On December 19th, in a beautiful Hawaiian ceremony, guitar legend Carlos Santana married the gorgeous Cindy Blackman. Cindy, a jazz and rock drummer often recognized for her work with Lenny Kravitz, is absolutely stunning. Her ‘fro is the definition of fierce, and get this, she’s 51! I know, right?! I caught up with her in Austria and she not only shared her hair secrets, we even got the scoop on her own personal fountain of youth!
CN: Tell us your Hair Story.
CB: I’ve been wearing my hair completely natural for the past four years. Prior to that, I used a softener, but didn’t like what it did to the texture, so I let that grow out. When I was younger I would get hard-core relaxers but when I got to high school, I stopped using them altogether and wore an Afro. So I guess you can say I’ve had a few periods in my life where I’ve used chemicals, but at this point, it’s completely natural.
Have you always liked your natural hair? If not, how did you come to embrace it?
My hair is really thick and full, and while I love it today, in the past, because of the sheer volume, I found it to be a chore to take care of [Laughter]. It took a while for me to figure out what to do with it—my hair is strong yet soft, full of tight, kinky curls, and is very easily damaged. So I have to be careful even with the kinds of products I use on my hair. For example, conditioners high in protein, cause my hair to break. I learned that from Diane Da Costa who used to care for and braid my hair. She told me that at every bend and turn along my highly coily strands, are a potential weak spot. You have to be careful, and using high protein products can do more harm than good. I’ve also learned that my hair dries out easily, so I don’t always use shampoo to cleanse. One time I’ll wash and condition, but then a couple of days later, I’ll just rinse it and condition, and then the next time I’ll wash it and condition it. These are just a few of the things I’ve had to learn in terms of what makes my hair its healthiest and its best.
I love Diane Da Costa. I have her book! Do you dye your hair at all? Your color is gorgeous.
Thank you, I’ve known Diane for a long time, she’s an old friend. My hair color is completely natural. I love it.
What is your current routine?
It depends. Right now I’m on the road, so it’s done a bit more often because I’m working out and sweating every night. I might wash it maybe three times a week. Other than that, I’ll maybe wash once a week, and then condition it a couple of other times within that week. After it’s cleansed and conditioned, I apply a leave-in conditioner and then twist my hair in order to wear a twist-out the next day.
So the twist-out is your staple style?
Yes, definitely. I also like to twist and leave them in for a while which allows my hair to take care of itself. I even rinse and condition in the twists. I like not having to comb or manipulate it everyday, and my hair appreciates the restitution. But I do like wearing it out in an Afro, which is what I do mostly- twisting for the sole purpose of wearing a big ‘fro.
You were stunning on your wedding day. Did you style your hair yourself?
Thank you so much! I wore my signature Afro for my wedding. My husband Carlos, actually requested it specifically! He said, ‘How are you going to wear your hair? Will you please wear your Afro?!’ And that’s exactly what I did. I love wearing my hair out. I washed it the night before, applied a couple of different conditioners, and braided it. I think I even lightly blow dried that night as I braided. The next day, I removed the braids, put some sheen on it, and I was ready.
What are your must have products?
There are a few that I’m using currently. I like PhytoSpecific products and use their normal line because it has the fewest proteins in it. Otherwise, I use a natural line called Wachters. They sell chlorophyll and a lot of other natural things for the body, but they also have a lovely shampoo and conditioner. It’s called Nuti-Hair Complex. I love these products because they make my hair feel so good. I also use Ouidad’s shampoo and conditioner. Very, very nice. Between these three companies, my hair is well taken care of.
I also recently found another staple by Karen’s Body Beautiful. I use the Butter Love as a daily moisturizer. It is really nice for after I’ve shampooed and conditioned my hair, because it keeps it soft and prevents it from drying out. I like that it’s completely natural, and it smells delicious too. I also use Wild Growth Hair Oil on my scalp and a little bit of it on my ends. It keeps my hair soft and conditioned. When I’m wearing my hair out in an Afro, it easily dries out, so at night I re-braid it with Karen’s Butter Love and when I wake up in the morning, it’s soft and re-hydrated.
Does the Butter Love help to set or is it more for moisture?
It’s more for moisture… it doesn’t really hold, although depending on what kind of look I want, I may twist it or I may braid it. If I want my Afro to really stand up, and be edgier, I braid it. If I want a softer look, I twist it. And when I apply the Butter Love, and either twist or braid, it seems to help my hair conform to whatever shape I’m trying to achieve. So it doesn’t have hold, but it does help to mold my hair, if that makes sense.
Once you’re braided or twisted up for the night, do you sleep on a stain pillowcase, don a bonnet, or a scarf?
My hair is actually best when I sleep with a silk or satin scarf, but I usually forget to do it. At home I have a stain pillowcase, but when I’m on the road I just sleep on whatever they provide, which is almost always cotton. My hair gets a little bit drier because of this. When I can remember to put it on, the satin scarf holds the moisture in, and I find that my hair is even softer when I wake up.
What do you use as far as hair tools are concerned? Are you a brush girl or a comb girl? Or, do you prefer your fingers?
I use mostly fingers actually; otherwise I use a wide tooth comb. I’m not much of a brusher- – I feel like it pulls my hair out. My older sister, who has beautiful, long, gorgeous hair, is an advocate for brushing. But my hair is quite a bit kinkier than hers, and I don’t really brush. In fact, I comb it as little as possible.
What’s the best thing about being curly?
The best thing? My hair looks like only my hair looks! It’s my own look and it’s the look that God gave me. Of course a lot of care, and a lot of feeding goes into keeping my hair this way, but it is so worth it. Especially if you consider chemicals- if you choose to go that route, you are always in jeopardy of your hair breaking off or becoming damaged. But when you’re natural, there is no jeopardy. You just have to make sure you keep it conditioned well enough…washing it enough, but not too much. Once you get the balance down, you’re golden.
I cannot believe you’re 51 years old! What’s your secret?
Thank you, I really appreciate that! I’ve actually been speaking to my older sister… she’s trying to get me to write a book.
You should! We’d all buy it. I’d be the first in line.
Thank you [Laughter]. I’m really considering it because I love the health field and I love to get on the web and research, plus I’m a big advocate of supplementation. Firstly, before anything, I drink a lot of water. I think that’s really healthy for the body. It keeps everything fluid, it keeps everything flowing, and keeps everything as moisturized as possible, from the inside out. It keeps your whole body running efficiently. I take a lot of chlorophyll. I mentioned Wachters’ earlier—this is the brand I buy. It’s the best that I’ve tried so far.
I try to eat a healthy diet- – a balanced diet. I don’t want to sound hypocritical because I don’t, rather I can’t, eat this way all the time, but as much as I can eat vegan and raw, I do. I do a lot of vegetable juicing, green juice, green drinks, and also fruit juicing. I also eat a lot of blended foods. For instance, I’ll take avocado, spinach, sprouts, fennel, an apple, and some cinnamon, cayenne, a little sea salt and some turmeric, and I’ll make that into a meal. So I eat a lot of blended foods…as much as I can. I also eat a lot of salads. I eat the salads because you need to chew, and you need the roughage in your system, but I eat the blended foods because you also need to give your body a break from the rigorousness of digestion. Remember, digestion takes a lot of energy and when your body is trying to digest something such as meat or other foods that are hard to assimilate, it doesn’t have time to work on other things… the self-healing aspect of our bodies takes a backseat. So when you give your body a break, and you’re eating blended foods or fasting, then the self-healing capabilities of your body are then able to work better. The energy can go to your skin, or your hair, rather than breaking down a huge chunk of meat.
From a practical standpoint, I tour a lot, and I can’t always eat that way. When I’m at home and in my own environment, I eat that way almost all the time. But again, when I’m on the road, I have to eat something, and even when I’m able to carry my own blender with me, I’m not able to go out and find organic produce in order to bring it back and then blend it, due to time constraints. In that case, I eat the best that’s available to me at the moment.
I eat meat once in a blue moon, and only when my body tells me to, and even then, I don’t eat much. I don’t eat chicken at all. I eat fish. I don’t eat much cheese; I eat dairy once in a while, but not a whole lot. I have desserts occasionally, but I try to avoid them because of the sugar content. At home, I don’t buy sugar. I don’t keep sugar in the house. However, I have been known to satisfy my sweet tooth outside, if I’m at a restaurant, hanging with my friends, or for a special occasion. Then I’ll have a dessert. I try to keep a balance.
Another thing I’ve been doing lately, that’s helping my body tremendously is paying attention to the quality of water that I drink. Carlos and I have a Kangen water machine. This water is amazing- I drink as much of it as I can… all day long… I drink a lot. The machine filters the water and it also adds active hydrogen to it and makes it ‘living water’ which kills bacteria and germs in the body, and helps remove toxins.
Without getting even more specific those are the things that I do. Those things , plus exercise. I carry a jump rope with me, I like to stretch, and love to do yoga whenever I can. And Carlos recently took me for my first tennis lesson, which was awesome. Keeping active and engaging in exercise regularly are really important for the body. Finally, I get as much sleep as I can because rest is important as well.
Wow. Amazing information. I had fallen off the healthy lifestyle wagon, but I’m back on now, thanks to you.
I get lots of emails from 40 and up curlies that often feel left out on Youtube and the Blogs. Some even feel that the new natural hair trend is for younger woman. How do you feel about this? Any words of encouragement?
For me, age is really a mental thing. I’m not a trend kind of person. If I want to wear my hair in an Afro, I will… I don’t care what everyone else is doing. And maybe when everyone is wearing Afros, I’ll be into wearing my hair another way. I wear what suits me- I take into consideration the shape of my face and my hair texture when choosing a style. Some styles work better for my hair than others. It’s not about what’s trendy at the moment, do what works for you.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the ladies of CN?
To go along with my response to the previous great question, beauty is feeling comfortable with oneself and being happy with oneself. It’s a different thing for every individual. So, it’s a joy for each one of us to find our own sweet spot in terms of what makes us radiate, and what makes us tick. And to me, that’s what we have to find rather than what’s popular and trendy. There might be products that are out now, that weren’t 5 years ago, a year ago, a month ago, or even a week ago. It’s nice to stay up on things and to see what’s available and to even be influenced by styles and trends sometimes. But ultimately the decision for how we wear our hair, what we do to our hair, and how we carry ourselves is something that is completely individual. I find this to be the most important thing to remember. We are our best, when we are ourselves.
Tell us about your current or upcoming projects!
I have a record that came out this year called Another Lifetime on Four Quarters Records. I collaborated with some great musicians- – Mike Stern (guitar), Doug Carne (organ), Vernon Reid (guitar), Patrice Rushen (keyboards), Benny Reitveld (bass), Joe Lovano (tenor saxophone) and others. It’s a tribute to my friend and mentor Tony Williams.
I have some really nice projects coming up too. Right now, I’m on tour in Europe with my band. We’re doing the songs from Another Lifetime, but the band consists of Mark Cary on the keyboards, Felix Pastorious on the base, and David Gilmore on Guitar. We’re just wrapping up this tour here, and then I’ll go home and play with Vernon Reid’s band which will also be a tribute to the late great Tony Williams. We’ll play at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York at the end of the month, January 27th-30th. Come out and see me if you’re in town!
If I could half as good as she does when I turn 50, I would know that I'm found something right. She has such a good, respectable spirit about her that is amazing.
I thought the same thing…height, not age! She's gorgeous!
This interview is so inspiring. Ms. Blackman seems to be such a positive , beautiful person inside and out. As a 40's natural, I greatly enjoyed reading this.
yes please write a book. the info you just put on here is very helpful, i really want to know more.
She looks GREAT!!!
AND she's a Kick ASS drummer!! (excuse my language)
I get your point, but if I didn't know who those other women were and saw them, I wouldn't guess their ages to be in their 30's. All due respect to the Angelas, Michelle, Micki and Robin.
This woman doesn't look good FOR being in her 50s. She looks like she is at best early 30's. Sorry, but there's a difference. She looks AMAZING!
She's gorgeous! Def inspiration to start eating clean. I've been wanting to try juicing & making green soothies anyway.
I eat majority veggies but only eat lean meats like chicken,Turkey,fish and lean cuts of beef or pork once in a while. Whole grains helps too! kale is my favorite veggie now with no fat even Collard greens with no bacon fat or hog maw lol! My hair and skin is better.
Thanks for this Nikki! I'm going to try to get on that healthy lifestyle thing as well. I've heard that what you eat can really effect your hair and it's growth, so I"m start making some changes and see what happens. 🙂
I loved reading this! Excellent read!
OK, forget her hair (it's gorgeous) what in the world is she using on her skin? 51???? No freakin' way! I first read that as 5'1 not 51. Didn't even enter into my mind that the number was referring to her age at first! LOL
Amazing interview… especially the part about her health regime!
wow this has got to be my favorite CN interview of all time. there is no way she is 51! she looks so amazing! looking at her i would think she is in her 30's. i really like how she explained her health. vegans do have some great skin.
I want to be like her when I grow up.
This was my favorite interview yet! Thanks CN for bringing this beautiful woman to us!
Wow this lady is so gorgeous, and her regime is really working for her thats for sure. That hair is amazing it's so lush and thick. I would never have figured that she was 51, maybe 32. There's the lady on TV that does Divorce Court, named Judge Judy but she is 50 years old as well and looks younger. I really like this interview it was nice and informative, and I like her diet, but not sure I could follow all of it.lol…
Great interview Nikki! I've admired Cindy's hair for a long time. I remember seeing her in Lenny Kravtiz's "American Woman" video back in my relaxed days and thinking how wonderful her afro was. It was just bouncing and behaving, LOL!!! Also, please please please continue to do more interviews with "grown and sexy" naturals. They don't have to be celebs, just everyday natural women over 40 who are WERKIN' IT! I and the rest of your "grown and sexy" readers would be so appreciative. 🙂
Re: Julia- that is THE PERFECT quote. Since going natural last year, I only feel sexier and more powerful. Best decision ever!
THIS IS BY FAR MY FAVORITE CELEBRITY NATURAL! She is awesome and at 51?! SUCH an inspiration!!! Thank you Nikki!
WOW! Love this!
Great interview Nik! Cindy is an inspiration and stunning.
My favorite quote:
We are our best, when we are ourselves.
She's my kind of girl!
This woman has been my role model since I was in highschool when I saw Lenny's Video " Are you Gonna go My Way". I saw Lenny in concert back in 1999", and she killed a drum solo! I didn't even realized that Santana divorced his other wife of many years. But definitely wish them al the best. They are in the same field of work. It helps.
so many great points in this article. one of my favorites! i'm interested in the water machine. cindy PLEASE write that book. i'll be in line to get it for sure!
Thank you so much for doing this interview. It is wonderful to her about the lifestyle of some one interested in holistic health.
I will definitely be looking into the products she mentioned!
I am inspired!
Youve outdone yourself, Nik. Amazing interview! She is so beautiful and reminded me I should see myself in the same light….at any age. Very inspirational.
OM Freakin' God, she is 51?! I have always noticed her in Lenny's videos because of your wonderful afro. 🙂 Good black really don't crack. lol. I am so much more inspired to get better eating habits into my life now, 'cause I wanna stay young like Cindy. Thanks so much for this interview. Truly I am inspired about so much more than hair. and Mr. Carlos Santana has great taste. I have always liked him. 🙂
Love Cindy, LOVE! Her fro is beautiful and her spirit even more beautiful. I will look into this blended food thing.
Keep knocking em over Nik! I'm proud of you!!!!!!!
Amazing interview CN!!! Mrs. Cindy is absolutely stunning!!! This interview blessed me in so many ways, namely being she and I are hair twins. Her response to the question about her feelings for her natural hair is the exact description and routine for my hair. It's always nice to share experiences and gain motivation. Thank you so much for sharing!
Great interview! Im in the NYC area definitely will come out to check out the band when they are in town.
Always wanted to try Kengal water. I think Im going to look into that.
Thanks for sharing
great interview… Cindy is a truly beautiful and her words are so inspiring. im only 26 and I agree that "age IS a mental thing" When I grow up, I want to be just like Cindy 🙂
Awesome interview CN! Cindy is beautiful and an inspitation. I also aspire to do better about my health!
Great interview Nikki! Cindy seems like such a beautiful person, very down-to-earth. And I loved that her husband requested that she wear her fro for their wedding day! Love that!
Kangen water is the truth! My laser hair removal specialist sells the macines and I've sampled the water several times. Wish I had the $3000 to splurge on it, but I've never been so regular in my life….IMO that is the key to health and clear skin.
awesome interview! I totally agree that eating fruits, veggies and lots of water can turn back the hands of time for many — when coupled with good supplements and health practices/hygiene, I think its amazing how we can keep "aging at bay". The comment that "black doesnt crack" is not universal: I know black people that look old for their age. How you handle stress and exercising regularly are also important too. Wellness and beauty are multifaceted conditions – you can hit it from many angles. GREAT INTERVIEW!
I have a Kangen Water machine and I feel better than ever!
Very informative, thank for this!
What a great interview! Thanks for sharing! I cannot believe this woman is 51!!!!!
Great interview Nikki!
Love her and in one of the wedding pictures (not posted here) her hair looks very undefined and similar to the hair in another post that some readers were dissing and saying you probably couldn't get a man with hair like that! Oh well, Cindy got her a man—a rich and talented man at that. *Face palm*
I love the Karen's Body Beautiful Butter Love as well and use it to keep my ends soft and healthy.
She's beautiful and very talented. I've been a fan of hers for years now. I haven't gotten the new album but I look forward to checking it out.
She's very slim and trim, but I'm surprised that people are surprised that she's in her 50's. i definitely have aunts and cousins this age who look great. And many black women in the public eye are 50ish…Angela Winbush, Michelle Obama, Angela Bassett, Robin Roberts on GMA. Heck, I'm not a fan but Condoleeza Rice is in her 50's too and looks the same as when we first saw her. For all of the whining that people do about their hair, black skin does age well. I just saw Miki Howard on Unsung a couple of months back and she looks the same as she did 20 years ago after having a bad drug habit for quite some time. She's also 50. Now there are exceptions, but in general, a lot of black women look the same for many, many years.
Healthy living is great, but there is a lot about your skin that means that a lot of you will look the same 2-3 decades from now.
Maybe like so many other things, people are assuming they know what 50 looks like and you are passing 50 year olds everyday that you are assuming are much younger.
Great as always CN! I love you Cindy!
GREAT INTERVIEW!!! This interview was very informative. The other day I was just talking about how I've been seeing older women cut their hair going through or after menopause. Like a lot of my friends mothers had long mid back length hair and chopped it to TWA or shorter. So it's great to see someone that that's older with an AFRO and loving it. All what I'm going to say is,"I want to look like her when I get her age."
Wow, she looks so good, she makes me want to eat raw too! Her afro is fierce!
I've been waiting for this for so long. LOVE IT! She was one of the first natural woman that I use to aww over how beautiful her hair is.
Absolutely gorgeous! I was really looking forward to this interview, and I was not disappointed. I definetly will try to implement some of healthy living. I looove her hair!
wow she is beautiful I can't belive she is 51 Nikki did you check her I.D.lolz…..
Oh wow!! Thanks for sharing this interview with us CN! She is just fabulous from her hair to her healthy lifestyle. I personally don't believe that organic and nonorganic foods make that much of a difference, other than the prices; but, I totally agree with taking suppliments. After reading this, I feel bad for whining about turning 30 this year. Geez!
Really nice interview. I am amazed that she's 51 but it seems like she's well-balanced and has a solid routine for her overall health. I appreciate the info and hope to incorporate some of it, starting with drinking more water! Thanks!
Oh its the lady from the Lenny Kravitz videos. I remember her and her distinct look in the 'Are you gonna go my way' video. She still looks awesome!
Wow, excellent interview Ms. Nikki……Loved it! Ms. Cindy is absolutely beautiful. I still can't believe she is 51.
51! Cindy you look unbelieably gorgeous. Thank you for providing us with your secrets to your youthful looks. I'm going to look into the kangen water and blended foods. This may be just what the doctor ordered. Oh and I love your hair too! You made a lovely bride.