For one, you probably don’t know that Walton’s name is actually Alicia. (Her middle name is Nicole, which is where the nickname Nikki came from.) She also happens to be a licensed psychotherapist. And one thing that she’s immensely passionate about these days, is spirituality. More on that later.
But in the beginning, she was just a curious college student trying to figure out the best ways to care for her natural hair at a time when the movement was still young. It was such a difficult task that she had a negative relationship with her strands, saying “self-hatred” fueled her journey.
“I didn’t like my hair. I didn’t like myself,” Walton tells MadameNoire when asked about the initial catalyst for creating her beloved site. “I knew I needed to establish a different relationship with it. I never had to do my own hair and when I got to undergraduate, there were no Black haircare stylists.”
Around 2005, after struggling to find the right products in her predominately white college town, she got on the Internet and joined the OG forums like Naturally Curly, LongHairCare, and Nappturality to get her information. She picked Curly Nikki as her username and before she knew it, people were seeking out her insights on products and more on the discussion threads.
“I’m a researcher and I’m a synthesizer so I naturally just brought that to the forum,” she says. “I’m researching heavily the ingredients in these products. Most of them are terrible; trying to seek out products and ingredients that aren’t and sharing my results with people.”
Sharing that freely, people appreciated her transparency and authenticity and so she decided to create Curly Nikki. It quickly became a favorite space for naturalistas as well as those looking to transition their hair, offering education and entertainment.
“My own journey to freedom, it felt so powerful I couldn’t help but share,” she says. “I had to share that with everyone and I wanted to share their stories.”
She wanted Black women to have a better quality of life as opposed to always being focused on what their hair looked like. A similar desire to improve the lives of women who look like her, and to share something having a powerful impact on her own life, brought about the creation of her new BeHer summit. Around 2013, after writing Better Than Good Hair, she was a best-selling author and natural hair was becoming “the new normal.” All that was great, but there was something missing, deeply missing, for Walton.
“I had lost my passion for it,” she says of being the go-to beauty guru. “I really was doing my own seeking. My own spiritual journey had started up again around that time. I had all the stuff people told me I needed to have to be happy and I was not happy and I was not getting any happier. Every time I achieved something else, I was just waiting for the next thing.”
She started going deeper. From 2013 to 2018, she read around 600 books about the different world religions. She realized that true happiness was “right where I am.” She just had to know how to turn to it and know where to look. It was something she felt she needed to share, though she was nervous to do it as her followers heavily identified as Black Christian women. Nevertheless, she started sharing about spirituality in 2014 and 2015 before really getting into it in 2017 using the hashtag #BeHerNow.
“I was basically telling women that you don’t become whole. You recognize your wholeness and then you practice that,” she says. “So you don’t become more confident, you be confident now and you practice your confidence because confidence is already there. We’re just not aware of it, we’re not tapping into it, we’re just listening to our thoughts. It’s like we have a veil of thoughts covering our true wholeness…as soon as we can see through the veil, we’re back in touch with our whole selves, the best version of ourselves.”
Spirituality is the focus for Walton now, and wholeness and growth is the center of her BeHer summit, which is on March 6. While she still discusses beauty and hair because “it pays bills,” she says, “my true passion lies in this deeper freedom. Whereas I enjoyed helping women find their freedom through their hair and loving their hair and their skin, I want this ultimate freedom for everyone. No matter what comes in this life, whatever comes to shake up your world, you don’t get shook. That anchor is there.”
The different speakers fall into five pillars, including wellness, beauty, entrepreneurship, creativity, and yes, spirituality. The categories help to meet everyone where they are.
“The thread is your true creativity is here. Your idea that’s going to change the world is already, always inside of you and you’re just looking for a way to open it up to let it out,” she says.
While the inaugural BeHer Summit will be virtual, she hopes future summits will be a weekend retreat post-COVID. She sees it somewhere exotic with a villa and an “intimate” group of women to be able to have a full experience where they can ask questions and get answers they’re truly seeking.
“Whatever this looks like when we’re able to move beyond COVID, I definitely see an aspect of it as a getaway to reconnect with yourself,” she says.
The summit, knowing Walton’s past success with CurlyNikki and her books, is sure to be a success. But for her, the true triumph will be in helping Black women live their best lives, whether they’re talking about their hair or what’s in their heart. When asked what legacy she hopes to leave behind, she says, “That I’ve helped Black women reconnect with their true selves. A peace that doesn’t have to be earned or created but one that’s just recognized and practiced until it begins to reflect outside of them as well.”
Learn more about the all-day summit at BeHerSummit.com.