LaShelle McCoyLaShelle before being styled by Amika

NaturallyCurly: Please introduce yourself! Where are you from?

LaShelle McCoy: My name is LaShelle McCoy. I’m originally from Dayton, Ohio and I am a Tuskegee University Alumni. I currently reside in Merritt Island, FL, where I am a Sustainable Systems Research Scientist at the Kennedy Space Center. I grew up always having a passion for science and hair. As a little girl, I would  spend hours in my room doing my baby dolls’ hair while watching sci-fi classics like Star Trek: Next Generation. So my current fixation on hair and my job as a researcher do not come as a surprise to those who grew up around me.

NaturallyCurly: Tell us a little about your hair story, please!

LM: One of my biggest pet peeves is when somebody tells me, “Oh, you have that good hair” (referring to its texture). It makes me so mad because my hair isn’t “good” because of its looser curl pattern. It’s “good” because it’s healthy.  If you’re reading this and you don’t agree, consider this: my curl pattern does not keep me from getting split ends, breakage, dryness and thinning edges. Those ailments do not discriminate between tighter and looser textured hair.

I first decided to go natural in the summer of 2007 after dealing with bouts of massive hair shed because of scalp infections from dirty hair salons. I was fed up and no longer wanted to be dependent on the “creamy crack” or be at the mercy of some random hair dresser who was not concerned with the health of my hair. I had always had long, healthy, relaxed hair, so big chopping down to a TWA was not an option for me. I transitioned for two years.

During that time, I didn’t know about CurlyNikki, NaturallyCurly or any other curly hair source of information. I transitioned, armed only with the hair care knowledge imparted to me by my mother. My whole regimen consisted of a weekly deep protein treatment, a blow out and a press. My only style was a bun. I BC’d in May 2009 only to find that my hair didn’t look anything like what I had been seeing on YouTube. (I bet the constant flat ironing had something to do with it!) I struggled with the wash 'n go looks only to give up and resort to wigs to hide, what I deemed, “ dysfunctional hair." And then, I found CurlyNikki.com (the day she had Gia!). Her website saved my hair and my sanity!

For me, one of the highlights was when a group of eager eyed ladies, with camera in hand, approached me, asking, “Are you Curly Nikki?” This didn’t happen once, but many times!

NC: Tell us about your experience as a VIC at the NaturallyCurly Pool Party! What was your experience like? Any highlights?

LM: I thoroughly enjoyed the pool party! The venue was absolutely beautiful. When I arrived, I was greeted by stylish curlies of all kinds and taken to the VIC cabana. I chatted it up with the other VICs, talking hair care and raving over our huge goodie bags. Carte blanche access to the bar was the cherry on top of the proverbial cake! After taking my “before” pictures, I was taken to the Amika booth and my hair was curled using their clipless iron. The stylist was very understanding when I expressed concerns over the use of high heat and gracefully used a low temperature to curl my hair. I was pleasantly surprised at how well the style came out considering no styling products were used and my hair was in a blown out state. After a while, the heat and humidity turned it into this wild-child look that I really loved! I can embrace frizz.

For me, one of the highlights was when a group of eager eyed ladies, with camera in hand, approached me asking, “Are you CurlyNikki?” This didn’t just happen once, but many times! I asked one lady why she thought I was CurlyNikki, she said it was the hair and the swag! I’m like, "What?!  I have CurlyNikki swag? Oh yeah!"

NC: How and when did you start embracing your curls or have you always enjoyed and embraced your curls?

LM: I have not always embraced my curls.  Besides empowering knowledge gained from blogs and YouTube, a major contributing factor to my developing a love of my hair has been my boyfriend. He would say, “Why do you have to wear those wigs? I like YOUR hair. YOUR hair!” And as if words were not enough, on the days that I would venture out with my natural curls, his eyes would shine and he’d look at it in a way that is hard for me to explain...like he was seeing real beauty, I guess. That is when I fully understood that a woman’s hair is her glory. Not plastic tresses created by man. Not hair cut from a poor women in India or Malaysia and glued, sewn and tied into yours. Your hair is your glory. Don’t get me wrong — I don’t find anything wrong with wearing wigs or weaves. I still love them! But it becomes an issue when you wear them to hide an insecurity or disguise damaged hair. I was wearing them because I thought that it looked better than my own hair. It took me a year to realize that healthy hair will always look better than a $20 half wig from the beauty supply store.

Read More: Real Texture Talk: VIC Sherene Roach

LaShelle McCoyLaShelle after being styled by Amika

NC: What is your current routine or regimen?

LM: My current routine consists of washing and deep conditioning, with heat, once a week. I first use a sulfate based shampoo (currently it’s Jane Carter Solution Moisture Nourishing Shampoo, Aveda Shampure or Sally’s Generic Paul Mitchell Tea Tree Special Shampoo) to remove the week’s grime. I follow up with a more moisturizing shampoo like Mizani True Textures Curl Balance Moisturizing Shampoo or Karen’s Body Beautiful Ultimate Conditioning Shampoo. Then I DC with one of the following: Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose Conditioner, Motions Moisturizing Silk Protein Conditioner (with Vatika Oil added) or Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Masque (with Vatika Oil added). After detangling, I apply a creamy leave-in conditioner (Giovanni Direct Leave-in or Lacio Lacio High Shine Leave-in) and Qhemet Biologics Burdock Root Butter Cream (BRBC). I then put in 12-14 two-strand twists and allow to air dry. And once a month, I do an overnight henna treatment.

Throughout the week I re-moisturize with Infusim 23 Leave-in and Qhemet Biologics Moringa Tree Conditioning Ghee (MTCG) and retwist in 6-8 two-strand twists for bed.

NC: What are your favorite hair styles to wear with your curls?

LM: One of my favorite styles is a flexi rod set on blown out hair. It’s the only way I’ve been able to get volume from my fine, low density 3c hair. It comes out perfect every time! Not like a twist n' curl or twist outs where the quality of the style is dependent on how wet or dry the hair is, how much product you did or didn’t use, how many twists or twist placement….aaahhhh! Too many variables. My flexi rod sets are the bomb. Other than that, my hair is in some sort of an updo 98 percent of the time. I love buns and all sorts of pin-up styles.

NC: What are your must-have products and tools?

LM: Goodie ouchless barrettes and banana clips, a wide tooth shower comb, Qhemet Biologics BRBC and MTCG, Gold N Hot Heat cap (for deep conditioning), henna and a Loc-soc, newly added to the list. I bought it the World Natural Hair Show in April. That thing is brilliant!

The best thing about being a curly is having the ability to be truly unique. No head of hair is the same. Therefore, even if I copy a style from someone else, it’s going to look different with my texture and density. Also, the versatility is amazing!

NC: What is the best thing about being curly?

LM: The best thing about being a curly is having the ability to be truly unique. No head of hair is the same. Therefore, even if I copy a style from someone else, it’s going to look different with my texture and density. Also, the versatility is amazing!  I can wear it straight, curly, in a ‘fro, twist 'n curl, braid out, up and down and all around. I can rock a big voluminous Diana Ross look — I never could do that when I was relaxed! I can also get it wet anytime I want, knowing that water only makes it better.

I think that we spend so much time wanting to look and be like everybody else. Being natural can allow us to step outside the pack and stand out to be noticed and in turn, notice other unique things as well.

NC: What impact has being natural had on your life?

LM: Through natural hair meet-ups, I have been able to meet amazing people, some of which, I’ve become friends with and keep in regular contact with. And being able to help others with their hair woes gives me great joy. Please, if you have a question, ask me! I love to talk about hair. Even as a child, I’ve always been into hair and beauty culture, and this natural hair movement allows me to share my excitement and knowledge with others.

NC: What would you tell others to encourage them to embrace their curls?

LM: If you, like I did in the past, struggle with accepting your natural hair — if you think it's not sexy, nappy and hard to manage — or if you think that other people will hate it, I say the following:

First, bump what other people think — they don’t pay your bills!

Second, take the time to learn all you can about your hair. Proper maintenance and hair care practices can make a world of difference on how your hair looks and feels, and it can also make maintenance easier! So many times I hear from other ladies, all this negative verbiage about their hair. Don’t punish your hair by talking bad about it.  It’s not your hair’s fault that it’s dull, dry, brittle, hard to comb and not retaining length. It's your fault. It’s user error (don’t feel bad, we’ve all screwed up a time or two). I recommend The Science of Black Hair by Audrey Davis-Sivasothy. It’s a great one stop shop that covers all the basics without having to sift though tons of websites, blogs and forums for good info. Please remember, “good hair” is HEALTHY hair.

Thirdly, stop hiding your hair! How are you going to learn to embrace it when its jammed underneath a cheap wig or a very expensive sew-in? There’s no hands on time. No opportunity for you to learn what it needs and what it takes to make it thrive and look good. If you are still apprehensive, only try new hairstyles and techniques on the weekends.

NC: Tell us about your life and what you are up to!

LM: As I stated before, I’m a scientist at Kennedy Space Center. This summer, I’m thrilled to be a mentor to an intern for the first time. I have an exciting project planned and I hope that my quirkiness and wacky sense of humor won’t ruin him too much! I’m also looking forward to being a bridesmaid for the first time later this summer.

And lastly, I eagerly await my first trip to the continent of Africa. I’ll be meeting up with a college friend and her fellow Peace Corp buddies to travel to Mozambique and South Africa.

I’m so excited!  This will be a summer of firsts for me.

Read More: Product Reviews: Curly Hair Serum