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In Search of a “Hair Whisperer”

HOST INTRO: Just in case you haven’t been following the latest in black women’s hair – natural is IN. It’s a big shift in an industry that runs about $500 billion dollars a year in products, weaves and wigs. But more than the money – as Shandukani Mulaudzi reports, this journey to natural hair – it’s not the kind of thing you do alone.

MULAUDZI 1: I’ve recently become a naturalista. I’m a black woman who has decided to stop using chemical hair straighteners. It’s just me and my curls. Now that I’ve made this change it’s like I’m learning a whole new way to style and maintain my hair.

So I went to the Bohemian Soul Natural Hair Salon. It’s in Crown Heights. It’s small and intimate – just four clients max with pictures of curly haired women on the walls.

[need to bring up ambi]

Stylist Jasmine Scott is talking with Dietria Sellers – a new client. They’re going over what to do with hair oils.

JASMINE 1: So this is what you’ll do with the oil. Scrunch it into your hair. //set your hair is this foam leaves a bit of residue so next time I see you we’ll try the satin lotion this foam is new for me.

MULAUDZI 2: Jasmine’s been a hairstylist for 15 years.Three years ago, she started specializing in natural styles.

JASMINE 2: I just found that experimenting and exploring the different textures of our hair has been pleasurable for me. I’ve learned that no one has the same texture hair and hair is as individual as a fingerprint. [0.17]

MULAUDZI 3: And it’s SO individual. THAT’s why it’s been a little tricky to figure out what to do to MY  hair.  So as you do when you’re looking for advice on something kind of personal. There’s the internet. Here’s a video of woman explaining curl types.

CLIP FROM ONLINE: “So type two hair is wavy hair, type three is spiral curl or like a curly type. And then type four is a much more kinkier curl pattern. So we’ll go ahead and break that down into the subcategories. A B and C. So there’s 2abc, 3abc and 4abc.”

MULAUDZI 4: According to this scale I’m a 4C. It’s the coarsest and the curliest. Jasmine says the easiest way to find out what to do – is to get tips from other 4Cs. Too tight//

JASMINE 3: “My hair’s more like yours. Right? So i can say, what do you do?  Cause your hair doesn’t look dry. It looks beautiful, it looks soft, it looks healthy. So I can ask you cause this is something kind of new for all of us you know…so even though it is individuals there are some similarities And please keep it trim…please don’t be scared to trim your hair.

MULAUDZI 5: I won’t lie I hadn’t even given trimming a second thought so I’m glad she told me that. But let’s talk about how I used to style my hair for a second. Since I was little, I relaxed my hair and relaxing loosened my natural curl and made it go from kinky to sleek. Relaxers  contain the chemical sodium hydroxide.  Comedian Chris Rock made a  documentary in 2009 called Good Hair. In it a scientist showed him how dangerous sodium hydroxide is by putting a drop on a chicken breast. Within a few minutes the chemical burnt through the skin.

CHRIS: “Wow”. Now you realise this goes into people’s heads right?

SCIENTIST: Sodium hydroxide?

CHRIS: Yeah people, black people – black women – some men, you know Morris Day, Prince, put sodium hydroxide in their hair to straighten it out.

SCIENTIST: Why would they do that?

CHRIS: To look white.

MULAUDZI 6: Okay it’s a little more than just trying to look white – at least for me. I used relaxers because I thought was it was easier to maintain my hair that way. Also I wanted to look more like Gabrielle Union and other black women I saw on television. I saw that as the standard of beauty. But when I got to New York eight months ago and realised black women in New York were proud of their kinks, I threw my peruvian hair wig off and allowed my hair to just be. I’m learning there’s so much more I can do with my hair – and back at Bohemian Soul, Dietra – Jasmine’s new client is learning the same thing.

DIETRA 1: the different styles you could do more with natural hair I’ve come to realize you can do… what is it the coiled twists, rod twist or uhm, what is the other one? the bantu knots. It’s a variety or either you can just push it up and you can just let it just flow! *laughs* [0.21]

MULAUDZI 7: Dietra can’t always let her hair flow for everyone to see though – she converted to Islam three years ago. She tells Jasmine her hair is covered 95% of the time.

MULAUDZI 8 (On tape): I’m sorry does that matter? Does it influence anything hair wise?

JASMINE 5: Uhm it’s like if she’s covering it with something that’s like cotton based and not lining it maybe with something that’s silk or satin cotton will dry her hair out so it’s just for moisture concerns. [She has to cover it up for her religion but she can just put something satin or silky on before she puts the headpiece on is what I was getting at. ]

MULAUDZI 9: There’s another thing… you’re black and Muslim. Extra effort!

DIETRA 2: Yes it is. It really is.  

MULAUDZI 10: Dietra tells us about another stylist she had who just didn’t get it.

DIETRIA 3: She was West Indian She told me she said “I don’t know why you put that thing on your head it’s not for our kind of people, So I’m like Huh? What do you mean?  She was like “Our hair has to breathe! It has to breathe! I said okay. That was the last time I went to her though.” *laughs*

MULAUDZI 11 (on tape): She didn’t get it…

DIETRE 4: No she didn’t. It’s a struggle. For me it is. [0.29]

MULAUDZI 12: But now that struggle to find someone to help care for her hair is over for Dietra -she has Jasmine. (fade out ambi) As for me, I’ll be going back to South Africa in June and I’ve already started researching some new natural hair salons that have opened up. I can’t wait to begin the search for my own new hair whisperer. Shandukani Mulaudzi, Columbia Radio News.


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