Thandie Newton: Natural Hair is ‘Good Hair’

February 3, 2012  |  

It’s been two years since Thandie Newtown decided to go natural—a decision the British actress says she made after watching Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” documentary and seeing that Lye, the active ingredient in a lot of relaxers, can melt a coke can. She recently chatted with her good friend and long-time makeup artist, Kay Montano, to discuss what the transition has been like, and Thandie says she feels much more liberated as a woman and more confident as a mother about the example she’s setting for her girls who have similar curly manes. Check out a few highlights of the interview:

On having a wilder look with big, curly hair

“I have to feel comfortable with having ‘all eyes on me‘, which I do when I work, less so in life. Ironically I don’t want to draw attention to myself because of celeb spotting, but my big hair, for a time will work as a disguise! Straight hair has been ‘on trend’ for years and years, so having big-A$$ curly hair means I’m stepping outside the mould, outside what’s accepted and applauded. It takes a little courage to do that.
Mainly, I want to wear it natural because it looks amazing!”

On the stigma surrounding natural hair

“The stigma with some black women seems to be that ‘nappy hair’ is almost as bad as loo roll trailing from your shoe. I have always let my daughter’s hair be wild and scruffy. I love the shapes and fluffy halo. But when they were ‘papped‘ in the States I had remarks about how I don’t take care of their hair. The truth is I choose to keep it that way. When I see hair that’s been pulled, stretched, brushed till bullet smooth I just think ‘ouch‘. I have my limits mind, sometimes I have to beg Nico to let me tidy it up for fear of her looking like she’s been neglected!”

How her mother handled her hair as a child

“Mum wanted me to fit in, and I don’t blame her. My hair hampered that. Poor Mum. I remember when I was 7 at my convent school, it was school photo day so all the kids came looking their best. Mum did my hair in 20 or so ‘corn rows’ with green wooden beads on each end to match my school uniform. The nuns were appalled, they wouldn’t let me have my picture taken. I felt embarrassed, disappointed, ashamed. Can you imagine how my Mum must have felt? There was a mild rukus and the next day I had my picture taken. But then I read this year a piece in The Independent about a student who appealed against not being able to wear his hair in (what the school felt was a hoodlum style) braids, and he won. That’s 30 years since the Nun’s dissed me… This sh** keeps going round and round.
Apart from the school photo incident it was 1 or 2 plaits every single day, and a bun when I was doing ballet. Never, ever, ever loose. Never.

The trouble with hairdressers today

“To be honest I do struggle with hairdressers, even now. The main problem is that hairdressers (and some at the top of their game) don’t understand how my type of hair changes dramatically depending on what climate, substance, effects it. Water in anyform is like a cheeky magic wand – even mist! But with the correct tools ad managing my kind of hair can do ANYTHING, which is brilliant! So hairdressers like the genius KerryWarn, or Maarit Niemela, are leagues better than others because they can work black hair from wet to dry in any style.
I’m surprised that more people don’t understand this (even though hair salons still seems to be culturally divided between ‘black’ hairdressing or ‘caucasian’ hairdressing), there are many black models and actresses around that they work with.
I think a problem for top hairdressers is that most black models and high end clients have weaves (Indian hair), so the technicians never work on authentic black hair. Whether black, white, blonde, brunette, I’d head to a local black hairdressers any day of the week- because if a technician can work black hair, you can work ANY hair.”

I’m totally with Thandie on the hairdresser thing, you can’t even show a beautician a certain haircut without being told “that’s weave it won’t look the same on you.” I guess that’s why she took matters into her own hands. She told Kay she had to learn how to do her own hair, and now—“I can braid, fit extensions, do my own weave, cut it, blow dry it bone straight, make hair pieces, fit wigs, style it beehive, forties, Afro, you name it.”

Can you relate to Thandie’s experience transitioning? Have you been able to find a good hairdresser or do you take care of your own mane?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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