via: Into The Gloss
Photographer: Tom Newton
Cipriana Quann: We grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, but we’ve lived in New York for about a decade now. When we first came to New York, we were scouted on the street by a model agent. I made it into a career for 10 years, but my sister, TK, absolutely hated it. I didn’t enjoy it either, but I was better at hiding it than she was.
My hair was a big concern for the majority of my jobs. They either wanted me to straighten it or turn it into a looser curl, because I have afro-texture hair. As a model, I understand that you’re supposed to be a canvas for the client to create the look that they think is beautiful and will sell, but I had to go home looking that way at night and it was really impacting my self-esteem. I just didn’t feel that it was right, so I decided that I needed to get out of that business.
I started Urban Bush Babes with Nikisha Brunson as a platform where women could feel comfortable being themselves. We wanted to focus on things like beauty and fashion, but also on arts and culture and interesting interviews. Then, a few years later, my sister joined as one of the major contributors on the site.
TK Quann: I really became involved when the site covered our first New York Fashion Week. Photographers will pay attention to our site because of how we style ourselves and how we showcase vintage finds that don’t break the bank. That’s how things really snowballed for us. I’ll cover that, and then I’ll write music and opinion pieces as well. Beyond being a writer, I also rap, sing, and write songs now. I’ve opened for N.E.R.D, Erykah Badu, and a bunch of others.
Cipriana: So much of our inspiration comes from people like Solange, Diane Keaton, Lisa Bonet, and Shingai Shoniwa from the Noisettes—and our mom! She has always been super fashionable. She used to dress us is the greatest outfits, but our interest in fashion didn’t really start until we came to New York.
TK: When I first moved, I used to wear crazy stuff like zebra print skirts and goth over-the-knee boots and a sequined skull t-shirt. I look back and think, ‘She had a lot of confidence.’ I’ve always been comfortable with myself. I think the greatest thing about fashion is that it’s really not about pleasing other people. It’s about how you feel.
TK: When we were younger, we really idolized our mom. She had this beautiful natural hair. I can’t really recall any other black women wearing their hair that way besides our mom. And then one day she had it processed and we were like ‘Oh, we want to look like mom.’ So we had our hair processed, which means using chemicals to make it straighter. Then our dad decided it was too expensive, and he wasn’t going to pay for it anymore. So I grew out my natural hair a few inches, chopped off the processed strands, and wore my hair in cornrows for a while until it grew it. For me, it was just hair. I was 16 or 17, so I didn’t really think too much about it. I always felt comfortable.
I remember getting a lot of flack for it in Maryland. This was before the natural hair movement, so people weren’t as accepting. And then I came to New York, and people didn’t care. No one judges you here.
Cipriana: As I mentioned, I felt very insecure about my hair when I was modeling. I was envious of my sister’s freedom. I’m not sure if I hated my hair, but I definitely didn’t like it. My sister only did it once, but I processed my hair multiple times and one time it all fell out. I called my sister crying. It was a very traumatic experience. I can laugh about it now, but it took me years to really love my hair. For me, hair is a physical manifestation of my self-confidence. So the more comfortable I become, the bigger my hair gets. My updos came about because I was feeling so confident and loved my hair so much that I decided to really go for it. I wasn’t hiding anymore.
I think the natural hair movement is getting a lot of traction because of social media. It’s helping to break barriers and give people access to platforms they didn’t have a few years ago. Now, young girls see images of women of all colors and shapes and hair textures, and I think it’s really inspiring everyone to be braver. It’s not just about hair—it’s also about feeling comfortable and being yourself and saying to the world, ‘Here I am. If you don’t like it, tough luck.’ It’s great to see women celebrating all forms of beauty and not just the one ideal.
Cipriana: Diet and exercise are important to us, too. My gym opens at 6am, so I get up a 5am every morning to work out. Sometimes 4am if I need to write something. Exercise is so great because it releases endorphins, and we sweat all the bad stuff out, which is fundamental to beauty.
TK: My motto is ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ If you find something that works for you, you don’t need to try anything else. When it comes to soap and body wash, I’m not that adventurous. But when it comes to makeup, that’s another thing.
Cipriana: These days, our products are very similar. We both use…want to find out much more in our in-depth interview with ‘Into The Gloss’ that breaks down all of our beauty essentials plus an incredible giveaway including a TON of our favorite hair, body and beauty products visit ‘Into The Gloss’ here