I met Anya from I Heart My Hair on a balmy Saturday afternoon at a midtown coffee shop. She originally wanted me to email her the questions or Skype the interview, but I was pretty insistent on meeting up. Meeting face to face not only allows for a more authentic interview, but it allows me to gain rapport with the interviewee. Plus I really wanted to meet the ingenious girl that started a blog devoted to one of my passions—natural hair.
Anya walked into the coffee shop wearing one of her cute I Heart My Hair t-shirts and offered me a warm smile and gave me an even warmer hug. We immediately chitchatted like adolescent school girls.
This diminutive entrepreneur has been running her blog for the past 5 years, is super soft spoken and her kind nature comes through with each barely audible word. In the first 15 minutes that we met, we chatted so much that I almost forgot to ask any of my designated interview questions.
Here’s a bit of our girl talk.
Why did you decide to go natural?
Believe it or not, I did hair all throughout high school and university. And while I was in university I would do my friends’ weaves. At the same time I was pushing them to go natural even though I had a bit of chemical in my hair. The reason why I pushed them is because I could see the damage in their hair. You can’t see what’s going on in your scalp—you can only see your hair. I would show them, tell them things about their scalp. You’re constantly pulling and putting in weaves. I did hair for my friends and then converted them to go natural. It helped me to go natural because people around me were natural.
My hair was burnt off (pssst….Anya’s hair caught on fire at a Christmas party and had to cut everything off), and it was 2 months before I travelled to Brazil, so naturally I was going through self esteem issues – “ Am I pretty?”
In Brazil it was trial and error with my hair. I went to YouTube, did my own videos and got feedback from people. And then I realized there is a community that is starting to emerge. I said to myself, “Why don’t I start video blogging?” So I started video blogging before I started I Heart My Hair.
When I came back [to Canada] from Brazil, I watched the Tyra Banks talk show with the episode on “Good Hair.” There were 5 little black girls that were saying how much they hated themselves, and how they wished their hair was different and pointed out what they thought was “good hair.” It really, really bothered me. I said to myself I’m going to start a site that will empower little girls to love their hair from early on so they don’t have to go through what I went through.
What was the experience like going natural in Brazil?
It was difficult in Brazil. Short hair is not a good look [there]. The longer the hair, the more beautiful you are supposed to be. I realized that I was not doing it for me; I was doing it for other people as well. I had a boyfriend at the time, and he was very supportive.
What is the natural movement like in other cities?
It’s picking up in France, Dominican Republic, The UK, Spain, of course Brazil. Also in Angola and Nigeria. The movement is more about embracing natural curls, embracing information and having events and meet ups in various communities.
How did you learn to care for your hair?
Doing research….. being frustrated. I thought that there had to be other people out there going through the same situation. At the time there weren’t a lot of videos. I also looked at books. There were quite a bit of books on African hair—how to style, trim, moisturize. It really, really helped me….not just for myself but to give out information.
What do you think about the idea that the return to natural hair is just a fad?
I don’t think it is. Back in the 1970s the Afro represented a movement outside of hair. It represented a movement for black people. Now, going natural is a movement specifically around hair, specifically around ourselves, around our individuality. It’s what makes us beautiful. It’s not a fad, it’s here to stay!
What did you think of Chris Rock’s “documentary” Good Hair?
I loved it. It finally allowed for open dialogue about black hair. Yes, it was comical, yes he did not even touch natural hair, but he allowed people to talk openly and stop hiding behind weaves. I think what he was really trying to say is “We crazy!” We spend too much time and money and what we really need to do is focus on our own hair. I recommend the movie to someone who’s not sure if natural is for them.
What is your mission with your blog?
To inspire one girl at a time to love their hair. I want to go into schools, educate, go into the community and at the same time make a living.
With that last question, the interview was over and Anya was off to meet some friends. It was so amazing meeting the woman whose blog I was already following. Thanks for talking with me, Anya!
* This interview was originally posted in July 2013.