You just got braids for the first time, and they look beautiful! What motivated or inspired you to get them, and why now?
I’d always admired the look on a writer friend of mine Marjon Carlos. And so when I went on a family vacation to Nigeria it seemed like the right time to give it a go; my cousin is a skilled braider and offered to do my hair.
How much did culture play a role in your decision to get braids?
The first time I went to Nigeria to visit my family I was six years old, and one of the most vivid memories I have of the trip is sitting out in the garden having my hair braided by my cousins and my aunties. They’d do a different style on me almost every few days while I was there. This past April was the first time I’d been back to Nigeria since then, and in a way it felt like I was coming full circle by having my hair braided.
In the past, did you have a strong opinion on braids? How has having them yourself altered this opinion?
I’ve always loved the style of long box braids, but as someone who likes to change the look of my clothes often, and experiment with color and print, my hairstyle has mostly taken a backseat. I’ve worn my hair in the same three straightforward styles since I was a teenager, more or less. With braids this long, my hair is the focal point of my look—no matter what I’m wearing.
Do you view braids as a big commitment?
Well, they took nine hours to do, so yes there is that initial commitment! But overall it’s actually quite low-maintenance. My friend Marjon helped me figure out what products to use on a daily basis–for example tea tree oil is a great on the scalp as well as Shea butter; and an olive oil spray is good to keep the braids from looking dull. I sleep with a silk scarf at night too, which prevents them from getting frizzy at night.
Washing the braids is more of a process. I had to watch a few YouTube videos before I felt confident enough to try it myself. The key is to dilute your shampoo and conditioner and spray it on so the product doesn’t get caught in the braids. Aside from washing them, working out is the trickiest thing to figure out, since at this length they’re quite heavy. I practice yoga, so you can imagine certain balancing poses can be more challenging when there are a hundred tiny braids woven into your hair. I find that if I braid them into two, and loop them at either side of my head it generally I can work out as normal.
Do you feel different to the person you saw in the mirror before you had braids?
Yes I do. I’ve never done anything this dramatic to my hair and at first it took some getting used to. Some of my friends didn’t recognize me. I think I’d underestimated just how fun and playful a hair transformation can be, especially when it comes to fashion. Now I dress for the braids, and certain things in my closet—dresses in particular—take on a new look.
And what do you love most about them?
I love that I can just throw on a t-shirt and jeans and still be wearing a major look. As yes, it is really fun to flip them!
Do you see yourself keeping the braids for a long time to come?
I think I will likely take them out in the next couple of weeks put it’s definitely something I will do again. It’s a exciting to kick off the summer with a whole new look to play with.
For someone thinking about getting braids for the first time, what advice would you impart?
I would say go for it. Especially if you’re game for experimenting with all the braid hairstyle possibilities.