If you are a beauty, fashion and wellness enthusiast in New York City and missed the 1st Annual Essence Beauty Carnival, you definitely missed out. From Ciara to Jackie Aina to Iman, there was no shortage of powerful women of color in attendance. Complete with colorful carnival-themed photo booths to insightful panels regarding everything beauty, fashion and wellness, Saturday and Sunday were jam-packed with curated shopping, inspirational life messages, and encouraging career advice. Black, women-focused beauty, fashion and skincare brands made their goodies available to hundreds of people from all over, while budding entrepreneurs and industry icons alike graced the stage.
On behalf of NaturallyCurly, I got to speak with natural hair star, Whitney White, better known as Naptural85 to her 1 million YouTube subscribers and 682,000 Instagram followers. We discussed her role in the latest Natural Hair Movement as well as plans for the future, and of course, her recent business venture as Founder of Melanin Haircare.
Devri: There weren’t a lot of people showcasing the natural hair journey online at the time you started. What was that like?
Whitney: I was very much “the emotional artist” [at the time I Big Chopped]…so I didn’t really know what was going to come out of it. I actually originally planned to loc my hair. I was going to cut it off and loc it… everything was brand new, so it was really exciting.
D: Was there any technique in particular that just didn’t work?
W: It’s not really up to us — I could try a Bantu knot-out today and tomorrow it’s not going to work. I can’t point out one particular thing.
D: What about when your hair was shorter when you Big Chopped? Did you face any challenges with that?
Photo courtesy of Antoine DeBrill
W: Yeah, I immediately put braids in my hair in the beginning. I was heavily in Jui-Jitsu… I remember one day I was rolling on the mat, and [my teammates] were like, “What’s that?” I looked down, and it was a braid on the floor. That was a point when I learn how to my hair in a TWA. I had to force myself to be comfortable in that moment.
D: Are there any product, technique, or style that you’re really into?
W: I’m really into this product line called Melanin Haircare. I’m very into aloe. It’s amazing. I had a moment where I was really into coconut oil, and I think I overdid it. Aloe is so good for your scalp, your hair, it’s medicinal. I’m really into letting my hair do its thing. In the beginning of my journey, I had to have a sleek twist-out, now I don’t care. I also love protective styles and twists.
D: All of these brands which have existed for a long time and now they have curly hair lines. What is your take on that?
W: That’s business– I’m not surprised. They’re going towards the trend, which is natural hair. As far as other brands coming out with lines, I think that’s great. Now we have companies — we don’t know what their intentions are — but I don’t care, I’m glad that you are making something that we can use.
D: You’re also a mother and a wife. How do you balance those roles with self-care and maintain your business?
W: I’m working on it. This year has been insane, and self-care is so, so, so important to me. When I first had my daughter Olivia, it’s like I had something to prove. I wanted to make sure that I was still holding myself accountable. But at the end of the day, I burned myself out. And that’s not healthy. Last year, I felt the effects of that [burnout] and I was very tired. This year it’s just very important to me to take care of myself. You can’t do your best for your kids, and you can’t do your best for your company, if you go work all day. You cannot tip yourself one way
D: Do you have a favorite self-care practice?
W: I do. I used to love yoga. Right now I love herbal teas. They’re so medicinal. I love peppermint, turmeric and ginger. It’s great for your skin and hair, so it’s like a double [win].
D: What have you learned from your natural hair journey that is important to pass down to your kids?
W: When I had my daughter, it was really important for me to have her love her natural curly hair. At the end of the day, I just want her to be happy and confident in her hair. Right now, she actually wants me to cut her hair. She hates me washing her hair. She doesn’t care how it looks, she just wants it to be short because she sees her brother Theo in and out [in the bathroom] so we’re talking about it. Just be confident.
Photo courtesy of Antoine DeBrill
D: One thing that resonates with me and our community, is that you’re really positive. You really are uplifting in that way. How do you that in this world, with all the trolls and haters — how do you stay positive?
W: I really just want to share my journey as honestly and openly as possible. No one’s perfect! I find a lot of comfort in seeing other people go through life normally. That allows me to express myself to how I am, genuinely. I just share what I’m going through. Social media is great… I look at it sometimes [and think] we put so much pressure on ourselves. Where did that come from? Back when we started, it was just so natural. I really want people to really see my flaws, not for you but for me. I don’t ever want people think I’m so perfect that I can’t mess up. I know that helps other people, but it helps me, too. I just do me and don’t put too much pressure
D: What do you want your online community to get out of your content? What is your intention?
W: Haircare, fun! It’s so much fun. Hair is just hair, but then it’s not just hair. Love your hair because it’s your roots, it’s how you express yourself. It’s everything. But also, don’t put too much of yourself in your hair. Be OK to let that go. It’s just like life — it’s a journey. Sometimes you have to change it up. Have fun with your hair. Let’s not take it too seriously. We can celebrate it and love it, but we can be positive about it.
D: What advice would you give yourself?
W: Have more confidence in who you are. I spent a lot of time trying to be other people. It took me a really long time to figure out who I was. Even to this day, I feel like I’m in a really big transition right now, where I’m trying to figure out which way I want to go. I didn’t grow up with that confidence, with my relaxers and buns, and I really found myself through my natural hair community. People come to me and say, “You helped me so much!” and I’m like, “You helped me so much!” I would tell my younger self and any other younger kids, don’t try so hard to fit in. Be confident in your own natural beauty and natural self.
Check out the video below, and Naptural85’s YouTube channel here!