Keshia Knight Pulliam, aka Rudy Huxtable of the groundbreaking sitcom ‘The Cosby Show’, is On The Couch! Save for the poofy twists and braids she rocked in the ‘80s, I’ve only seen her in straight styles, and naturally assumed she was relaxed. She dished on her favorite products, her straightening routine, and how she came to embrace her curls.
CN: Word on the street is that you’re natural. Is this true?
KNP: I am natural and have been my entire life, except for a short time in college, when I experimented with a perm. I have always had lots of long, thick hair. Everyone remembers me from ‘The Cosby Show’, with my big, puffy braids. Sometimes I look back and think, “y’all did me so dirty…you didn’t even blow dry my hair right… just slapped it back!” [Laughter] It was funny because I had never embraced the fact that my hair was very, very curly. Whenever they’d style it on set, they’d brush through it and pull it back. And every one knows if your goal is to keep your curls, you never ever brush or comb through them! Frizz city. That’s why my hair was always so big.
It was like a whole new world for me the first time I got my hair really straight. I think I was 13 years old and had never been introduced to the pressing comb. I loved it. At that time, I didn’t like wearing my hair curly. I grew up in the ‘80s when the Jheri Curl was king. So I would get teased a lot because my hair was ringlety curly and really dark, jet black. Even now, on ‘The House of Payne’, Lance will tease me when I’m washing my hair, saying, ‘uh oh, Jheri Curl in full effect!’ So I had this whole complex around that, and never wanted to wear my naturally curly texture.
But as I got older and went to college, things changed. There is nothing like that Atlanta heat! My freshmen year at Spelman, I lived in Apex and we didn’t have any AC. I would straighten my hair and wake up the next morning to a sweated out mess.
I can totally relate. It was the NC heat and humidity that helped me put down the flat iron. It’ll force you to embrace your curls!
Yes! It’ll make you love your natural look. I had no choice! So, I started wearing my curls because I was just tired of fighting. So even now, when I’m not working, and I’m at home, my hair is curly 90% of the time. And there has definitely been a learning curve. I’ve had to take the time to try different products and styles. Every girl who wears her hair natural knows that it is truly trial and error. Trying different things, different products… Should I blot dry now? Should I comb through the conditioner in the shower?… Should I style it dry?… You have to figure out what works best for your hair and stick with it.
What are your curly hairstyle staples?
My curly hairstyles. It’s funny though because I usually don’t wear it out and curly- my favorite style is a free-formed bun. I wear it like that a lot. Or, I’ll put a headband scarf on to hold back my edges and wear it out from there. I don’t like to wash it everyday and maintaining moisture is very important, so I’ll usually wear it out the first day, and then pull it up into a funny little bun the next few days. Then I’ll wash it again. I usually find that when I deep condition (and put on a cap), the curls have more elasticity and remain defined longer.
Do you ever wear twist or braid-outs?
No I don’t, because that’s more work. Isn’t that horrible?! Plus, my curl is defined without having to twist. I’m fine with it. I just wash, towel dry, apply some leave-in, and keep it moving.
What products are you using?
Pantene makes my favorite shampoo and conditioner. They work really well with my hair- I just pick up whatever bottles of Pantene are on sale at Tarjay. No real preference. I also like Kim Kimble’s products. She has a Deep Conditioning Honey Oatmeal Shampoo and Conditioner. Love, love that line. I’ll leave a little Pantene conditioner on and I’ll put the Honey Oatmeal Conditioner on top of that, and sit under my heat cap for like 30 minutes while I watch TV or get on the computer. Then I’ll rinse it out and apply a little bit of KMS’ Bounce Back… it works really well. I have sensitive skin and have to avoid greasy, heavy products, or my face will break out. I like Bounce Back because it’s light and it holds the curl without making it hard or crunchy. Sometimes I’ll add a little bit of JAM to smooth my edges… that’s old school.
You frequently wear your hair straight. Do you style it yourself? How do you protect your curls?I do my own hair most of the time, unless I’m working. What I do is wash and condition it, detangling my hair in the shower while the conditioner is still in, and then rinse it out completely. I think a lot of the problems people have is that they don’t rinse their hair good enough… but if you can run your hair across it and it squeaks… literally… then it’s clean. I then blot dry with a towel until the majority of the moisture is gone. Next, I divide my hair in sections and lightly blow dry with an air concentrator attachment and a brush. Finally, I apply a little Aveda Brilliant Emollient Gloss as I flat iron it. That’s all I do. I’ve learned that less is more- – it keeps my skin clear and the overall result is much sleeker.
Another thing to be mindful of is how often you’re heat styling. I don’t put a lot of heat on my hair. Once I wash it and flat iron it, I rarely touch up. I don’t flat iron it again until I wash it again. As I’ve gotten older, I believe the heat has tamed my curl a little.
What is your nighttime routine? How do you preserve your curly or straight styles?
I usually wrap my hair at night when it’s straight, to keep it smooth. The next morning, all I have to do is brush it down and keep it moving. My hair gets greasy fast, so by day 4, it’s ponytail time! I usually have to wash every 5-7 days because my hair is very oily.
When I’m wearing it curly, I’ll throw a scarf around it to help my edges lay down, so I don’t wake up with my hair all over the place.
What is the best thing about being curly?
I think the best thing about being natural is the versatility. You can achieve so many beautiful and different styles. Although not every natural has healthy hair, I do feel that avoiding harsh chemicals promotes healthier hair. You can do more with it because it’s less fragile.
Tell us about your current or upcoming projects!
‘Tyler Perry’s House of Pain’! They picked us up again and we’re in the process of shooting 41 episodes. The first one should premier very soon, they’re playing reruns right now, gearing up. Check us out at 9pm on TBS.
Is there anything you’d like to say to the CN.com community?
I’d like to say that I’m really happy that CurlyNikki.com exists because so many little girls only know what they see on TV. They don’t realize how beautiful their hair is. I think by showing and being role models to young girls, it will allow them to embrace their curls, and embrace themselves, much, much sooner than women like you and me. They need to realize that we’re all different, but it’s all beautiful. There is no one way or one thing that is more beautiful than the other.