Introducing our new blog series, “Changing the Coarse of Curly Hair”! In this series we interview curlee change makers: salon owners, hairdressers, curlee platforms, curlee journalists, and much more. Stay tuned, because Curlee Girlee is changing the coarse of curlee hair and it begins right here … Tuesday is blog day!

I am so excited to speak with Tamara Best for our Curlee Girlee interview series. Tamara is a writer who has served as a Senior Staff Editor at the The New York Times.

Tamara describes her relationship with her hair as one “of pride and occasional pain.” This conflicting connection with her curls was due largely in part to hair press treatments with the risk of heat burning her skin, yet also the sensation and movement of her hair. Additionally, Tamara has always felt that women of color are not represented in the media, specifically, women of color and their unique, natural hair. Encouraged by the recent rise in popularity of “going natural,” Tamara’s hair has taken her on a journey and has allowed her to meet people changing the landscape for curly hair!

Tamara’s article, At Curlfest, a Celebration of Natural Hair and Black Beauty, published by The New York Times Style section in July this past year tells of her experience going natural as well as attending Curlfest, an annual event in Brooklyn held to celebrate natural hair. An advocate for natural hair, Tamara believes that it is important to embrace what makes you different–a true Curlee Girlee!

Curlee Girlee: You are a fellow curlee girlee! Have you always worn your hair naturally?

Tamara: I wore my hair naturally until I was 15 and then got a relaxer to straighten it prior to high school.

Curlee Girlee: What made you decide to take the plunge and go natural?

Tamara: There are seasons in life where you decide to reinvent and rediscover pieces of yourself. Last year I became curious about what my natural hair was like after years of straightening it. What would it mean to see my hair, my beauty in a different light? I didn’t have answers but I had mirrors in my close friends and mother who all returned to their natural curls. My curiosity, willingness to try something different and a great support system for both the practical and emotional parts of the journey made it easy to take the leap.

Curlee Girlee: Can you remember how your hair impacted you as a little girl?

Tamara: My relationship with my hair was complicated. I loved all the versatility it offered regarding hairstyles but struggled with sitting still while having it braided, twisted, straightened and everything in between.

Curlee Girlee: Did you ever feel like you had a role model, like Curlee Girlee, as a young girl?

Tamara: My older female cousins were hair chameleons and role models as a result. Watching the way they embraced their natural hair but also didn’t hesitate to experiment with different styles showed me that hair and by extension beauty was multi-dimensional and worthy of being celebrated in all its forms.

Curlee Girlee: Have you ever had hair-envy?

Tamara: Of course! The list could get quite long. Where should I begin?

Curlee Girlee: You recently wrote an amazing article in the Sunday NY Times Style section, At Curlfest, a Celebration of Natural Hair and Black Beauty, about a curly hair event you attended. What was it like being surrounded by so many women embracing their natural hair?

Tamara: Being at Curlfest was akin to being at a family reunion, a safe space where I was truly free to exhale. Watching women wear their hair in a myriad of heights, twists, braids and more reinforced those lessons I learned from my cousins. It was encouraging as I experiment with styling and my Pinterest hair board keeps getting longer!

Curlee Girlee: If/when you have a curlee haired child, what will be the most important hair advice you give her/him?

Tamara: Your hair is a beautiful canvas just the way it is. An important part of reinforcing that message is to be a mirror by embracing my curls.

Curlee Girlee: I have often found that curly haired women have a personality that matches their hair. Do you find this to be true?

Tamara: Hmm, maybe for some women. My hair changes literally and figuratively with the seasons. It’s less tied to personality and more about the ebbs and flows of the events in my life.

Curlee Girlee: What do you think is the biggest difference between straight hair and curly hair?

Tamara: I think there’s little difference other than the aesthetics. That aside, I think societal perceptions still remain with straight hair often being seen as more polished and professional.

Curlee Girlee: There are 1.6 billion curly haired females in the world. How do you think we can change the way the world looks at curly hair?

Tamara: I think the work is two-fold: private conversations and public messaging. Privately, I think mindfulness in the conversations we have around beauty with friends, family, etc. is paramount. Society will always have its own measurements for beauty but affirmations that we are beautiful, that we are enough, that we are worthy begins internally and within our social circles. Additionally, representation matters. From magazine covers to movie screens it is critical that more diverse and inclusive forms of beauty be shown whether it’s body types or hair textures.

Curlee Girlee: Do you think that curly haired women struggle with their hair more than straight haired women?

Tamara: Comparing struggles as it relates to beauty and the conversations around them can be alienating and divisive. More important than comparison is the willingness to understand that our struggles are different but equally valid while figuring out ways to support each other.

Curlee Girlee: What is your favorite go-to curly haired product?

Tamara: I’m still figuring out my favorite product but I love leave-in conditioners for the added softness they give my hair.

Curlee Girlee: How important do you think it is to have Curlee Girlees start to love their hair and embrace their curls?

Tamara: Self-acceptance is an important part of life’s journey. The process of learning to make peace and embrace various aspects of yourself are necessary for growth.

Curlee Girlee: What is your best advice for Curlee Girlees, young and old?

Tamara: Embrace your look and don’t be afraid to switch it up!

Curlee Girlee: Who are some women that you think are changing the “coarse” of how society views curly hair? Who are your curly role models?

Tamara: Yara Shahidi is an overall great role model for young girls not only for the way she embraces her hair but for the way she uses her voice for social justice. I don’t have specific curlee role models but draw strength and inspiration from the women I see everyday walking confidently in their beauty and truth.

Curlee Girlee: Thank you for a great interview, Tamara!


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