Intersections of Beauty is a platform to celebrate the unique perspectives, aesthetics, and life experiences within the industry and our communities. We believe that beauty isn’t just one-size-fits-all. It ‘s FOR all. And this Black History Month, we’re inviting members of the Black community to share their stories.
This week, we spoke with Content Creator/Video Editor Crystal Ezeoke and Professional Track-and-Field Athlete Taliyah Brooks, to discuss their experiences with their natural hair — from texturism and the big chop to the importance of practicing self-compassion.
Keep reading for the full conversation.
Q: What does Black History Month mean to you?
Crystal: It serves as a reminder to re-educate myself on the actual history of Black lives in America that was and still is not taught in schools. Every year, I learn about interesting figures who haven’t been given proper credit for their contribution to our society who were Black.
Taliyah: Black History Month is a time to reflect and really be proud of everything that Black people have accomplished. It is a time to highlight those that may not be mentioned regularly, and to really appreciate where we come from and the rich history of Black people.
Q: What do you want people to know about Black History Month?
Crystal: You can support Black History Month in so many simple ways as a Black or non-black person. I’m blessed to live in Dallas, Texas where I can discover a new delicious Black owned restaurant every week to rave about to my friends and family. While we celebrate the lives of our ancestors, it’s important we use this month to also give thanks to Black people and groups paving the way for tomorrow’s future too.
Taliyah: That Black history is American History. That we shouldn’t limit it to only one month out of the year. That people can use this month to really celebrate and educate ourselves and others on the work of Black People.
Q: How do you intend to celebrate, reflect or participate?
Crystal: Every single Black person should practice intense self-care during Black History Month. That’s what I’ve been doing all month long and it will hopefully be a habit I practice all year round. I believe the more we practice self-compassion, the more we can heal from internalized self-hatred from all forms of anti-blackness. Even by spoiling yourselves at local Black owned businesses uplifts my spirits and the community.
Taliyah: I intend to really celebrate this month by highlighting Black people on social media, supporting Black businesses, and really reflecting within myself and with my family. I think Black History Month can be very inspiring and very uplifting, so using that every day.
Q: Tell us about your hair journey.
Crystal: When I came into this world, my head was full of thick Nigerian hair! My mother always said it’s from my grandpa, and our family album validates that. I had hair in plaits for most of elementary school because that was the easiest style my mom would be able to do as our primary caregiver. I laugh at it now, but I was called Snoop Dogg by my bullies all the time and I started to want my hair to look like the other Black girls’ hair who relaxed theirs. I remember constantly begging my mom to let me relax mine until she reluctantly caved in. That length gave me this superficial confidence that was short-lived because I did not know how to take care of my hair in its chemically altered state. Breakage was so regular for me, I thought everyone with a relaxer experienced that too. I went years using relaxers hoping I’d reach new hair lengths, but that never happened. The big chop challenge was becoming a new trend, and I loathed my damaged relaxed hair so I did the big chop in 2015 on my YouTube channel and I’ve never used a relaxer since.
Taliyah: I was that kid that loved straight hair. Always wanted super straight, super long hair, and the older I got the more I just kind of came into myself. I would see my older sister start to wear her natural hair and I loved it, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and I started to do the same. I haven’t looked back since then!
Q: Has your perspective on your hair changed over time? How?
Taliyah: Yes! I used to LOVE straight hair. I always wore my hair straight, I hated my natural curls. Now, seeing everyone rocking their natural curls and seeing the beauty of natural hair, I have come to really love my hair unapologetically.
Crystal: My relationship with my hair has gone through several ups and downs even after the big chop because it is the even lesser socially acceptable natural hair texture. I eventually said screw the bs beauty standards and took pride in my natural fluffy crown. It’s the defiance against gravity and the way it demands attention for me. Hair like this may feel like a pain for lazy naturals, and trust me, I get it because don’t let this hair fool you. I am super lazy with this hair. But I know I am so blessed to call all of this hair my crown.
Q: How has society contributed to the way the world views natural hair?
Crystal: I didn’t understand what texturism was for a while, and I remember mainly liking my natural hair when it was defined or when it was silk pressed. But I soon learned how society still had its teeth sunk into my self-image. So I slowly grew to love my natural hair and its kinky coily texture regardless of those trendy beauty standards. By the end of the day, I care more about having a full head of thick hair when I’m an old sexy grandma, so I couldn’t care less about what society thinks of it these days.
Taliyah: I think society has placed a negative view on natural hair. We call it “nappy,” “unprofessional,” or even a “distraction.” We have been so accustomed to straight or wavy hair that when we see something different we automatically think it is wrong or not beautiful. The way your hair naturally grows is beautiful, and people shouldn’t feel afraid to wear what is theirs.
Q: What has your experience been like working in your field as a person of color?
Crystal: My journey as a content creator has been such a highlight of my life. It’s one of the first facts I usually tell about myself when making new friends along with my Nigerian background. It’s a shame though, because there are times when I feel unacknowledged by the algorithm, brands and society because I’m not a racially ambiguous Black content creator. It just motivates me to work that much harder.
Taliyah: I think in the sports industry I would say I have experienced privilege. Having lighter skin with “good hair” has allowed me to sometimes have an easier road than other Black people. Audiences feel as though they can relate to me because I am either “not really Black” or I am “Black enough.” So being able to speak out and educate when I am experiencing that is very important.
Q: Do you have any advice for people who want to transition to a natural hair style?
Crystal: Don’t overthink your decision. It’s honestly just hair and will grow back faster than you think so long as you take care of your ends and scalp. Follow people with your hair texture. I personally love following creators with curls period, but that usually use ethnic hair products because they usually know my struggle on a different level.
Taliyah: Don’t be afraid to start the journey. A lot of people are simply afraid to go natural, so they never do. Youtube can be your best friend. You can find super easy hairstyles that you can practice and learn to do, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed with your natural hair. Your hair is beautiful, rock it proudly.
Q: What do you look for when looking for a new product to use on your hair?
Taliyah: I always want my hair to feel moisturized, not dry. And I LOVE LOVE LOVE volume. So a product that can keep my hair moisturized but at the same time really big, is a product for me.
Crystal: Don’t judge me, but I need products to smell good to keep it in my rotation! I also am a sucker for nice packaging and I blame Korean beauty products for that. But when it comes to the rest, I am not too much of a stickler for what the ingredients are so long as they don’t scream future health issue warnings at me. What might work well for one person on the internet may not work the same for your hair. I love always experimenting!
Q: Who are some of your hair/beauty icons?
Crystal: Lately, it’s been @blakejael, @starpuppy_, and @willnotwilly ❤
Taliyah: I really love a youtuber named Jasmine Brown and Tracee Ellis Ross! Jasmine is just really fun and she has had a really cool hair journey to watch. And Tracee Ellis Ross is just amazing, she is always herself, and has a really great line for natural women.
Q: What’s next on your hair journey? Any looks or styles you’re excited to try?
Crystal: I’d love to frost my ends more soon so I can have more fun with colors this summer! I’ve never been one to stick with a style for too long either, so I definitely want to switch it up more often and give faux locs a try again. I did them myself and it was a fail so I need to try it again at my braider soon.
Taliyah: I think next for me is trying to retain length in my hair, and always of course new colors. My dream length is mid back when my hair is curly. As far as colors, I am always loving red, but I may try out ginger. That would be a new color for me, but I think it is something I could pull off, so we will see 🙂
More Intersections of Beauty: Black Voices in the Beauty Industry: Q&A with Pro Stylist Kelly Wood
Learning about different viewpoints and experiences within the world of beauty helps the entire industry change for the better. Stay tuned to our IG and blog for more perspectives from people of color in the beauty industry.
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Photos courtesy of Crystal Ezeoke and Taliyah Brooks. Any retouching or editing was done by the photographer or photo source prior to sharing with oVertone.