Inspiring Entrepreneur: Jessica Lewis And Her MahoganyCurls, Part 1

July 24, 2014  |  

Jessica Lewis, also known as MahoganyCurls, has been inspiring women who have been embracing their natural hair since 2009. “I lived in Germany at the time, my husband’s in the military” she explained at a panel during the 2014 Essence Festival (watch it at this link). “I used to relax my hair all the time, and my husband did my big chop. I was new and I would go on YouTube and search for TWA (teeny weeny afro) videos for women with short, natural hair and couldn’t find any, so I decided to document my journey and help others along the way.”

Five years later and with about 25 million views on her YouTube channel tutorials, we’d say Jessica knows what she’s talking about when she encourages us to embrace what we’re born with, at least when it comes to glorious tresses. We sat down with her recently to talk about her hair journey and how she leveraged her natural hair–and talents–in order to create a successful business.

Inspiring Entrepreneur: Jessica Lewis And Her MahoganyCurls, Part 1

What were your feelings about your hair as a kid growing up?

When I was around 4 or 5 years old, I did not care for my hair much. I used to spend a lot of time with my cousin and her hair used to be much longer than mine. Now that I look back on it, it wasn’t necessarily longer; she just had a looser curl pattern (wavy hair) and that made it appear longer than my hair.  My hair shrinks like crazy and whenever my grandma would press it, it would be longer than hers. Eventually I began falling in love with my hair. My grandma used to tell me that my hair is like a rubber band. It stretches a lot, but it shrinks when it is no longer stretched. At that time hearing something like that helped me to accept my hair. I was so young. I just wanted long hair. Ha-ha.

Do you remember loving your curls? Feeling another way about them?

I didn’t really care for them that much when I was younger. I preferred to have my hair pressed.

Did you ever do your own hair as a kid?

No. My mother wouldn’t allow me to do that. I began styling my own hair when I was 13 years old.

What surprised you about the  your natural hair journey that you started in 2009?

It was the best feeling in the world! I was surprised at the compliments that I received. Don’t get me wrong, I had some people that would say a few negative things, but most people were very supportive. I figured it would be cool to look back on the early stages and I also decided to document my journey to learn the do’s and don’ts of styling my natural hair, and of course to help others, if they were interested in watching. There weren’t many TWA (teeny weeny afro) videos online during that time so I decided I would discuss life with my TWA.

Did YouTube-ing come with challenges? Were you always comfortable in front of the camera?

YouTube-ing came with a few challenges. Learning how to upload a video in the correct format. I also had to learn how to create a video and not go over the time limit. When I first started I only had a 10-minute max. After a year or so it increased to 15 minutes. Now that I am a YouTube partner, I can upload videos without a time limitation. I was a little nervous at first; you have to get used to speaking to yourself. After a few takes, I got over it and it became very natural.

Are you self-taught as far as hair care?

Yes and no. I grew up in hair salons. I love hair. It is a strong passion of mine. I have three aunts and my grandmother who are all licensed cosmetologists. They have taught me a lot of things regarding hair care, how to use certain styling tools, mixing hair color properly, etc. Of course a lot of it is based on relaxed hair, which is absolutely fine. I taught myself how to care for natural hair, through trial and error. I have used some skills that I have learned from relaxed hair for natural hair care as well. For instance, I was taught to avoid using brushes regularly since it can be damaging to your hair (it can lead to breakage, especially around the edges). It is okay to use it every now and then, but not all the time. I also learned that low manipulation is very important. The core value is keeping your hair healthy.

What was an “uh oh moment” with your hair? A bad cut? Color? Or process?

Ha-ha, that is a great question. At this point, I have never had an “uh oh moment” with my hair. I am very cautious when it comes to styling my hair and thoroughly research information before I try something new.

Who are some of your hair idols?

I love Vicky Jeudy’s hair from “Orange is the New Black.” I am loving her TWA! It is so cute!


Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this interview where Jessica shares some business tips, talks about being a mom and, of course, offers great hair advice!

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