was itching to wash it out and be curly again. I feel like a different person when I wear straight hair, which can be fun every once in a while, but I already play an FBI agent on TV, so dressing up in real life doesn’t hold as much excitement for me. I love the prospect of wearing my hair straight for roles though — it is the single most transforming thing I can do to my look and it affects everything in my body language.
CN: What’s the best thing about being curly?
The best thing is that it reflects my lifestyle to a tee; it means I can get up and go as soon as I wake up in the morning, I can go to the gym, or get sweaty in the sun, or run into the ocean, or dash out into the rain and my hair will be resilient enough to bounce back without any fuss. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t take me a little chunk of time to get my hair ready when it’s time to do my routine, but doing that a couple times a week is still a far cry from the amount of time I spent coaxing my curls straight when I was in high school.
CN: Any beauty secrets to divulge? Your skin is clear and your body is ridiculously gorgeous! Any tips for us?!
Wow, thank you, what a compliment! I don’t know if I would use those exact words to describe it, but my body is definitely healthy and strong, and I suppose that’s pretty much synonymous. I have no secrets at all. I think that most people recognize that, as corny as it may sound, the key to looking good is feeling good. I have a lot of hobbies; I love to knit and draw and cook, I love to sew, I love to sing, I love to dance, I love to be active, I love spending time exploring new places with my partner — I fill up my free time doing all the activities that I enjoy, so I have little time to worry about inconsequential things. I think what a lot of people discern as “gorgeous” qualities in a woman is often just that woman’s happiness seeping through.
CN: What would you tell a woman who has yet to embrace her curls?
I would tell her to only do exactly what makes her happy. No one should feel pressured into going curly cause they think they should, and curly certainly isn’t for everyone. If there is even an inkling of desire for a woman to test out what her natural hair looks like, then by all means she should go for it, but most importantly I think that women of color should consider why they want to wear their hair the way they do, whether its straight or curly.
I had a close friend who moved to Atlanta from NYC who felt she needed to straighten her beautiful natural hair out of fear of not being taken seriously in the workplace, and I had another friend who thought that going natural from straight would put her more in touch with her roots, so to speak. But it’s less about the effect that hair has on other people and more about the effect that your hair has on YOU. The girl who moved to Atlanta held strong and kept her hair curly and eventually got her dream job despite her worries, and my friend who went curly eventually got a relaxer again cause the natural style ended up being more work for her than the straight one.
CN: What do we have to look forward to? What projects are you currently working on?!
Well, “Fringe” keeps me on a pretty short leash — our hiatus is only a few months long, so most of us on the show spend that time recuperating before we return for the next season. The only thing I can guarantee I will be working on is my artwork and my website, which you can visit at www.jasikanicole.com. I have tons of my illustrations up there, plus my online comic called “High Yella Magic” and you’ll find eco-friendly handbags with my artwork on them for purchase. I also plan to let my hair go on vacation and not cut it at all!