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Curly Nikki

Esperanza Talks Natural Hair!- Exclusive

By January 27th, 202141 Comments
**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:

Esperanza Talks Natural Hair!- Exclusive
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.

Esperanza Talks Natural Hair!- Exclusive

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.

Esperanza Talks Natural Hair!- Exclusive
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!

Esperanza Talks Natural Hair!- Exclusive


  • Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with her although I'm black I have mixed cutural hair that is very much like Esperanza's and my daughter has straight curly hair I will most definitley use her as an inspiration for my daughter

  • FrizzyBobbedCutie says:

    Finally!!! Another natural who says she doesn't need conditoner. My hair hates it and seems to love only butter for moisture, but i am thrilled to find our routines are very similar (i prefer braidouts at night) nevertheless, her music is awsome with music talents.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think she's one sharp lady!

  • Anonymous says:

    Negrican24, but all in all she's NOT black. I have a white father and a black mother, and I embrace that! I am not entirely white nor am I entirely black, I am a mixture of both. You seem a little upset at the fact that she doesn't consider herself black. Why should she? The woman is mixed!

  • NegRican24 says:

    Out of all of the interviews that i have read that she's done this is the first that she didn't talk about how mixed she is. Don't get me wrong embracing all of your races/ethnicities is fine,(my tag name for goodness sakes says it all) but to ALWAYS broadcast it is too annoying to me. It's almost as if you're trying to minimize the fact that all in all you're black. I love her music, and that she wears her fro at all times, but i just wish that she would chill on the rundown of her DNA mixture. Just my 2 cents.

  • Naturalgirl says:

    I just love her hair. it's full and healthy looking, her hair has that messy but shaped look. love it.

  • Lisa says:

    Thanks for the repost. I find her so stunning and talented.

  • Anonymous says:

    I've never heard music by this singer but now I'm interested. She seem very comfortable and confident within herself and that's great! I also think it's important to note that it started with her mom according to her! She "never" relaxed her hair and I'm sure she must of let her know that she and her hair was beautiful just the way it was! Great way to love your self Esperanza!:)

  • Linda P - Brooklyn, NY says:

    The first time I heard Ms. Spaulding I fell in love with her music. Then I saw her and that gorgeous head of natural hair and said to myself, "that's it – I'm in" – LOL. I was transitioning for a while but got a pair of scissors and cut off those crazy ends myself in the bathroom mirror the very night I saw her. Thanks to Ms. Spaulding and all the other lovely natural ladies out there, I'm now free to rock my own 'fro and only wish I had done it sooner. Sometimes you just need a little inspiration and there's no better example out there than Esperanza Spaulding.

  • Anonymous says:

    Great interview CN and despite being a celebrity Ms. Spalding keeps her hair care simple and the results are noted in each and everyone's responses. I think it's time we curlies take her cue and keep it simple…e.g., stop with all the various hair labels that's costing us "regular" folks a fortune and I'm sure some of us really can't afford it.

    I'd like to see her and Alicia Keys pair up for a jazz CD since both of them are child prodigies

  • Steph B-More says:

    My she is my hair idol! I love her fro. Great article.

  • Ms. Sasssy says:

    I'm really glad you did this. I love Esperanza's music and her hair. Its good to know the routine of celebrity's hair we admire

  • Anonymous says:

    Great interview CurlyNikki! Esperanza is beautiful and gifted. Thanks for sharing.

  • Shell says:

    Love Esperanza. She is truly a beautiful spirit inside out. Fab interview, Nikki.

  • bestsellingauthor says:

    We LOVE ES and have followed her career for several years. At a recent concert it was great to see the enthusiasm for her in the crowd. This is a young lady who makes us proud…and her rockin' that fro' is icing on the cake. Thank you for the interview.
    CM Miller~ Taxes, Death & Trouble

  • Anonymous says:

    Love the interview, Esperanza's style, philosophy, and hair. Looking forward to the new album and thank you for sharing. Live, Love, Peace. ~ Sweetsop

  • CurlyKye says:

    Beautiful & talented girl!!! Beautiful hair!

  • modest-goddess says:

    love her philosophy and love her hair

  • E. D. Lewis says:

    I am now a new fan of not only her music and hair, but her as a person. You're right…she's PURE.

  • Cyndy says:

    I love Esperanza's music, and hair. I saw her perform with a jazz band in 2006 and never forgot her because she's a woman playing the bass, and that hair! Her words inspire me to keep my regimen as simple as possible. Thanks CN for the interview.

  • Bianca says:

    So loving this. She is so real and looks like a living doll! Curly Nikki you are doing it, you now officially have all of my favorite natural hair stars in one place. Thanks!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you for the interview, Nikki and Esperanza. I've admired her style for awhile now and it's good to get the inside scoop on how she cares for her hair.

  • Living Fly on a Dime says:

    Great interview. And I love that she does her own hair!

  • JellyBean K says:

    I totally agree with her. Wearing my hair naturally is what makes the most sense! Thanks Esperanza for being such a beautiful example of a mixed race woman– my mother is from Portugal and my father is Black. I understand multiple hair textures better than most! Please keep doing what you're doing. Thanks Nikki for this wonderful interview!

  • Anonymous says:

    I love Esperanaza! This made my day CN, thanks a million.

  • MsAnkh says:

    Another Wonderful Interview Nikki!!! She is a great inspiration. Thanks!!!

  • Kaila says:

    Amazing interview!! Love the photos!

  • Lynnieluve says:

    I LOVE HER HAIR!!!! Great interview….she seems really down to earth!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Great interview. Her hair is FAB!

  • Anonymous says:

    Lovely! Her hair, fashions and attitude rock. I've never heard her music, but I'm getting that new CD when it drops. Thx, Nikki.

  • Anonymous says:

    LOVE HER! Thanks so much for posting this interview. Can't wait to hear her new album. I just got "Esperanza" and can't stop listening to it.

  • Unknown says:

    Such a great interview!! I love her carefree spirt and her words about accepting her hair the way it comes out of her scalp. That statement has me thinking deeply about my own hair journey 🙂 Can't wait to follow her music in the future she is truly an amazing woman!!

  • Katrina says:

    Love Esperanza…met her after a performance here in Miami, which was AMAZING!!!! I told her that I loved her music and she said she loved my hair…..very talented and geniune person.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thank you Nikki and thank you E.Spaulding for the interview truer words were never spoken.I think if we really take her advice about our hair we will be much happier.Keep it simple and let it be!ps.nikki you are just the best!(raina)

  • KeetaRay says:

    Love it. Very inspiring. Funny b/c I literally just told someone this morning, "Sometimes you just gotta let your hair do what it do." 😉

  • Anonymous says:

    She has such a carefree and confident attitude that I find truly refreshing! Love it! Also, love her music. Thank you. 🙂 ~KF519

  • Mimi (Mae) says:

    Wow, you are getting all the natural hair idols here! I love Esperanza's music and her style…I can't wait for her new album to drop! Great interview!

  • Carla T. says:

    Let it be! Amen! Very inspirational interview. I've been following her for a while now, and she always seems to genuine and down to earth.

  • Aubree says:

    YAY! I love Esperanza. I've been looking forward to hearing about her hair regime for a long time. It's interesting that she doesn't use conditioner. Her hair is stunning and looks very healthy. When my fro grows up, I want it to be just like hers. That's the defineition of a BAA! Great interview!

  • Anonymous says:

    Excellent interview. I also agree with her statement about not being white, and therefore not having to conform to any beauty standard but your own. If we love our hair, they will too. Esperanza you are beautiful inside and out and I wish you all the best in your career. Thanks CN for the interview, it was awesome as always!

  • Veronica says:

    I really like this interview and it is true what she says at the very end. sometimes you just have to let it be. That is the key to ending frustration.

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