Earlier this week I had a candid chat with acclaimed actress, comedienne and writer Wanda Sykes. OMfrickingG! To be honest, I was nervous, geeked and utterly star struck. Before the interview I was attempting to implement what I teach my clients—thinking positive thoughts, practicing slow, diaphragmatic breathing and convincing myself that I was worthy of the coming experience.
I immediately felt relieved—her down-to-earth and approachable manner instantly put me at ease. She was amazingly personable. It was like talking to an old friend. And get this, she is a regular CurlyNikki.com reader thanks to her stylist Lisa Deveaux. She asked about Baby G before I could even ask my first question! My mind was totally blown. She opened the door and I walked right in… I had lots of questions—about her hair story, about her fave products, and about her participation in the campaign against gay bullying. Specifically what we, as a society, and on an individual level can do to help prevent it. Finally, we discussed how her journey to curl acceptance paralleled her coming out. The take-home message? Acceptance and tolerance. Be respectful of one another. Do you and let others be.
CN: What's your hair story?
I started getting perms back in junior high, mainly because I was tired of my mother burning my ears off with the hot comb. I permed all the way through college and much of my early career. While on the set of "Wanda at Large," they were using the curling iron on me just about every day. This, of course, resulted in damage, so I started getting extensions. Once they took the extensions out, my hair was worse off, so I said, you know, I'm just going to cut it, and go really short. That was just prior to "Wanda Does It." From there, my hair started growing out a little bit more, and I decided I was done with perms. They control your life, and honestly, especially when you're with somebody, you just don't feel sexy—you have to go to bed with your hair all wrapped up, and you're all crinkly in the shower with your plastic cap on. You go on vacation and people are like "hey, let's jump in the pool"…nope, can't jump in the pool. It was just so controlling and was one of the main reasons I cut it short and went natural.
The other reason was because I had to have surgery. I had fibroid tumors. This was right after I did "Monster in Law"— I wore a little short wig on set. After getting out of the hospital, I was unable to make it to the salon for a while. I finally had to go in because they needed the press junket for the film. My roots had grown out considerably and my stylist told me that she could see a curl pattern. I said, okay, let's cut it off, skip the perm, and just see what it does.
I loved it short, it looked great, but I really started missing my length—I wanted to grow it back out. That's when all the drama started. We were coloring my tips to add dimension, and my hair would reach a certain length, start to frizz, break off, and I would have to cut it really short and start all over again. I went through three attempts of letting it grow but each time resulted in me having to shave my head and go back short. It was really frustrating, very hard on me and my wife, Alex. When I met her, I had already shaved it once. It was a little shorter than it is now—probably like 3 inches. My hair was breaking badly and it was time to cut again. She asked me not to because she liked the length. I explained that while I liked it longer too, I had no choice. So she went through two of the times I had to start from scratch.