Inspiration: Pearl Bailey

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Pearl Bailey is a true inspiration. Having never been formally trained in music she went on to become one of the best performers and singers to ever grace this earth.  She started performing in our hometown of Philadelphia and eventually rose to stardom buy bringing all of Broadway to their knees when she starred as Dolly Levi in the all African American production of Hello Dolly. What’s even more admirable is that she went on to earn a B.A. in Theology from Georgetown University at the tender age of 67. 
                                                                                                                                                             
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Every performance, every scene, and every song of hers was always so full and rich. She was always engaged and always active. She landed every beat. On stage Pearl, sparkled like a diamond. 

Question and Answer: Constant Hair Breakage

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We received an e-mail from a reader who was having difficulty with constant hair breakage. She said that she doesn’t have many problems with tangles, uses a bulbless vent brush, detangles from the ends up, presses her hair 1 to 2x a week, sleeps with her hair covered, has began to practice a more healthy diet, keeps her stress in check, and shampoos and conditions weekly while adding olive oil to the mix. Shanti and I passed this e-mail back and forth like a hot potato cause we didn’t know what to tell her. But eventually, Shanti got to the bottom of it.  Read Below.
Hey_____________,
So I have been thinking about your hair issues and it finally hit me. Girl you use heat on your hair 1-2 a week!?? Thats your problem! So from that information I can assume that you wear your hair straight a lot more than you do curly. Is that correct? So you wash with shampoo, condition, blow dry and then press your hair at least 1x a week?
If this is true than that is the cause of your hair breakage and shedding. Your hair is heat damaged.
In my experience there are parts of people’s hair that are much more fragile than other parts. For me it was the center of my head. When I used heat on my hair weekly as you do, the center of  my hair was brittle, porous and breaking. IT WOULD NEVER GROW…I thought that it was a lost cause and that was how my hair was genetically predisposed to be but I realized that I was wrong.
You have to figure out a way to stop putting your hair under so much stress. The “sensitive” part of your hair appears to be the back of your hair. The constant washing and heat is stripping the layers of your hair in the back causing it to be weak and break when under any tension. The tension that your hair endures is probably from running against your scarf nightly. Even if you deep condition every week if you are following with heat it will not do your hair much good.
I want you to understand that no matter how much “heat protectant” and deep conditioning you do to prep your hair for heat if you are constantly putting heat on your hair it will wear it away. Your hair is made of the same proteins as your fingernail. So imagine, no matter what you put on your nailit will be damaged if you were to repeatedly put a lighter to it.
My recommendations are to put down the blow dryer and flat iron because if you want your hair to recover that is the only way it is going to happen. I imagine that your curl pattern is “heat trained” so that it is effected in way that the pattern is very loose if not wavy. This is a nice state to attempt rod sets or roller sets. These styles are heat free and straighten your hair. You may also want to look into twist outs and braid outs. These are styles that mimick curl patterns. You are going to have to switch up to a more curly look because the straight look achieved by heat is too harsh for your hair.
Youtube has a plethora of tutorials of how to do these styles. Our blog also has great hairstyles that can be worn as well.
I hope this helped.


How many of you are straightening your wigs right now, listening to the sizzle on the iron, burning your fingertips because your hair is too hot too touch, while sportin your ‘Can’t Nobody Tell Me Nothing’ face? HA! Consider yourselves warned ☻ 

This “Ask A Brotha” Interview Almost Ruined One Of My Friendships?

Written by Antoinette 
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I went on one of my very good friend’s tumblr to purchase some of his photography  and saw that he posted an interview that I never posted because it had us in a bit of a beef. A while ago, I begged him to participate in our “Ask A Brotha Series”. After much hesitation, he finally agreed. When I received his answers I was disappointed and felt attacked. He dissed some of my questions, somewhat criticized natural hair bloggers and answered in a way that I had not expected. 


In hindsight, I realize that not only did I force the interview on him, but that my questions weren’t the most informed,  and that most of my disappointment had to do with my ego being bruised from not getting his stamp of approval because at the end of the day, that’s all I wanted…  Below is his post prefacing his really dope interview and the interview it’s self. Check it out. *Keep in mind, I never said this blog was only for black women. (sigh)…

                                                                                                                                                                      

“An old friend recently began a natural hair blog for black women.  Our relationship began with her as a mentee and later employee in a very rigorous activism network.  We have both grown accustomed to a very tough-love, high expectation approach to our relationship over the years as I have watched her grow into a very successful and confident woman.  She manages the blog with her best friend. They are both two beautiful biracial women with a mission to promote and celebrate Black hair in all it’s expressions.
While discussing the blog with her, I mentioned that she should be prepared to face some challenges. That not everyone would appreciate their mission in the same way, especially because of the writers’ background and coveted hair. Her approach is overwhelmingly positive and affirming not unlike many of the other popular sites within the same ilk. But the internet is full of opinions and politics- and black hair, in my opinion, was one of the biggest  points of contention.
I have strong opinions on aesthetic issues- so when she asked me to interview for a new series interviewing men of color about their thoughts about natural hair- I told her I would pass. Before even receiving the questions, I had a feeling that she and her comrades would not like the answers. Plus the previous interviews had a very light hearted and polite approach. I knew my answers would sound harsh in comparison.  But she insisted, and I sent her my responses.  It didn’t go over well. She passed it around to her friends for judgement and yeah…. I guess I don’t play well with others.
Apparently I answered the questions way too seriously and they also took my responses personally and thought I was attacking their blog. So here’s the interview. *(I edited out some harsh comments on how I thought the a few questions were vague and repetitive. But that was common place in our relationship.  I called one question dumb. In hindsight, I know that in particular was insensitive. ) “ 

                                                                                                                                                   

                              How important is the hair of the woman you have interest in? 

Hair is a part of what makes the person, so it’s important to me that she is comfortable with herself. 

How do you feel about naturally kinky, coiled and curly hair? Is it attractive to you? Why or why not? I think it’s received too much negative and positive attention lately. I’m a firm believer that black is beautiful, but this is new emphasis on black hair culture has taken a beautiful and much needed sentiment, and fetishized it. Categories are now popping up everywhere, people are rushing to gain money and popularity off the new confusion through product placement and blogs.  In some cases it seems that one anxiety was traded for another. Intelligence and confidence is attractive to me. If that’s reflected in their hair decisions, I love it. 

If you see a woman with a weave or straight hair what is your initial perception of her?
 (I assume you are referring to Black women. ) I try not to judge her or anyone, at least until I know them a better. For instance, she could be an actor and the weave is a part of her costume. She could have a high pressure job and her straight hairstyle makes it easier for her to get business done without distraction, until she gets in a better position. But if you’re asking me if I think she is brainwashed or self-hating, that’s not something you can tell simply by looking at a person’s hair.  As far as straight hair goes, after you meet enough black people from all around the world, it’s not difficult to understand that our people naturally have all textures of hair.  But if I see a weave and recognize it as a weave (and its very easy to fool me) and it looks raggedy or crazy, then I will assume that this sister needs to get it together. 

When you see a woman with natural hair what is your perception of her?  
This is a little different. I will usually assume that she is not afraid to be herself. It gives me a great feeling most of the time. It’s not as significant as when I see people who have naturally loose textures, because it’s very popular to have the bouncy, carefree curls (i.e. Corinne Bailey Rae). But when I see sisters with tight curls, shorter styles, and other things that are influenced by the African Aesthetic and not as mainstream- I get really inspired.  I love to see that.  

Is there a type of natural hair texture that you prefer?

        No, I dig all different styles.  Afros are always cute and have always been a favorite. But healthy hair is the most attractive no matter what the style. Also it’s very attractive to see a woman whose hairstyle compliments her overall look and personality. If it makes her smile stand out, its a winner. 


 Why do you think women, mostly women of color fear that men will find them to be less attractive once they go natural? Do you think that fear is justified at all? 
I think that many women and women find mainstream eurocentric  hairstyles more appealing in general as dictated by popular media.  I believe many of the women themselves think they will be less attractive even though they desire a more wholistic and natural life. I think this conflict requires them to continue to put a priority on being attractive to guys as a opposed to being attractive to themselves. Inevitably they notice the men who disapprove of the look far more times then the brothers who appreciate it. It’s a pity.
Women all over the world seem to benefit from a more carefree attitude about hair. When I was young I           would always notice how a ponytail was simply the convenient way non-black women and girls arranged their hair when they were in a hurry or exercising, etc. But for the black girls, the ponytail was this long ridiculously dramatic extension that they paid lots of money for special occasions like the prom or weddings. The same with the little up-do joint with the hair clip in the back. We paid money to create a hairstyle that was the hairstyle that white women wore to the gym. This was confusing to me. That’s when I began loving natural hairstyles on women of color.  There is a large battle against perception of worth, in my opinion. As a photographer, I study the way images affect people. Its easy to notice that straight, long flowing hair and light skin are always the standards of beauty even among the “natural” hair set. Even if straight blond hair isn’t the goal, it’s apparent that long, loose (or the option of being loose) “carefree” hair that a woman can brush over her shoulders and out of her eyes like the tv starlets is the coveted look- this idea still seems to find it’s way into world of natural hair even in the locs community (long hair, don’t care). The direction is still towards a white aesthetic.

Why do you think hair is such a touchy subject for women of color?
Is this a real question? I don’t think it affects all women of color. Just the ones most affected by social perceptions of what’s normal. I do meet some women who simply do what makes them happy. They dont seem to be affected by these incessant conversations about hair. But most of the WOC I meet are dealing a serious transition from years of mainstream standards into a new way of seeing themselves and hair is always the central point. I don’t think it’s easy for them and I don’t think self acceptance can be found in a bottle- whether its Euro-Brand X or Ms. Sophia’s kinky curl shea pecan almond butter cream. 

How do you feel about women who spend a lot of time, money and energy on their hair?     I find it unattractive. I prefer women who spend time, money, and energy helping others or pursuing their personal dreams. (assuming their personal dream isn’t to have the best hair on the internet)I know many people who work or attempt to work within the beauty industry. Half of them are extremely vain and narcissistic and I think that makes them ugly, in-spite of having carefree curls and flawless skin. The other half try to cultivate beauty through self acceptance and natural holistic approaches. I see true beauty in this lifestyle. 

 Do you think men should have a say in how their significant other wears their hair? If that’s what their significant other wants…yea, if not, then no. wtf?

With all that said, how would you prefer your daughter (if you have one or not) to wear her hair? 
 If I have a daughter-  I want my wife and I to raise her loving her natural hair features as much as she should love her natural skin features, her natural body features, her natural facial features, her natural arms, legs, fingers and toes. I want us to teach her to cultivate all parts of herself in a healthy, holistic and self-affirming way. We will teach her that she is beautiful and she is black, so black is beautiful. One thing I think all children should be taught is that African people have a truly unique feature, even more unique than our skin. The curliest of hair-rarely seen in other peoples. Everyone else’s
 hair is more similar and ours is so different. This along with all the other phenotypical expressions that exist among black people is truly a unique gift worth celebrating. 

Lastly, do you have anything else you would like to share with the masses?
A self-possessed woman is a rare and special person. Hair is only a small part of the bigger picture.  
We were trippin. Reading this now, I appreciate his point of view & agree with him in a lot of ways. What do yall think?

Length Obsession and Shanti’s 6 Months of Extreme Hair Growth


I was up late last night stalking Shanti on facebook and realized while looking through her profile pictures, that her hair has gotten dumb long and seemingly overnight. I couldn’t believe some of the pictures. I was constantly asking myself, “Was her hair really that short?” I was in awe of the amount of length she retained in a mere 6 months. I know I’m biased, but the pictures above don’t lie. Shanti really knows what she is doing.

                                                                                                                                                                      
When she first began experimenting with her curls.
When she started the blog. Approximately 6 months ago.
Bantu Knot Out Approximately 3 months ago
Wash n’ Go Approximately 3 Months Ago
Now!
 I knew someone who criticized me for posting a length check because in his mind, it proved that I was not only length obsessed but trying to be white. As if to say, my measuring stick for healthy hair natural hair (the length check) was still a white/European standard. Now, I get it. For some folks that may be true but come on! Really? That was not where I was going with that AT ALL.

 The fact that her hair is retaining length proves that it is heathy because it’s not breaking off and therefore no longer weak. As many of you know, the more curls and whirls in you have the more susceptible it’s is to breakage. Each bend and twist can be, if not properly card for a point of weakness. 
  
 You see, it’s not about having long hair. It was NEVER about having long hair. So, pretty please with a cherry on top don’t take this as us becoming length obsessed or as us proclaiming that only long hair is healthy because that’s not the case. 

Everyone’s hair grows but not everyone’s hair is healthy enough to retain its growth. Hair that is absent of breakage, and as a result increasing in length, is a sign of it being healthy hair. Think about it. If months pass and you do a length check and your hair hasn’t grown and you didn’t cut it…uhhhhh it may mean those ends are snap, crackle and poppin all over the place and that you may want to re-adjust something in your regimen. Peep Shanti’s regimen here.

What do you think? Are length checks helpful or overrated? 

A Scarf from Senegal

I have a very dear friend who is a photographer recently returned ‘home’ from a trip to Europe, South America, Central America and West Africa. I finally got a chance to meet up with him in NYC and he came bearing gifts! Three framed pictures from his trip and this beautiful scarf (pictured above) from Senegal. I’ve haven’t rocked a wrap in a minute. This is just the thing I needed to inspire me again. The 3 framed pictures he gave me are below… 



…Makes me wanna pack my bags and bounce without any notice. Shanti keeps telling me that I need to travel while I’m not tied down to anyone or anything. I’ve been thinking about spending part of the summer abroad with my homegirl Haben but then again studying somewhere like Senegal seems to be calling my name…


 If you could go anywhere in the world where would it be and why?

Mc Donald’s Does It Again

Just incase you didn’t believe Super Size Me…

Ever since our first post about Mc Donald’s (which was even more disturbing that this one) I’ve been obsessed with the thought of destroying them. You know they own the most real estate in the world!? THE WORLD! Anyway, I took this from facebook.  Someone named Jerome Morgan Jr. posted it with this caption:

What does this picture tell you? My doctor has had this “process food” on her counter from the beginning of 2010 and 2011 respectively. I asked her why she had it out, she stated “to show people what they are putting into their bodies”. This is man-made “processed food”, not real food. Over time real food will decay, grow mold and produce a decomposing odor. This “processed food” has not done any of that. As a matter of fact it has kept it’s original size, shape and texture. Your body has to work harder to breakdown and digest this stuff over real food”. Since I’ve seen this, I have not had any fast food.

You still want that Big Mac?

Henna Application (Rainbow Henna Brand)

*This has been reposted since we are getting some e-mails about our experience with henna.


What is Henna?
Henna comes from the plant “lawsonia inermis”. The leaves of the plant contain a red-orange dye molecule that is used for dying the skin, hair and nails. This is why henna is also referred to as “Red Henna”.Typically there are 3 plant powders that are commonly referred to as henna:Neutral Henna- is not henna but rather Cassida Obovata. Cassia obovata contains anthraquinones, particuarly Chrysophanic acid, a remarkable anti-fungal, anti-microbial and anti-bacterial. Cassia obovata has a golden dye molecule that will stain dull blonde and gray hair yellow. It will help damaged hair, make hair full, glossy, healthy. 
Red Henna-  is actually the only true henna. Products that dye the hair any color are some sort of compound henna. Its leaves are harvested, dried and ground into a powder. Liquid is then added to the henna, creating a paste which is used for the hair. Producers of Henna claim it is the best hair conditioner of all making your hair heavy, thick and silky.
Black Henna- Black henna, is a green powder that smells like frozen peas, is neither black nor henna. It is indigo, Indigofera tinctoria. (Source)

Warning

As stated earlier, “blonde”, “brown” and “black” henna do not exist. The only way to alter henna’s red dye molecule is by adding chemicals, metallic salts, OR other dye plants such as Cassida Obovata (which produces lighter colors) and Indigo (which produces black colors). Be sure to use natural compound hennas mixed with only other natural dye plants. Compound hennas with unnatural additives are basically the equivalent to boxed dyes and are extremely hazardous for your hair. 

Henna is grown is warm climates. Many of these warm climate areas do not yet have laws in which protect consumers demand all the products’ ingredients to be disclosed. Be sure to research your henna and be sure to check the label and with your retailer before you buy. Purchase natural henna and henna compounds here.

Benefits and Things to Consider

Price- Henna is not very expensive. Depending on the amount purchased it can cost anywhere from $6.00(single use)- $25.00(multiple use).

Stronger, Healthier More Luxurious Hair- Henna is like great protein treatment. Henna’s dye molecule attaches to the keratin in our hair over time, making our hair stronger and thicker. Henna replenishes the hair by coating the hair shaft and piecing together the rough spots throughout the damaged cuticle.  Henna’s coating however, is permeable and does not lock moisture out. So a good deep conditioner after a henna treatment will not only work, but be icing on the cake.

Change in Curl Pattern- Some have reported that Henna temporarily loosens your curl pattern by reducing shrinkage. I didn’t have those results but there are people who swear by it…CurlyNikki is one of them.

The Smell- I don’t particularly like or dislike the smell. Henna smells very grassy and hay like. The smell also lingers for a couple days after the application. But if your other hair products have a strong fragrance they will probably mask the smell of henna.

Time Consuming- While the application is quick, it takes a while for the color to set. Most reviewers and other natural hair enthusiasts say that henna needs to be keep on for 6-10 hours in order to get the full benefits despite the fact that most product bottles claim that it only takes 1 hour. I suggest using henna at night wrapping your hair securely with a couple of shower caps and silks scarves and sleeping with it applied.

The Mess- Like any hair dye, henna can be a bit messy. Put some newspaper or old towel down to help elevate some of the mess it can create. The good thing about henna is that when mixed with water it forms a thick paste which is easier to handle than other liquid products. Also, when rinsing henna out of your hair, fill the tub a bit with water so that the henna does not stain the bottom of your tub. 

What You Will Need- 
a glass or wooden bowl
2 cups of boiling water
gloves
mixing utensil
towels
vaseline or a thick butter to protect your hairline and ears
a deep conditioner
plastic shower cap and bonnet



The Process

I used Rainbow Henna purchased from Whole Foods. My goal was to get my hair to be more of a chocolate browbut the Rainbow Hennas only ranged from medium brown to black. So, I used the medium brown henna because I wanted to test those results first rather than dying my hair too ark with the black. Keep in mind that this product is a compound henna but the only other ingredient is natural indigo, to make the dye brown instead of red.

I used 2 cups of henna as directed, which was practically the entire bottle.
Using a pyrex/glass bowl, I added 2 cups of boiling water
Next, mix it on up. Keep in mind that the dye molecules are being released as soon as the boiling water is added so you want to be quick. But leave enough time in between for the water to cool down.
The mixture should look like a thick paste once it’s ready. If it’s too thick add more water. If it’s not thick enough add more henna.

Apply henna on damp (not wet) hair. Your hairline should be covered with vaseline or a thick butter to protect your skin from the dye.
Begin applying henna to your hair. Apply generously!
After applying, your hair should be completely covered as pictured above.
Use a wet paper towel to clean any henna that is on your skin. Be sure to get behind your neck, ears and shoulders. Leave the henna on for at least 3 hours. I only left mine on for 1 hour because I followed the directions on the bottle : (   I know better now. For better results leave it on overnight and rinse off in the morning. 

 Results

I was very pleased with this product. The Henna definitely added body and shine to my hair after the first application that has continued to last even after a week. I did not however have much change in my color. One reason for this is because I did not leave the product on long enough. The other, is because I used the same color as my hair! lol I’ll try mixing the medium brown and black next time to get a more chocolate result. Maybe 2 parts medium brown and 1 part black? We’ll see… But the henna did make my original color more rich, solid and consistent throughout my head. I had tons of highlights from the sun and they are no longer there, which I like.
The Verdict
The verdict is still out. The effects of henna can not be determined with only one use. But I will continue to use it every 6 weeks as recommended and document my results. I do however, have a strong belief in the product. With consistent use I believe that it does indeed make your hair stronger and healthier. Pictured below is Curly Nikki’s results after a year of using henna.

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The left column is 06′. The right column is 07′ after using henna.
I’m hot for henna! So try it out and let us know how it works for you!
For more information about Henna visit Henna for Hair’s Website