On a park bench in the heart of DC, I met up with natural hair blogger and fashionista Christine. She greeted me with a big smile followed by a soft "hey" as she typically does. Her small frame was covered with a large tweed jacket that fell to her waist, a colorful scarf, and black slacks. Her hair was pulled all the way up gracefully adorning her crown. We caught up around lunch time as a crowd of men and women in business attire took a break from their 9-5's to enjoy the cool spring day. We sat next to each other and shared a few laughs about our weekend. Then, she opened up to me about her experiences, her work, and her love for art.
Vanessa: Christine, you are a natural hair blogger who hails from Massachusetts but now lives in Washington, DC. You are also a lover of the arts. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your work? What does your blog represent?
Christine: My blog started off mainly to tell my story, where I got started, and why I decided to go natural. I cut my hair in 2010 and around that time, a lot of my family and friends were reaching out to me because it was a drastic change from how I was wearing my hair before, which was permed, straight and long. So when I cut it off, it was a big chop. I was literally rocking a very short cut. I started blogging to give my story and show that you can do things with natural hair. My sister was a big influence that encouraged me to document my experience. A lot of people were asking me "how did you do this" or saying "my hair can't do that" so I wanted to show people that you have to work with what you have while using myself as a representation. Then it grew into me trying to talk about other topics that came with natural hair and loving yourself. I would talk about insecurities or culture and try incorporate other women that I came across and give their story. For example, one of my blog post that seemed to generate a lot of attention was titled, “Ignorance is Bliss: No I Am Not Ethiopian.” I wrote about my experience moving to DC and always being asked if I am Ethiopian due to my features and my hair. I think the best way to learn is from other people or other stories and experiences. I do want to expand it and bring a focus to other art forms such as music that I'm into or art festivals right here in DC. I want to build that platform and dialogue.
Vanessa: Do you embrace your hair more now that you have a blog and you are talking about it more and since the drastic change from perm to the big chop?
Christine: Half and half. Even when my hair was straight, you always go through a phase when you’re kind of bored. You want your hair to be a certain type of way. There have been plenty of times where I wanted a certain curl or a certain style but I came to the point where I said it is what it is. You have to embrace what you have. Our hair is pretty versatile and there are a lot of things you can do. If I don't want to wear it a type of way, there are other options. And that's what I'm trying to show. You just have to figure out what works for you. I want to be that outlet to show other women with or without my texture. I just want to be that source of inspiration. But it's also about being transparent; talk about my struggles, talk about my insecurities, talk about the things I don't like about myself and show that I'm working towards loving myself.
Vanessa: For someone who is just starting out, can you explain what type of texture you have and for someone who might have a different texture, what they can do with their texture?
Christine: My hair is kinky curly. It's very dense and thick in the crown of my head but my curls are looser in the front. I fall into the type 4 category on the hair-typing chart. When it comes to women with different texture, I would say you have to find those products that work best for you. When I first cut my hair, the biggest mistake I made was thinking that my hair would look like everybody else's, and get the same results. And I started learning through frustration which products and methods work best for my texture. After going through that, I slowly but surely started loving my hair more. I started letting it be itself. Some people would say "don't manipulate it by doing too many hair styles" but my hair is thicker so I have to keep it in twists because it gets tangled very easily. Once I started understanding my hair and how it behaves, I flourished.
Vanessa: It seems like you really understand your hair better now that you've gone through this journey. You started in 2010 when you cut it and then you started learning about it. Take us through the journey. What kind of steps did you have to take to learn about things such as products, styles, protection, and what's damaging to your hair?
Christine: There were some other women that I reached out to before I cut my hair. I had a particular friend in college who really broke things down to me. I felt like I would have a similar texture to her so she gave me a list of things that worked for her and I used that. YouTube is big now but when I was starting off, I wasn’t always on there. After I cut my hair, there were a few women that I started followed [on YouTube]. In the beginning, it was just me reaching out and doing my own research on Google. I also learned through trial and error. I felt it was easier for me to learn since I cut all my hair off. I didn't transition for long so I didn't have to deal with two textures. And as it grew, my curls changed. But it was really trial and error. I would try products and if I liked it, it would stay. If I didn't, I would keep it around but not use it as much. That's how I work now. I always try new stuff but I know what really does work for me so if nothing else works, I'll always go back to those original products. It's all based on experience.
Vanessa: That's good to know because I think some people are afraid of the trial and error portion. As someone who has locs, I hear a lot of people tell me they are scared about how it will look in the beginning or how they will transition. But sometimes you have to just go for it.
Christine: Yea, I was definitely scared, nervous and anxious. I was scared about how my family or close friends would perceive me. When you have a certain look or your hair is a certain way for so long, people attach that look to you. So when I cut my hair, of course there were those few people that had something to say but I was prepared for that. I will honestly say I was surprised with the amount of people that reached out and said "I love it." You just never know who will love it but you have to be comfortable with it. It's like a risk. Know what your purpose is. If it's to follow a trend or to be cool, you're always going to be frustrated because it's not good to go off of what is "in". I cut my hair mainly for health reasons. I didn't want to keep getting a perm. I knew whatever chemicals were in there, I didn't want to continue having on my scalp and on my body. That was the spark for me. I just wanted to be healthy and natural with my body and it grew into me not wanting to put it in my hair anymore. Everybody has different reasons. So there's a combination of knowing why you're doing it and just being confident.
Vanessa: You mentioned the natural hair community and it's really blown up over the last few years. What do you think has attributed to that?
Christine: Seeing more of a diversity of natural hair in media and TV. Seeing so much natural hair made me realize damn, years ago this was just not the norm and it's kind of sad. Growing up as a young black girl, I didn't put into context that there's a lot of women on TV that don't always look like me or have my particular texture. The one person to this day that I always joke around with my family is when Keshia Knight Pulliam played Rudy Huxtable on The Cosby Show. I always wanted my hair to look just like hers because it was long, thick and my texture. There are a lot of women embracing their hair and they are letting other women know they can embrace their hair too. There's a perception that women with natural hair think they're "better" but that happens in any community. There will always be that vibe of people. But I don't pay attention to that. I just pay attention to myself. Do what you want with your hair but don't bring the next person down because of it.
Vanessa: Right. What was the most challenging and most rewarding part of your natural hair journey?
Christine: The most challenging part is still learning. It's never ending. You're always going to learn something new about your hair as it grows and goes through its different stages. Sometimes you feel like you know everything and you think you're hair reacts to this but then it starts to change over time. It's always a learning process. The most rewarding is definitely confidence. I started seeing that I felt beautiful with my natural hair. I felt I could actually do my own hair. There was a time when I was always getting my hair done. [I'm glad] to know that I can maintain and take care of my own hair and it can be just as healthy as if I went to a salon. I love having choices and not being dependent on someone to make me feel beautiful. I can be more independent. That's really rewarding.
Vanessa: What's the most common question your followers ask about natural hair and how do you advise them on it?
Christine: Two of the most questions I get is "how did you do that" or "how did you get those curls" and "what products do you use." Within our community of black women, I think we have this myth that black hair doesn't curl. You see hair and you don't know if it's real. Our hair was never associated with being beautiful. People see my hair and ask how I got my curls. I try to be honest and polite as possible because I know people aren't coming from a bad place but this is my natural texture. These are my natural curls. I always share products and reiterate that just because something works for my hair, doesn't mean it will for you. Don't get angry with yourself if it doesn't come out that same way. I've made that mistake and it's better to not judge your hair or compare it to someone else's because it's always going to be different. There are women with the same texture as mine and our hair still comes out different.
Vanessa: What is your favorite part about blogging?
Christine: Connecting with people. It's great to know people are reading your stuff, commenting, and asking questions. That's the whole point of starting it. You want to share a story and you hope someone is listening. You never know whose watching or reading so it's humbling to know someone cares about what you have to say and sees you as an inspiration.
Vanessa: What is your definition of art?
Christine: Art is an expression of emotions, feelings, and someone's interpretation of how they see the world around them. It's an expression of self. A lot of my passions lie in the arts. I love everything that deals with music, fashion, hair, health; anything that deals with trying to grow as a person. That is what art means to me. Art is a representation of you.
Vanessa: Do you view your hair and its style and the attention that you give it is art and are you making yourself vulnerable by putting it out there on your blog?
Christine: Yes, I always feel vulnerable when sharing parts of myself. My hair is a form of art because it's a part of who I am. My hair is constantly changing. People ask me how my hair does all these things and it depends on my mood and how I choose to wear it. If someone said something horrible about my hair then it would be hurtful because this is how it naturally is. If you don't like that, you probably don't like me because it's not going to change (giggles).
Vanessa: Who is your favorite artist?
Christine: The first person that comes to mind is Jean Michel Basquiat. He's a painter. I watched his documentary in college and it literally changed my life. After watching that documentary, his name kept popping up everywhere around me. He's an inspiration to me not necessarily because of his art type but because he was himself. Watch his documentary on Netflix called The Radiant Child. It's the story of someone who is completely vulnerable. He had many struggles. It's sad because he was such a talented person but he fell victim to depression and drugs. But his art was amazing. That was his interpretation of things he was going through and how he viewed the world. It's a really amazing story. I love Solange. I think she's amazing. She found what works for her and she's happy being herself. I love Janelle Monae. I've been slightly obsessed with her lately. She's talented and smart and her art is different. Kendrick Lamar is also top on my list as well.
Vanessa: All of these artists seem to be doing their own thing. They aren't mainstream. Do you embody that same type of artistic style?
Christine: I try to. I'm inspired by people who are being themselves and are successful in their own way. If you base your success off of being famous and having recognition, you will always be disappointed when you don’t get it. I always believe let your work speak for itself. Everything takes time. When I look at these artists now, with the exception of Basquiat because he's not living, they exude a certain level of confidence. We are all human and even when they are going through something, they are showing that they're human and they don't try to hide behind it. I can definitely say that for Kendrick and Solange. They've always expressed how they feel, especially Solange. She just doesn't seem to care and I love that. I think that's how we should all be. We should all be ourselves and we shouldn't have to apologize for it.
Vanessa: What advice would you give someone who wants to take their artistic talents to the natural hair blogging community? How would you advise them when they face opposition from the mainstream?
Christine: I've had my struggles with blogging but the advice I've been given from very successful bloggers is being consistent, being yourself, and stay interesting. Sometimes you tend to compare yourself to other people because they're at a place where they are getting a lot of attention. There's nothing wrong with that because everyone has their time. So you have to be able to see the bigger picture. Why are you doing this? What does it mean to you? And just keep going. You might go through self-doubt. You might wonder if it's even important. But once you get to the place where you feel comfortable with yourself and you have something important to say, people will listen. They will see that you're serious and feel that emotion with what you're doing.
Vanessa: What projects can we see coming from you soon?
Christine: I took a big break from blogging last year because I was trying to figure out my voice. I started wondering what was setting me apart from other people and what's unique to me. That was a bit of a struggle. But lately people have been asking me if I'm still blogging so obviously some people care. So I am going to get back into blogging. My hair has gone through some changes and I'm going to open up about those experiences because I'm sure some other women have gone through that too. I'm also going to open up about some other things. I love music. It's always been a big part of my life. So I want to build a platform for the music that I love.
Vanessa: And I know you have some travel coming up. Can we plan to see some of those experiences on your blog?
Christine: Yea I'm going to Thailand next month. I've traveled to Europe before but I know Asia will be a completely different vibe. I won't know what to expect but I want to start a travel hashtag while I am there. When it comes to traveling, my hair is like the first thing I think about. It is the last thing I want to fuss about while I'm on vacation. So I'll probably share pictures of how I style my hair and how I protect it. Even on vacation, you still have to protect it. So I'll open up and share that.
Vanessa: Thank you so much for sharing with us.
Visit Christine's blog at root2curl.com. Follow her on instagram at @curly_louis.
Do you have natural hair? What has your journey been like? Share your story.