You might call her Mrs. Curlgeniality. On Saturday night, Su Joing Sollers will represent D.C. in the Mrs. United States Pageant. The pageant, which will culminate Saturday night, celebrates intelligent women of all walks of life.
When I met Sollers at the Baltimore book tour stop for The Curl Revolution I immediately connected with her. She was there with one of her two curly daughters in the hopes of inspiring her to embrace her natural texture. Little did I know that she's also a beauty queen, having won numerous titles.
Sollers entered her first pageant in 1996 when she was crowned Miss Teen Omaha. She was named Miss Nebraska USA 2001. Before winning Mrs. D.C., she was Mrs. Maryland America 2015.
Growing up as a biracial woman with a Korean mother and an African-American father, Sollers struggled for many years to accept her natural texture. So I was interested to hear how she learned to embrace her curls, both in pageants and in her professional career as a commercial lender.
NC: How did you come to embrace your curls?
Sollers: I straightened my hair most of my life. I wore my hair curly one time and my husband told me ‘I hope you wear your hair like that all the time.’ From that point on, I’ve worn my hair curly. It still takes a little reinforcement.
NC: How common is curly hair in the pageant world?
Sollers: Every single woman I know wears their hair straight. Of the African-American contestants I know, I'm one of the few wearing my hair natural. I was insecure about it, but I want to be a role model.
NC: Have you gotten pressure to wear your hair straight for pageants?
Sollers: Definitely! A lot of pageant coaches have pushed toward straight hair. But that’s just one thing I will not budge on. If I have a coach that really pushes that, it’s probably the last meeting with that coach. I want to compete as myself, not who they want to turn me into.
NC: At the book tour event, you got pretty emotional when you talked about wanting your two daughters - 5-year-old Ava and 8-year-old India - to embrace their curls. Has wearing your hair curly in pageants had a positive impact on the way your two daughters feel about their curls?
Sollers: Without a doubt, yes! My daughters look to me for beauty and identity, just like I did with my mother. My mother is Korean. I always wanted straight hair like hers. I wanted to be her. It’s rare that I straighten it out anymore but when I do, they ask for theirs to be straight too.
Wearing my hair curly sends a clear message that as moms, we have a leadership responsibility to our children and they watch what we do more than they hear what we say. The most important thing I can teach my children is a strong sense of self worth by showing them that I embrace my uniqueness.
NC: What is your curl regimen for pagents?
Sollers: My pageant hair care regimen goes between DevaCurl & SheaMoisture, and it’s usually a game time decision. If my hair feels limp the day before, I go with DevaCurl routine and of its dry I go with SheaMoisture. I try listen to my hair.
- Co-wash my hair with SheaMoisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Strengthening & Restore Leave-in Conditioner, leaving in half the product and combing it in the shower.
- Dry it with DevaCurl Microfiber towel
- Part my hair to the side
- Apply SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie
- Add OGX Renewing Argon Oil of Morocco Extra Penetrating Oil for dry and course hair
- I scrunch my hair
- Then I blow dry my hair with a DevaFuser until it’s about 80% dry then let the rest air dry so I don’t damage my hair
- Co-wash my hair with DevaCurl One Condition Decadence and leave in all the product. I comb it in the shower.
- Dry with DevaCurl Microfiber towel
- Part my hair to the side
- Apply Deva Curl B’Leave-in conditioner
- Apply DevaCurl Super Cceam or Deva CurlArc Angel or DevaCurl Styling Cream
- Add OGX Renewing Argon Oil of Morocco Extra Penetrating Oil for dry and course hair or DevaCurl Mirror Curls
- I scrunch my hair
- Then I blow dry my hair with a DevaFuser until it’s about 80% dry then let the rest air dry so I don’t damage my hair.
Lastly, deep conditioning is a way of my life! I deep condition my hair at least once per week but aim to do it 2 times per week. I use DevaCurl Heaven In Hair or Deep Sea Repair Seaweed Strengthening Mask. I go back an forth between both. I use the Hot Head cap and just put in the microwave per the instructions.
I experiment with products all the time another one I recently discovered is through Aveda Be Curly Curl Enhancer. It’s a nice cross between DevaCurl and SheaMoisturize. I love the shine and smell.
NC: What is the most positive impact that participating in pageants has had on your life?
Sollers: It’s taught me that one person can truly change the world. We each have been given a gift by God. It’s our gift back to God if we use it for the greater good.
There is an inner voice in all of us that’s a compass and some of us ignore it because we want to play it safe or don’t want to be judged or offend others. If we feed it, we start to live out our true destiny and be happy.
I believe in infinite possibilities just - because it or an idea hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean you can’t be the one that changes everything!
I’ll be rooting for Sollers. You can vote for her here.