NaturallyCurly: Please introduce yourself!
Elizabeth Rhodes: I'm Elizabeth Rhodes, Professor of Hispanic Studies at Boston College. I'm also a sailboat captain and spend a lot of the summertime on the water — major frizz opportunity!
NC: How and when did you start embracing your curls, or have you always enjoyed and embraced your curls?
ER: I'm 57 now, and from age 12 to 30, I fought and resented my curls, as did many of my generation. When I was little, my mom, who always wanted curly hair, kept my hair short and curly. As soon as I could decide, I grew it out, and the trouble started there. Twiggy and Jean Shrimpton were our models then, so I practiced all foolishness in straightening techniques: I slept with my hair wrapped around my head or around a coffee can and sat for an hour under the dryer after every wash. I never actually put my head down on the ironing board and ironed it, although I had friends who did — this was before all the appliances today that do such things for you. If I had put all that time and energy I spent on my hair into something intelligent, I might have won a Pulitzer! Having kids helped me get my priorities straight and products for women with curly hair started to appear.
NC: What is your current routine/regimen?
ER: I go straight often in cold weather and curly in warm. For straight I use the flat iron; for curly you can see my process next. I swim in chlorinated water and always gunk a thick, cheap conditioner all over my hair under my cap to protect it, then rinse afterwards.
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NC: So from start to finish, on a curly day, what’s your process?
ER: I follow my stylist's recommendation on a curly day. I shampoo and condition with no-poo products. Then, as my hair dries, I twist each curl around a finger, working around my head. It's a great commute activity, and my hair makes ringlets that stay as long as I don't comb or touch them. By day's end they've drooped or wandered, so I usually have it in a band behind my head. When I put it up, I like to style it with a Topsy Tail.
NC: What about your hair stylists?
ER: I live in Boston but rely on Karen Ricci in the Wellesley Color Studio for great cuts. If I get a cut elsewhere, I always ask for a specialist in curly hair.
NC: What are you favorite hair styles to wear with your curls?
ER: A french braid with a few curls pulled out around my head.
NC: What are your must-have products?
ER: Time is the only product I need. I haven't found it in a store yet, but when somebody does, please let me know.
NC: What is the best thing about being curly?
ER: Curly hair, which is fiercely persistent, is nature's way of reminding us to accept things we can't change and learn to work with and even benefit from them. I need that reminder myself; do you?
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NC: How has having curly hair impacted your life?
ER: It has helped me be grateful for what I have and, as Shawn Colvin says, not wish for what isn't mine. "Go with what you've got" is what curly hair has taught me.
NC: Tell us about your current and upcoming projects. Tell us about your life and what you are up to!
ER: I'm starting a sailing program for young survivors of rape and studying for my Coast Guard Captain's license. On the boat, I have to keep my hair under wraps — I got it caught in the engine once when I stuck my head in the engine compartment! Hats and wraps make it flat, until I rinse it and, like magic, it bounces back. This is the great thing about curly hair: it always bounces back. We could all learn from that, right?Read More: DIY Homemade Hair Cleansers