What was it like for you growing up with textured hair?

I didn't know I had textured hair! My family doesn't. My mom doesn't and so she didn't know how to tackle my hair. She made me brush it and clamp it down with a bow growing up. It was HORRID. I HATED my hair. It felt broken. It was big, misshapen, messy. I couldn't do ponytails like my friends. If I put it up, I had a crown of frizz. Nothing looked good. And then at 16, a friend told me I had curly hair and, um, had I tried gel? Um, WHAT?! I had no idea. As dumb as it sounds, I had no idea. I am Iranian/Danish & grew up in Spain, surrounded by non-curlies. I didn't know. No one told me. No one taught me.

What made you decide to embrace your naturally curly wavy hair?

The thought of not embracing my hair was never an option. I DID try to figure out so many wrong ways of tackling it. Misguided/ignorant/uninformed hairstylists would thin it out, haircuts were atrocious and too short, proper use of stylers was always hit and miss, but not embracing my hair in its natural state was never an option. My whole identity is deeply intertwined into my hair. I AM my hair. My hair is me. I can't breathe when my hair is damaged. I feel damaged. It is an extension of who I am. It reflects my personality and what makes me uniquely and unequivocally me.

What has been the most empowering moment of your natural hair journey so far?

My hair was recently severely damaged & up until that point, working my curls, finding the right product, learning to diffuse etc. was always hit & miss. I didn't know there was a curly community out there. I had NO knowledge of ANYTHING to do with the inner workings of curls, in spite of being a curly haired woman. Delving in and learning all I can about porosity, texture, curl pattern, sulfates, silicones, application methods, what all of it means to hair in proportion to its particular makeup etc. has all been very empowering. My hair is no longer this huge unknown. I understand it better. I love it so much more. And being able to care for it better has been everything!

How do you protect your curls at night?

I am moody with how I sleep and how I feel so I go through phases. I started out loving bonnets and I'd sleep with my bonnet on atop my cotton pillow. I'd tried satin and hated how a satin pillowcase felt against my face. Then I left my bonnet and opted for a silk scarf. Now I wrap my scarf around my pillow (I'm still waiting on my order of silk pillowcases to arrive!) because I need a break from wrapping my hair, but I still want it protected. But all three methods are my go to (well, that rides on whether I will like sleeping on a silk pillowcase. ;-)), based on my mood. I alternate and mix it up.

Who is your curl crush?

Diana Ross! Ever since I laid eyes on her as a little girl, I wanted her hair. I will forever harbor Diana Ross magical hair dreams!

What's your curly girl essential you can't live without?

I went blonde in 2015. My hair was damaged in April of this year, 2019, and since then, ApHogee's Two Step Protein Treatments are my LIFE! I ONLY use ApHogee for my whole wash ritual and I cannot praise it enough. It is my hair's very breath.

What is your current hair regimen? Any favorite products you’d like to share?

Once a month I start with ApHogee's shampoo for damaged hair, followed by the Two Step Protein Treatment, finishing with the balancing moisturizer. All other washes I start with the same shampoo, followed by the 2 Minute Keratin Reconstructor, finishing with the ApHogee's Green Tea Restructurizer, a VERY TINY amount of the Curlific leave-in, followed by SheaMoisture's Coconut & Hibiscus styling milk (super tiny amount), then very generous pumps of SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Mousse follow and if needed a light amount of SheaMoisture's 100% Virgin Coconut Oil Daily Hydration Styling Gel.

I go super light on styling creams and any gel because my hair is damaged high porosity right now and gets easily weighed down by anything remotely heavy or moisturizing.

What has been the most challenging moment of your natural hair journey so far?

Dealing with the damage done to my hair. In April a colorist completely fried my healthy high porosity blonde hair SO badly it was breaking off in my hands! I had to chop it off from below shoulder length (took me FOUR YEARS to grow it there!) to above my shoulders. And then DevaCurl products proved to be SO damaging and drying for my hair that I had to chop it down further to just under my chin/nape of the neck. Four years of growth gone. The texture of my hair killed from coarse to fine. Porosity altered from healthy to damaged high porosity. My curl pattern is not the same since most of my hair is damaged so my natural, tighter pattern needs to grow out again. I have short hair & SO prefer long hair. It will take me 5-6 years to get to where I want to be.

Are there any techniques or methods that have made a huge impact on your hair health?

NOT applying product to soaking wet hair and ensuring I dry my hair as much as I can with my 100% cotton tee towel before styling to remove as much excess water as I can. It's one of the best techniques for damaged high porosity hair, helping it release that excess water, then applying the stylers and then diffusing. At the onset of my damage, it took me 2 hours + to diffuse my hair dry. Since I fine tuned my technique, I am now down to 45 minutes or so. Not bad!

What's your advice to women who are still struggling with loving their natural texture?

Delve into the science of hair. Learn to understand it, to master it. I find that oftentimes when we don't love our hair, it is based on a lack of understanding birthed out of living in a society that doesn't understand it and therefore shuns what it doesn't get. So understand hair. Learn the basics. Apply this to your hair. Why does it behave the way that it does? What does it like? What makes it happy? Work with it, play with it, find what nurtures it, makes it happy and makes it thrive. Mastering the basics, gaining knowledge, enriches the hair journey, it makes it personal, tangible, real and reminds us of what we need to remember... we are worthy. Our hair is worthy and perfect just as it is... unabashedly, unequivocally and uniquely our own. Wear it proudly and loudly!

My hair is currently recovering. She's lost density, length. So much. Loving her as she heals is key!