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It's an era of rebirth and what do you see? Take a close look. Textured hairstyles are everywhere. Sexy cornrows and bushy afros work the runways of Paris and Milan, the sidewalks of both Tokyo and Philadelphia, as well as the sweaty courts of the NBA and WNBA. Locs and twists adorn the heads of your favorite celebrities. It's no wonder. Textured Hair is Beautiful Hair!
Most women desire something other than what they already have, especially when it comes to our own hair. We want longer, fuller, thicker hair with more manageability, control, flexibility, and options. Well, I have one word for you -- texture. Texture will give you everything you're seeking and then some. Textured hair allows you to have it all.
Sometimes reinvention is the mother of invention. With that said, I'd like to offer a new spin on something we've known all along. Texture is what you can see with your eyes and feel to the touch. Texture, as it relates to hair, refers to the straightness or curliness of the hair's surface, yet it is also the softness, roughness, or coarseness, if you will. Texture is straight, wavy, curly, very curly, and tightly coiled hair, too. Cornrows, afros, locs, twists, braids, and knots are styles with texture. Texture is what we all desire and want.
No longer must we apologize for our textured hair. Instead we should celebrate, love, and appreciate our God-given texture. This begins with taking pride in acknowledging that certain styles originated from specific regions in Africa. The Samburu people of the Massai Tribe in Kenya and Tanzania wore locs first.
The Samburus were herders who lived above the equator. Before becoming warriors, the young boys prepared their hair with ochre, a red clay mask. The boys would fling their ochre-colored hair in the face of girls they wanted to meet and the girls would flirt back with the young warriors.
The soft, wavy, textured hair like that of the cover model Waris Dirie is common in her homeland of Ethiopia. West Africa is the birthplace of Senegalese twists and many braided styles.
Our flair with textured hair in America is nothing new. It's merely a rediscovery. In the roaring 20s, the Marcel curls and waves were worn by practically every woman, both black and white. In fact, when Cicely Tyson needed to portray a character who wore Marcel waves during that era for the movie Hoodlum, she turned to Helen Graine Faulk, the oldest living cosmetologist at the time in Ohio. Apparently no one on the set knew how to create the waves without relaxing Ms. Tyson's natural hair (which was completely unacceptable to her). Ms. Faulk consulted with Cicely Tyson and created the beautiful waves by pressing her hair and using Marcel irons.
Think back to the shiny, slicked-back ponytail of the lovely Billie Holiday in the 40s, the luscious waves of Dorothy Dandridge in the 40s and 50s, and the fierce yet sexy afro of Pam Grier in the 70s.
Michaela Angela Davis, former editor-in-chief of Honey magazine, remembers getting her hair cornrowed and rocking afros in the 70s. "When the other kids in high school wore relaxers, I wore braids," says Michaela. "In D.C., there were braiders at the museum on Saturdays and Sundays braiding hair."
Remember the long loc extensions of Lisa Bonet in the 80s? Let's not forget Janet Jackson's Casamas braids in Poetic Justice. Many braiders can attest to clients, both regular and new, requesting the "Janet Jackson braids." And no one can deny the impact of Brandy's individual braids worn in various lengths, widths, and styles during the 90s.
Today we see the vibrant wavy hair of Tracee Ellis Ross on UPN's Girlfriends, the exotic cornrow extensions of Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera, the sensuous, full, naturally coily 'fros of Lenny Kravitz and Maxwell, and the texturized Caesar worn by Blair Underwood in Sex and the City. The possibilities are infinite with Textured Hair.
As a natural hair care specialist, colorist, and precision cutter over the past 15 years, I've seen many of my own textured creations become hair trends, including the Cosmicloc (a loc extension) that appeared in Moods magazine in 1990. In the early 90s, while working with model/owner Peggy Dillard of Turning Heads, one of the top-rated natural hair salons in New York City, I got my first big break. Essence magazine called the salon to request a style that I called the "Twist Out." Since then my work has appeared on their covers and in their fashion and beauty pages. I've also had the privilege of being the Hair and Beauty Advisor of Heart & Soul magazine as well as the first Hair Editor for Honey magazine. However, one of my greatest accomplishments was creating and owning Dyaspora Salon and Spa in New York City. This inspiring, trend-setting salon was created to bring artists together in different forums, such as book signings by authors and original artwork showings by painters, where clients would be pampered in a relaxed, cozy environment. It had been my dream since the day I first entered Robert Fiance Hair Design Institute in New York City, just two years after graduating from Pace University with a bachelor's degree in Business Administration and Marketing. I birthed many young, talented stylists, many of whom went on to open their very own salons.
I firmly believe that it is my calling to educate both consumers and professionals with this informative and inspirational natural/textured hairstyling guide that you hold in your very hands. I am an artist at heart and hair is my first canvas. My color tint brush, my shears, and my hands are my tools. I prep the canvas (your hair) before I lay the foundation for every style, then sketch the style that I create for all textures. The goal is to achieve the look. The maintenance serves as the sketch, the plan.
Many of my clients say that I'm a hairstylist to the stars. They say I have magic hands. But if I could perform any trick, it would be to help you rediscover and fall in love with your textured hair, be it straight, wavy, curly, or tightly coiled. Learning to love your textured hair and truly loving yourself go hand in hand. Trust me, I know from personal experience.
As a child I didn't fully appreciate what beautiful textured hair I had. My hair was thick, curly, and naturally long, but I wanted more manageability. I wanted it straighter, so I tried to roller-set my natural hair. That didn't work. It left my hair puffy and out of control.
Like many of you, I still vividly remember my grandmother pressing my hair. My cousins and I would line up one by one in her kitchen and wait for our turn to get our hair straightened by my grandmother. She pressed each and every one of our heads. My hair was bone straight with tons of oil, and it took quite a few hours to accomplish this task.
As I grew older I learned to care for my own hair. To the surprise of no one, at 15, I became the hairstylist for the entire family -- cutting, styling, braiding, plaiting, and creating coils with a wide-tooth comb.
Like many of you, I've sported every relaxed hairstyle imaginable -- short and long bobs, straight, and asymmetrical, and in practically every color, too! You name it, I wore it and loved it. Yet it was always in the back of my mind to lock my hair.
In 1986, after one full year of contemplation, I decided to shed my relaxed hair and go natural. I wanted to explore and experiment with the God-given texture of my hair. Instead of locking right away, I went to Kinapps, a renowned hair salon I'd read about in Essence, to cut off eight inches of my relaxed hair. As I looked in the mirror and watched Dexter, the barber, gather his shears, I reassured him continuously that this was indeed what I wanted. Dexter was still reluctant. He didn't want me to cut off my thick head of hair, but I insisted. I finally won, though he actually ended up leaving some relaxed hair in the front. Later I would cut it all off.
As I watched him cut my straight hair off inch by inch, it was simultaneously jarring and liberating. Waves of relaxed hair fell past my shoulder and onto the floor, while curly new growth peeked out at my roots.
My boyfriend at the time was shocked and hated it. Quite honestly, it took me a couple of weeks to adjust. But I had made up my mind that I wanted my hair natural and I wanted to lock it. I didn't simply adjust. I made the shift and fell in love with my texture. I began a wonderful, brand-new relationship with my textured hair and we've been in love ever since.
"Textured Hair allows you flexibility and versatility whether worn natural or relaxed," says celebrity stylist Oscar James. Accepting and loving your hair texture will enable you to try all textured hairstyles, providing you with versatility and options. Believe me, I've tried practically every textured hairstyle too, including Caesars; short, medium, and long cuts; braids (micros, cornrows, Cherokee, individuals); coils; twists; Senegalese twists; the Twist Out; flat twists; locs (crimped, rolled, rodded, and colored from black to blonde); and Genilocs. Not only have I had my hair done by African hair braiders, but I've also experimented with fusion and interlocking weaves. Now I don't care whether my hair is long or short. My only concern is that my hair is healthy, shiny, and manageable. If I want longer hair I just add braid extensions. I no longer have to overprocess or over-blow-dry and neither do you. Options, options, we all have options.
We are living in a hair movement. So many of us are wearing our hair natural and free. We should really understand what a privilege it is to be able to wear natural styles in all walks of life. Not long ago, textured styles were viewed as political or unprofessional. Our natural hair pioneers like Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis, and Nikki Giovanni wore textured styles and were often prejudged and sometimes shunned. However, today we see our people in any profession sporting locs, braids, and twists with much more assuredness and much less retribution.
In Sisters of the Yam, the renowned author bell hooks emphasizes the importance of artists like Lauryn Hill, who is often compared to Tracy Chapman, "not only because her music is deep and compelling, but because she has broken new ground in representing a black beauty aesthetic that is rarely depicted positively in this society." Continues hooks: "To see her pictures on album covers, billboards, posters, and in magazines affirms that one does not have to be light-skinned with straight hair and thin nose to be regarded as beautiful."
Textured hair has become more acceptable across the board with grooming, styling, and fashion. Your natural hair is a reflection of who you are. Wear your textured tresses proudly as you walk down the street, as you interview for that position, as you graduate magna cum laude. If you accept yourself, exude confidence, dress well, and are well spoken, there's nothing that can stop you from achieving what is rightfully yours. Your hair will not limit you. Believe in yourself -- in all that you are and what you stand for -- and you will surely prevail. The road isn't always smooth, but our sisters have paved the way so that we may wear our tresses with dignity and style no matter our path.
"Today it's style," says Bethann Hardison, a former model and one of the initiators of the natural hair movement on the runways of Paris and New York. "You don't have to think twice about it," the owner of Bethann Management continues. "You can have a plus-size woman selling house products on a television commercial and she can wear dreadlocks, or a handsome man on a soap opera and he's wearing dreads. You can see someone with pointy, spiky hair selling teenage products. They're all just reflecting the market....It's giving the market what it's reflecting."
Locs, braids, twists, and fades have exploded onto the mainstream pop culture scene. These and other textured styles like cornrows and knots adorn the heads not only of African Americans, but other ethnic groups as well. These stylish 'dos are wowing the readers of the hippest magazines and viewers of the hottest music videos and movies.
I remember walking out of my salon one day and spotting a young Japanese man with the most beautifully groomed locs I had ever seen on an Asian guy. They were small, even, and tightly groomed. His hair was very straight, so at least two inches of new growth weren't locked yet. This is quite common with straight hair. Sister or Brother locs can be achieved on this hair texture by using a tool to interweave hair directly to the scalp for tighter results and completely locking to the scalp. Or the hair can be braided every time the locs are groomed to get a consistent and tight look at the roots. Still, it was such a fabulous job even with the looseness at the scalp. When I inquired about his locs, he said that his Japanese hair stylist and friend, who now resides in New York, did his hair. I wasn't surprised that the influence of African people had reached the far corners of the earth. Wearing textured styles, as well as performing the techniques to achieve them, is really nothing new. This is why I say it is an era of rebirth, of rediscovery.
Selwyn Seyfu Hinds, author of Gunshots in My Cook-Up, is not surprised by the allure of textured hair to other groups "for the same reason that folk have always been drawn to the cultural product of black people," he offers. "Our walk, talk, music, fashion sense, hair...black cool, black style, is a food devoured by a mainstream looking to escape its own shackles of tradition and sameness."
Hinds, the former editor-in-chief of The Source magazine, also points out that part of it has to do with the way celebrity culture pushes trends.
"Today you have many leading figures in sports and entertainment -- Allen Iverson, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, etc. -- who wear natural hairstyles," says Hinds. "So the things that they represent for many people in terms of beauty, talent, and success, these are also the things that become associated with natural hair. At the same time, you've long had a grassroots movement, outside of celebrity adaptation, toward natural hair, which I think began as an outgrowth of the particular black aesthetic consciousness that flowered in urban centers during the late eighties and early nineties. And when celebrity trend meets grassroots movement, then you have a lasting cultural shift."
It's the perfect time for a book like this. Now, more than ever we are celebrating the beauty of our natural hair. But while many more of us are embracing our natural hair texture, we are not well informed on the proper care, maintenance, and styling of our hair in its natural state. Whether your hair texture is straight, wavy, curly, or tightly coiled you can achieve any hair texture and any textured style. Coloring, shaping, and styling your natural hair will create dimension and depth. You can even enhance texture with multidimensional coloring or texturizing techniques via shaping and cutting. To create dimensional texture on natural hair, consider locs, braids, twists, and free natural sets. Women of color should certainly take advantage of the products, tools, and techniques that assist us in experiencing the virtually endless realm of possibilities our hair texture can create. Ultimately, it's all about texture, and about loving it, living it, appreciating it, and celebrating it with all the glorious options you have with textured hair.
In Textured Tresses, I offer you my expertise in using various hair products, tools, and techniques that work specifically well with textured hair, as well as definitive steps to caring, maintaining, and creating the ultimate hairstyles for textured hair.
You'll discover that your textured hair flows with movement and motion whether it is natural or relaxed. You will learn to explore change with a professional stylist through color options, softeners, relaxers, and shaping. And I can't forget about the importance of choosing the best partner as your hairstylist. Just think, this could be a lifetime adventure and a lifelong relationship. Learn to love and appreciate yourself and your own natural texture. I hope that you will obtain a working knowledge of all textures, whether you want to maintain your natural tresses, lock, or just achieve long-lasting, wavy curls. More important, I pray that you'll come to appreciate the beauty of texture, learn to take care of texture, and enjoy experimenting with texture. I've been working with textured hair for most of my life in every curl pattern that you can imagine. I especially enjoy cutting, coloring, and styling. All three allow me to create and have fun. It's like playtime for me. To make a living doing what you love to do is truly a blessing. By the time you finish reading this book, hopefully you will come to see your hair as your true crown and glory.
Copyright © 2004 by Diane Da Costa