CN: Your hair is ridic, tell us the back story.
AB: I’ve been natural for 3.5 years. I got my first relaxer when I was around 10 or 11 and wore my hair relaxed until right before I turned 21. I tried to ‘transition’ but only lasted about 2 months. I was desperate to see my natural hair so I just chopped off one night at about 3 o’clock in the morning. My hair texture is mostly 4A, but the hair at my edges is very loose, either 3A or 3B.
CN: Have you always liked your natural hair? If not, how did you come to embrace it?
AB: No. When I first big chopped and it was very short, I LOVED it! Then about 6 months later it got to this weird middle stage and I couldn’t do anything with it and I couldn’t keep it moisturized for the life of me. It was struggle and I had to fight the urge to cut it really short again. Also, I have MAJOR shrinkage. When it’s shrunken, it looks like it’s only 3 or 4 inches long, but it really comes past my shoulders. Shrinkage and knots are what I like least about my hair.
CN: What is your current routine?
AB: I don’t wear my hair shrunken because if I do, I will get thousands of single strand knots (SSKs). SSKs have caused me 3 set backs where I’ve had to cut off several inches of my hair. Now, I keep it moisturized and twisted at all times, even when washing. I wash every 2 weeks, sometimes once a week if I’m not extra lazy. I don’t use shampoo, just conditioner. If I need to clarify my hair, I’ll rub baking soda throughout my hair or do an apple cider vinegar rinse. I’m not very particular about what conditioners I use unless it’s a deep conditioner. I try to maintain a good balance of protein and moisture so I’m more careful when it comes to what I use to DC with.
CN: How does your routine change when you’re on set? Do you always style your own hair?
AB: I wear a half wig 99% of the time in order to protect my hair. The majority of set hair stylists that I’ve encountered are unskilled when it comes to natural hair unless it’s very loose curls. Before I started wearing the wig, these stylists would have me looking a hot mess and I would have to sneak into the bathroom to do damage control. I’ve had two different stylists damage my real hair to the point where I had to cut off entire sections. Two months ago, I did a shoot where my real hair was straightened and had a few tracks added. When styling my hair/weave, the stylist cut off almost 4 inches of my own hair. My hair was prepped the day before the shoot so I didn’t even notice the drastic length difference until I got home. He took me from APL to just above SL. The shoot was very high paying so I guess it was worth it. However, I was told that my hair would be trimmed, not sheared off!
Stylists don’t care about the health of your hair, they just want to achieve a certain look. When I wear the wig, they just fluff it a bit and tell me I look good. They are always relieved that they don’t have to work on my hair.
Also, as an actor/model, it’s very important to have consistency. I have to look like my headshot at all times. Every natural knows how unpredictable our hair is. My hair is very susceptible to the elements. NYC gets very humid (and it rains a lot) and can cause major shrinkage for me, even after spending 2 hours on a braid/twist out. The shrinkage was causing a lot of SSKs so, last October, I started wearing my half wig as a protective style. I found one that closely matches my texture and I leave the perimeter of my hair out when wearing it. This way, my look is very consistent, quick to acheive, and I still get to rock my natural look while protecting my hair. Prior to my last on-set setback, I’d gained about 4-5 inches of retained length in about a 6 month period, so my hair has been thriving.
CN: How did you achieve the style in the CBS Sport vid?
AB: I’m wearing my half wig. Sorry to disappoint y’all!!
CN: Wow! Amazing. I want one! Any recs for places to find ‘convincing’ kinky curly half wigs? Dish!
AB: My wig is not really a half wig, it’s a full wig that I’ve cut to fit me as a half wig. I use bobby pins to secure it. I cut off the bottom “track”. I also cut out one of the middle tracks and sewed the gap closed to make it smaller. It’s called HH Afro Curl. I think the brand is Suprema. Lot’s of beauty supply stores carry full wigs that resemble most natural textures. It’s rare to find a half wig for textures in the 4 range. I’d recommend searching the internet first. When you find a wig you like, search YouTube for review/tutorial videos on the wig. Almost every wig out there has a video of someone wearing it and noting their likes/dislikes.
I also would recommend buying a full wig and cutting it the way I did so that it fits you well and leaves plenty of room for you to leave the perimeter of your hair out. Also, to make it look more natural, you have to frizz the hair out a bit with a brush or rub it with a dry towel. People NEVER know I’m wearing a half wig unless I tell them.
CN: What are your must have products?!
AB: For tools, my best friend is my Ouidad detangling comb. It’s huge and heavy (don’t ever drop it on your foot!) and has two thick parallel rows of teeth. It glides through my hair and gently removes knots and shed hair.
Product-wise, extra virgin coconut oil and aloe vera juice are my staples. Right now, I’m really in love with the Shea Moisture brand. I use the Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the Deep Treatment Masque. I love Organix conditioners and right now, I’m loving Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths Replenishing Mask. It reminds me of the Pantene Relaxed and Natural Deep Conditioning Mask that was discontinued a couple of years ago.
CN: How do you protect your hair at night?
AB: I always cover my hair with a satin bonnet or sleep cap.
CN: What’s the best thing about being curly?
AB: Definitely the versatility! I can wear my curls in their naturally tight form, or I can twist/braid out to get a looser curl. I can also flat iron or blow it out for a fluffy fro. Or just go bone straight. I love having options.
CN: I found myself admiring your skin during the CBS short, what’s your regimen?
AB: As far as my skin goes, my regimen is pretty simple. Drinking lots of water, eating healthy foods, and exercising is a great start. But specifically, I do the following twice a day: I thoroughly cleanse my skin using cleansing cloths that come in packs of 30. These cloths remove makeup/dirt/oil really well. Olay Daily Facials Deep Cleansing Cloths are the brand, but I actually use the generic version from CVS. The CVS brand has a better texture (and they’re cheaper) than the Olay, and gives me better results. You can use either if you don’t live near a CVS. I don’t like pre-moistened towelettes because they always contains oils and fragrances that leave a residue on your skin. These cleansing cloths are dry and you have to run them under water and lather them up.
After cleansing with the cloths, I wash with Aveeno Clear Complexion Cream Cleanser. Then I use Neutrogena Clear Pore Oil Eliminating Astringent. I just take a cotton pad, pour a bit on and swipe all over my face. After it dries, my final step is to moisturize with Ambi Even & Clear Moisturizer with SPF 30. Unless I’m wearing a lot of makeup, my regimen takes less than 5 minutes.
CN: What would you tell a woman who has yet to embrace her natural hair?
AB: My oldest sister just big chopped a few weeks ago and has been asking me for a lot of advice. The number one thing to remember, in my opinion, is that going natural requires a mental transition as well. The mental transition is much harder than cutting off the relaxed hair. You have to train your mind to forget everything it’s been taught about what is beautiful and socially acceptable. You have to decide, with certainty, that you are beautiful as you are.
You also have to choose what is best for you and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about your choices, not even other naturals. If you only want to wear your hair in twist outs or flat ironed or in wigs, that doesn’t make you any less natural than the woman who prefers an Angela Davis fro or a shrunken TWA. We’re all in this together!
CN: Tell us about your current or upcoming projects!
AB: I just recently shot a one-liner on HBO’s “How To Make In In America”, the episode will air this fall. I’ve also recently shot ads for Morgan Stanley, Citi Financial, Puma, and Verizon. The summers are usually pretty slow for TV, but casting for episodic season starts in the couple of months so hopefully I’ll be auditioning for some cool shows!
CN: Is there anything you’d like to say to the CN.com community?
AB: I’d just like to thank you and all of the readers for the kind words and support. Hopefully, I’ve been able to help someone out today. Happy Hair Growing!