During last weekend's TSO activities we found a moment to have a quick conference, amidst a styling session and consultancy — no less — with 'The Hair Whisperer' Felicia Leatherwood. The Los Angeles-based celebrity hairstylist and natural hair specialist to the stars was the very special guest of Aisha Morgan's multi-brand beauty retail outpost, Nettle & Moss, Thursday last. We asked the hair guru about textured crowns and learned that consistency is key!
— Curt Cawley
What are the must-have products for curly/kinky hair?
Lines that I love are Jane Carter Solutions and Jessicurl. Blended Beauty is another good one. I have also fallen in love with Eden BodyWorks. It's amazing; beautiful; great products. There's another one coming out soon that curlies should look out for; it's called Thank God I'm Natural -- excellent for moisture, excellent for styling, very good products. Outside of commercial hair products, one thing that would be really good to keep within arm's reach is apple cider vinegar. If nothing else, you're going to need to clarify to remove product build-up and you need to balance the pH of your tresses. The hair is constantly changing. If you're having too much acid in the body, then it's going to produce dry hair. Therefore, you need to balance it with alkaline. A final must-have for your cabinet would be to get Jamaican Castor Oil. It's going to help with hair growth, it's going to make it stronger and get longer. Remember, your hair will let you know what it likes and what it needs. Product testing can be exhaustive, so keep a list of products that work best for your hair in a safe place, so you'll never forget.
What are your best tips for maintaining beautiful curly/kinky hair?
You really want to ensure that you spend time deep-conditioning your hair, as this prevents it from tangling on you. What this does, it creates softness with the curls and it cuts down on having to get trims. So when you deep-condition, it really does help the cuticle and layers of the hair to stay down and to smoothen out; that way you're able to detangle, comb and brush, or finger-comb the hair with greater ease. Next important element is the use of a leave-in conditioner; always have this in stock. After you shampoo, you want to ensure that you have a little plastic bag handy, you want to deep-condition for around 35 minutes; and what is even better is when you add a hot oil treatment, right before this application. The oil penetrates the strands of the hair and when the deep conditioner is rinsed away, it leaves behind the oil on the
base and it really does help with moisture. It coats the hair so that when you go to style it, the styles come out much better — they pop!
Which celebrities are your curly/kinky hair crushes?
You know, I actually like Erykah Badu's hair. There's also India.Arie's hair; Jill Scott, of course, has amazing hair — she's my Barbie; I'm always working on her. Kim Coles has beautiful hair and I've been having lots of fun with Nicole Ari Parker and Teyonah Parris's.
What's a great way to take your natural curls from day to night?
I always tell women when you have it down during the day, just create an updo style or a one-side-up and that will take you into the night. When you want to go party, put a jazzy little twist in it or you put a flower on the side, but you want to add a little sass. When you take the hair over to one side, it adds a little sass! You can also do an updo in the back and direct more of the hair toward the front — it adds some flair to the style.
What are your diet tips for curly/kinky girls?
Eat plenty of vegetables , and get some good fish or chicken — that's going to provide the protein; beans are excellent — you're going to get a wide vitamin spectrum along with protein. You want to look for foods
that assist in hair growth, but mostly you want to drink lots of water.
Water is the most important thing you can do for the hair and that means you're going to have at least a good eight glasses a day. Avocados are also great and if you're vegetarian or vegan you want to substitute the fish or fish oil with flaxseed oil.
What are the styling tools or accessories every curly/kinky head should have in their arsenal?
I'm a big fan of a detangling brush. Get one that cuts down on hair loss and hair shedding. A satin bonnet or pillowcase is also excellent to have.
You also really want to have a spray bottle containing conditioner, water and a little oil to moisten your hair.
What advice would you give to someone contemplating a big chop but too scared to take the plunge?
I would say to start with curly sets first, and then you want to trim little by little. Trim half-an-inch off every couple of months because you're going to grow half-an inch each month. So as the hair grows you trim it in increments, gradually. That way you don't have to do the big chop, all at once.
What is the biggest misconception about curly/kinky hair?
That it's extremely dry. It may look that way, but a lot of times when I touch people's hair it is really not that dry. They are just not used to feeling that kind of texture; it's just the nature of the hair type.
How do you prepare for a red carpet event such as a major award show?
Mostly I look at the client's face and what they're planning to wear; it's very important that the wardrobe stylist, the make-up artist and myself get the perfect look for them. The entire look should be seamless. I find out the colours of the outfit and I look at past hairstyles I've done for them or that they've had, and I try to 'bring it' with my creativity. I ensure that the hairstyle brings out the best in the client and is inventive — that it inspires folks at home to want to have it. It also has to have class to it but should still give off some of that pizzazz.