When I got to Princeton, Trene was that upperclassman chick that all the boys had a crush on and all the girls wanted to be friends with. She was pretty and super friendly and had the best shoe game on campus, a contagious laugh and super fly hair. I thought she had the best puff in the world and she soon became my hair crush. I used to try to figure out how to get my curls to replicate hers with no success, but I still lusted after her curls. So meet the hair crush of my college years and lovely friend: TRENE!
Mane’s Age: At least 10 years, I’ve been natural since around 2001.
I recently started working as a Research Analyst at a small Pharmaceutical Marketing Research company. Before this I worked for 5+ years in labs: genetics, clinical diagnostics, pathology. I’ll admit, I’m somewhat of a nerd! I love research and learning new things – especially as pertains to scientific innovation, technology, health, wellness and medicine. In my spare time I LOVE to cook and bake. I love sports and staying active so I’ve been regularly involved in local volleyball leagues, ballet classes, yoga, running for the last few years and I’m always looking for something new to get into. I’m also a social media junkie. I’m hoping to one day combine all or most of those interests into something that I can do professionally. Aside from that I eat eggs way more often than I should, I knit on occasion, I love a good magazine/article/book and nothing beats some soulful music and a good cup of tea. I like eating amazing food, strong martinis, good times with my friends and family, champagne brunches, waffles and ice cream (together or separately).
Biggest obstacle/challenge with your hair?My obstacles/challenges have somewhat changed since I’ve been natural. Early on it was mostly about having confidence in my natural hair. I grew up with a relaxer and I’m definitely a child of the generation of mommas that embraced black hair styling straight from the beauty shop. My mom is ALWAYS styled – perm, cut, color etc. All of the black women I knew wore their hair permed/relaxed and styled. When I stopped getting a relaxer in high school (a result of hating the long nights at the beauty parlor and not seeing the point of getting my hair done to sweat it out at basketball practice), it wasn’t quite the popular thing to do. So early on I felt a lot of anxiety about wearing my hair in its natural state and for at least a year or two I continued to wear a press-and-curl.
Once I started wearing my natural curls, my biggest obstacle/challenge has definitely been a lack of hairwareness (hair-awareness). Going natural at a time when there were far fewer resources for naturalistas (accessible products, how-to styling videos, blogs, etc), there was a huge void in my knowledge of proper hair care and styling. I had no idea that natural hair called for just as much, if not more, care and attention as chemically processed hair. I continued to use the same products that I used with my relaxed hair, I knew nothing about protective styles, and I JUST learned my hair type last year! I guess the biggest hurdle has been that I’m always on the go so I’m very low-maintenance when it comes to haircare. I like quick and easy. I tend to latch on the the same products, same style, same routine – even when they’ve stopped working, so I’ve had to reach some really bad phases in my poof-life before being prompted to change my routine or try new products.
Not having the proper knowledge of how to care for my hair has meant that keeping my natural hair healthy is an ongoing battle. My state of natural hair oblivion has also left me more-or-less style-challenged. My hair goes through seasonal phases of dryness and being unmanageable because of the climate extremes we get with the change of seasons in NJ. I can go through some pretty ugly spurts of very dry, frizzy, rapidly shedding, and breaking hair. Since I regularly exercise I wash my hair pretty frequently, sometimes up to 2x per week. So it’s been stripped bare, often. I’ve also found that as the years pass, my hair texture and its reaction to different products change. With all that said, it’s been very difficult at times to find the right products to keep my hair moisturized and my curls defined and cooperative. In addition to keeping my hair healthy, I struggle with finding time to try new styles. I have a lot of hair. I also have length. It’s easy to be lazy and pull it back, especially when I feel like every style I want to try takes a long time or takes LOTS of tools/product. As I get older, though, I’ve learned that working a little extra time into my day or week to put some effort into my hair is necessary. I’m slowly learning the versatility that I can have with my looks just by changing my hair style if I actually sit still for long enough to try something new.
Favorite thing about your hair?Over the years I’ve learned to really love how versatile natural hair is. When I want straight, I have a great hair stylist – who knows TONS about hair health – that can snatch it up and press it like no other, but not damage my hair. When I want big, I’ve almost perfectly mastered my huge hair. Pinterest and instagram inspire me daily. I see so many different natural styles, and I love the idea that I can work towards that. I’m starting to experiment (in baby steps) and I’ve gotten really great feedback on the few styles I’ve tried.
The other thing that I’ve learned to love about my hair is that the “poof” has in a way become its own celebrity. My friends and co-workers nicknamed my hair “the poof”. It’s become a part of who I am. Friends tell me when we meet up somewhere that they know to look for my poof in a crowd or that they can tell when I’m not feeling well because my poof is looking down, how funny is that!? When I try to switch it up and get my hair pressed or wear it pinned up or in a more “tame” styles I even get sad faces, it’s absolutely hilarious. More than anything else, though, it’s incredibly empowering and reassuring that people embrace this small part of who I am in such an overwhelmingly positive way. Even though I’ve never defined myself by my hair, it’s become my trademark, and I’m totally cool with that. That type of positive energy and support has given me the confidence to rock hair that I was always taught was wild or unkempt. People almost hold me accountable for being true to myself through not letting me stray too far from acceptance of my natural hair, it’s crazy philosophic!
What has been your go-to style?
I’m SO ashamed to admit this but my go-to “style” has been pulled back with an ouchless goody elastic. Literally, tie the front down with a scarf so it’s smooth, throw on a black goodie hair band, and go! I’ve literally been wearing my hair the exact same way, every day for the last 10 or more years. I went through a phase in my senior year of college when I ALWAYS wore my hair out in a huge ‘fro. I also have worn a bun for absolutely every wedding I’ve been to in the last 5 years. It’s so bad. It’s only recently dawned on me that there’s so much more I can do with my hair. This past year I tried my first pin-up style, then my first pin-up with curly-bangs. 2013 is definitely my year to explore and find something new.
Shampoo and Conditioner: I still don’t have a go-to that I’m REALLY happy with. I used the Infusium23 (mad old-school, I know) moisture for years and recently started using HE’s Hello Hydration. Both are at a good price point and don’t dry my hair out, just nothing to shout home about.
Deep Conditioner – I got nothing. Actually, my roommate is from DR and she always brings me back the MOST AMAZING olive oil deep conditioner. Works wonders on my hair after even 5 minutes in a hot shower.
Leave-in: – Kinky Curly’s Knot today – (Jess’s recommendation) – my go-to leave-in for the summer. 99.9% of the time I wash and go or wash and let air dry. This is great for my curl pattern. Keeps my hair moisturized and manageable. – I’ve also religiously used wrap-lotion/mousse/foam for my wash and go styles and to lay my edges down for pulled-back styles. Motions is a go-to, I’ve also used one by Nubian Heritage. I only use it throughout my hair when it’s wet. I like the way it holds my curls tight when they’re fresh. They tend to fall really nicely with sleep/moisturizer.
Winter leave-in/moisturizer: Shea Moisture curl enhancing smoothie – this is a great texture for my wet winter hair. Nice and heavy. My hair soaks it ALL up and it leaves a wonderful sheen. My curls are defined and smell great.
Jess - for being an everyday inspiration and reliable source of info on hair styles and care
Solange – for her risk-taking and versatility. I love that she doesn’t let herself be put in a box
CBR (Corinne Bailey Rae) – ’cause I just love how effortless she makes being natural look
Esperanza Spalding - for rocking the old school style: straight-up, no frills ‘fro
Hair goals?Even though I know that hair length is partially predetermined (darn genetics classes!) I do want more length. Healthier, longer hair is always a goal of mine. Actually, I was an absolute nut this year and I made a bunch of mini-resolutions for 2013. A few of them are hair related: Since I know that hair health is an issue I constantly face – and this has a lot to do with me being stubborn with changing my products and routine – I planned to make a conscious effort to try new products and really try to nail down some staples this year. Shampoo, conditioner, deep conditioner go-tos have to happen in 2013. One specific thing I also wanted to try was a detergent-less shampoo or a shampoo-less methods of cleansing. I definitely think it’s worth a try, at least to alternate with my usual routine to give my hair a rest from being stripped so frequently. I think that will be a summer-time thing when my running and sweating is kicked into high gear. Another big one is styling. I love being “poof-girl” but I also want to start getting more comfortable with styles I can wear for work, going out with friends, special occasions, etc. I’ve never done a twist-out, I want to try more pinned styles, twists, braids; I’m DYING for a good pompadour – I’ve practiced like 3 times. I promised myself I would try at least one new style every month this year.
Thanks to Trene for letting me feature her on HGK! Make sure you take a moment to vote for Trene and her fiance in the David’s Bridal “Share Your Love Story” wedding contest HERE!
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