I met Jess at Fashion Fro Week back in September 2012. She is nothing but a ball of fun and I had an awesome time meeting her! But now, you all have a chance to learn more about Jess and her product line Jessicurl too! Check out her interview below:
Hi! My name is Jess McGuinty and I’m the founder and CEO of Jessicurl. I like long walks on the beach, red wine, and…. Oh wait! Wrong interview!
Share your hair story! Did you always love your hair?
Ahhh, no, I did NOT always love my hair. When I was a little kid, it was stick straight and blonde and I got along fine with it, but as soon as puberty struck, it went curly. It started growing OUT instead of DOWN and I was mortified. I hated it and grew very self conscious of it. It didn’t help that the kids at school called me such names as Chia Pet, Brillo Pad and Mushroom Head. I did everything I could to try to get it to take up less space on the planet, even wearing the butt part of some nylons on my head when I slept to try to flatten and straighten it out. (I was 14. I didn’t realize you could buy those….) My hatred of my hair took up far too much mental energy in my brain and caused far too much emotional trauma.
How did you learn to take care of your hair?
That wouldn’t happen for another 10 years. Eventually in high school I just grew it long enough where I could put it up in a tight bun every day. I never EVER wore my hair down. I wouldn’t even wear it in a braid because I thought the BRAID was too thick and wide.
One day when I was in my early 20s I decided enough was enough. I was tired. Tired of hating my hair and my SELF so much. I wanted to like hair AND myself. So I went online and typed “curly hair” into Google hoping to find something to help me deal with it. The first thing that popped up was www.NaturallyCurly.com and it was like the skies parted and the birds in the Disney movies were singing their sweet sweet songs. Here was this whole community of women who had gone through EXACTLY what I had! OMG, eh? (That was in 2001.)
I was stoked. I quickly immersed myself in the message boards and learned everything I could about techniques and products for taking care of my curls. However, I was trying all these products that were being recommended and I still wasn’t thrilled, because the ingredients in them were such crap. Silicones and sulfates and waxes, oh my! There really were no product lines that didn’t have the ingredients I sought to avoid. So…..
How was Jessicurl born? Why did you decide to start Jessicurl?
I didn’t exactly “decide” to start Jessicurl. It was pretty much decided for me. I had found a recipe for hair gel made out of flax seeds and thought, “Dayum, that’d be awesome if I could just make my OWN hair gel!” I honestly wasn’t trying to start a business. I was just trying to get along better with my own hair.
So I tried that recipe but wasn’t too thrilled. My hair was still undefined and puffy. I had learned about other ingredients that are good for curly hair, so I started adding a bit of this and a dash of that and TRA-LA! One day it was a miracle. I did my hair and it looked like I’d always wanted. No frizz, great curl definition, not crunchy.
I was STOKED. I went back to my cyber-friends at NaturallyCurly and excitedly shared the recipe for my life-changing potion. Yeah, they weren’t having that. Seems people didn’t really want to MAKE hair gel, they just wanted to buy it from me.
And THAT is how Jessicurl was born and how I decided to go into business. That was in September 2002, so we just happily celebrated our 10 years anniversary.
Within the first 8 months I added the conditioners and cleansers people kept asking me for gentle cleansers and conditioners that don’t build up, and *I* needed those too. Later that year we added the two oils and in 2004 we added Confident Coils Styling Solution.
What is your favorite thing about your hair?
I love how BIG and FULL it is! Ironic, eh, given how much I used to hate those aspects of it? I’ve come a LONG way with my relationship with my hair and I’m so happy about that.Granted, I still have my insecurities because now that I own a hair company, there is constant pressure for it to look good all the time. LUCKILY, it pretty much always does.
Is there anything about your hair that drives you crazy?
I would love for it to be a tighter curl pattern because I feel like it would withstand being manipulated better. (Again, irony there, because I used to hate the very nature of it being curly.)
What I mean by that is, when people come up and touch it all the time, or if it gets rained on, or slept on, the curls can turn more into waves sometimes, and that bugs me. It seems like the tighter curls are better able to STAY tightly curled in light of those types of incidents. I also don’t like how it flattens out in the rain.
Do you ever wear your hair straight?
Never ever, no no no. Absolutely not. Well, not on purpose anyway. ONE time, about 8 years ago, I went to a new hair stylist for a cut and while the cut was fine, I could tell he had NO clue how to style it. He goes, “Ooooo, let’s straighten it for something NEW and FUN!” I was thinking, “Actually, that sounds totally awful but not nearly as awful as what will happen if I try to let you style it curly so GO AHEAD.”
Uggg. I hated it. I did not recognize myself. Granted, much of my identity these days is wrapped up in my curly hair (that’ll happen when you own a hair company), but I also know that my hair goes so well with my personality. Big. Bouncy. Kinda loud.
Did you try to straighten your hair before you learned to love your hair?
In high school I sure did, and it only ever made it poufy and frizzy because I didn’t know what I was doing. I used the round brush and the hair dryer. (Ugggg, I KNOW, right?!) It was awful. I also didn’t have a flat iron, so I’d do like my dad did back in the 70s and used an ACTUAL iron on the ironing board. Jeez! Terrible, just terrible.
What is the creation process like when you make products for Jessicurl?
Ohhhhh, I take so many showers! Seriously. When you read on the bottle where is says, “Tested on curls, not animals”? Mostly, it means MY curls. I also always enlist the help of a very willing group of test curlies. I always start out knowing what I DON’T want in my products, so that helps a lot. Then it’s just trial and error, tweaking each test batch based on the performance of the last ones and gathering the feedback from the testing group. It’s a long, fun and sometimes frustrating process but I’ve been happy with the results and so have lots of other curlies.
What is your favorite Jessicurl product?
I love all of my children equally! Well…ok, some I love a little more equally than others. Rockin’ Ringlets will always be my favorite, since it was my first AND because I need it to enhance my curls and make them bouncy. I seriously would not want to leave the house without Rockin’ Ringlets in my hair. I also cannot live without my Deep Conditioning Treatment. I color my hair, and my hair is naturally very thick and course, so it ends up pretty dry. I use the DT as my daily rinse out conditioner and it’s the only thing that keeps my hair healthy and in good condition.
It varies slightly from month to month but no doubt, overall people LOOOOVE the Too Shea and Deep Conditioning Treatment. “Love” might even be an understatement actually.
Your products work for all different hair types. I really like your Confidence Collection (and my roommate Lauren is in LOVE with it!). What was the inspiration behind those products?
We have 11 products, but nobody needs all 11. Some people have very fine, wavy hair and have different needs than super thick, tightly curled hair. The Confidence Collection has 4 products that are best suited for tighter kinks and coils and has in it Too Shea, Deep Conditioning Treatment, Hair Cleansing Cream and Confident Coils Styling Solution. The basis of those four products is moisture. Moisture, moisture, moisture. The Hair Cleansing is SUPER gentle, sulfate-free (of course) and won’t strip out your hair. I personally love it. The Confident Coils is a medium hold styling cream that is great for definition but that won’t cause excessive shrinkage. When used together with the Too Shea conditioner, the combo works great for twists. Confident Coils is also great for humidity control.
If someone wants to try Jessicurl, how should they go about choosing the right products?
We have this handy little chart that should help.
What are some milestones Jessicurl has had over the years?
Oh man, so many! In 2003 I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area up to Humboldt County in Northern California. Then in 2004 we moved the production out of my house into our factory. (That was HUGE!!) In 2006 I was a guest on the Rachel Ray Show (!!!), in 2010 I took on a new business partner, in 2011 we completely re-branded the packaging and look of the product as well as expanded our production and shipping facilities and in 2012 we celebrated our 10 year anniversary! Oh, and in September 2012 I got my logo tattooed on my arm. That was a pretty cool milestone.
What is Jessicurl’s ultimate goal and message?
Our message is summed up quite well in our tagline of “You Have the Right to Remain Curly!” To me, that means that you have the right to be yourself. To like yourself AND your hair and to stop fighting what is growing out of your head naturally.
Our ultimate goal is to continue to grow the company so that Jessicurl is available to more and more curlies all over the world. It’s only been 10 years and we’ve managed to grow quite a lot in that time, so I’m excited to see what happens next.
We met at Fro Fashion Week. What connections have you made with African American women and the natural hair movement? What similarities have you seen with curly girls of all different hair types and races and ethnicities?
We DID meet at Fro Fashion Week and I’m so glad we did!! I LOOOOVVEE Fro Fashion Week! I’ve been going since their first one and it’s always a highlight of my year.
As you can tell by reading my story, not only did I not set out to start a business, I certainly didn’t set out to target any one demographic. I make products for curly hair, period. It just so happens that I’m white, (spoiler alert!) but my products work for African American women with natural hair as well. Really, we are more alike than we are different. Yes, my hair and my hair journey have been different, but if you read my story, you’ll see that there are a lot of similarities between it and someone who was relaxing her hair for years and had to decide that it was time to embrace her texture and go natural. THAT is where we are alike. I’m not trying to say I understand or have gone through every single thing that every naturalista has gone through. No way. I’m saying, “Hey. I’m Jess. This is me, this is my story, there’s some overlap, don’t you think? I like my hair now, and I like YOUR hair and you know what? It’s hair. Let’s allow it to bring us together, eh?” (Sorry ‘bout all those “ehs”. I was born in Canada.) What it comes down to is, we’re all just trying to figure out how to love and accept our hair and ourselves, regardless of WHAT curl pattern we have or WHAT skin tone we have.
What was the inspiration behind the Jessicurl logo?
Ohhhhh, I love love LOVE my logo!!! An amazing local graphic designer named Joan Grytness designed it and the minute I saw it I just KNEW it was for me. It really sums up how I want us all to feel about our hair. Confident. Joyous. Strong. Bold.
And she’s purple. I love that she’s purple.
Do you have any advice for a girl who is learning to embrace her hair?
YES! Don’t expect it to be easy. It’s ok if it’s not easy. Just because it was easy for someone else, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for you. That doesn’t mean you should give up or back away or “natural hair isn’t for you.” It’s your hair. Of course natural hair is for you.
Whether you are transitioning slowly over time or doing a big chop, you have to get used to seeing yourself look different than you are used to. THAT IS NOT EASY. I grew my hair down to my elbow JUST so I could cut it off for Locks of Love and in one slice, it went from elbow length to chin length. I HATED IT. (And this was about 5 years after starting Jessicurl, WAY after I had learned to love my curls.) But I said I’d do it, so I did it. Every time I looked in the mirror, I cringed. I wasn’t used to seeing myself look so different. But, here’s the thing – hair is a renewable resource. It grows. It’s pretty cool that way. So sometimes the biggest gift you can give yourself is to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That skill will be useful in SO MANY other areas of life, seriously.
Sometimes you have to fake it ‘till you make it. You MIGHT NOT love your hair right away. Again, that doesn’t mean that “natural hair isn’t for you.” It just means that you’ve embarked on something new and big and challenging and exciting and stuff like that isn’t always skipping through fields of wild flowers. When I first started wearing my hair curly, I DID cut it short so that I couldn’t hide behind my bun anymore. I was like, “Jess, your days of pretending you don’t have hair are OVER. Cut that bun OFF and just DEAL WITH THIS.” I hated it. I had no choice but to learn how to style it so I could at least venture out of my house and live my life. One day at a time, you grow more comfortable with your new look and you realize that it really is just hair. If something happens and your hair looks like crap for the rest of the day, well, you just start over tomorrow. It’s. Just. Hair.
Being a Jessica myself, you know I had to ask…Why are Jessicas so awesome?
SO many studies have been done on this and they JUST can’t figure it out. In fact, The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Berkeley was conducting this very study, but the overwhelming awesomeness of Jessicas BROKE their COMPUTER and they had to put the project on hold for the time being. Bummer, I know. But really, when you see this picture of the two of us, is it any wonder that happened?
Where can we get our hands on some Jessicurl products?
We sell them on our website but also in many stores and salons, so for sure check out our store locater to see if there’s anywhere near you. Here’s a link to that: http://www.jessicurl.com/california
Thank you to Jess for sharing her story on HGK! Look out for a giveaway from Jessicurl soon!
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