Featured photos: Glenford Nunez
Tell us your name and where you are from?
My name is Raphael and I am from Washington, DC.
How long have you been natural?
I’ve been natural for about 3 years now.
What do you do? Is there a resistance or compatibility with your hair in your field of work?
I am a freelance graphic designer. Because most of the gigs I have are very laid back and within that creative, free-spirited environment, it’s never been a problem. Although, I always put my hair up for the first week or so, to gauge the environment and personalities; and then afterwards I will wear my hair down when I prefer. My mom has convinced me that in an office setting, my hair’s volume can be too much. It’s a constant debate between her and I. But, in her defense, I am aware of how big hair can cause too much attention in a professional setting where mostly all women have their hair straight and tied back. I enjoy my hair though. Whether I wear it down, put in yarn braids or decide one day to shave part of it, and it’s all still me.
Describe your hair.
I always say this, but my hair has a mind of it’s own. It’s very thick and…thick. It reacts well to the colder temperatures as it’s much softer and lays better.
What is your hair regimen?
Water and shea butter. Daily.
What are the three biggest factors you attribute to your length?
I don’t apply any heat to my hair which has been a huge attribute to my length. Routinely twisting my hair at night, using my fingers to untangle strands rather than a comb is helpful as well. I also use as little products as possible. I also try to use bobby pins more than elastic hair ties. Hmm, that was four…
What is your usual go to style?
Fully out and lopsided.
What is your nighttime routine?
Often times, I two-strand my hair at night for more defined waves in the morning. Other times I just sleep with my hair out, wrapped in a satin cloth, and when I take a shower, I allow the steam to dampen my hair and make it a bit softer and manageable. I’m all about simplicity and less management when possible.
Your top three favorite products and why?
My favorite hair product is raw shea butter. It’s cheap, all-natural, and does a good job at moisturizing my hair and scalp. I enjoy using apple cider vinegar as well. I dilute it with water and spray in my hair and it leaves it soft and shiny. I also religiously purchase Organic’s Best Carrot Mayonnaise Conditioner. It smells great and leaves my hair soft.
Your best hair advice?
I like to think of natural hair as a plant. My best hair advice is to treat it as such. Water it, give it nutrients, care for it, and nurture it.
Ultimate hair crush
Fashion Editor Julia Sarr-Jamois. Often times I believe natural hair can be misconstrued and viewed as simply a “fun” hairstyle and only appropriate for parties and/or social settings, but I think Julia presents such a sophisticated silhouette with her hair. I think her style is a huge contribution to that as well. She always looks elegant and stylish yet professional, which is what I admire the most.
What is the strangest comment, request or hair story?
Sometimes, both women and men come up to me and share with me that they wish their hair did what mine does. I find myself conflicted with those comments. And when people ask to touch my hair. Hmm. Some people think it’s not my real hair.
How would you describe your personal fashion style?
I’ve find a lot of my mother’s clothes from the 80′s back home and wear those. The quality and cut of the clothes were different back then, and I enjoy it. I pair them with a lot of pattern and bright-colored clothes that I already have in my wardrobe. Anything high wasted and cropped I favor. I like to see how many different ways I can wear something and how I can reuse it. I feel comfortable when I’ve challenged my own interpretation of how to wear clothes.
What advice would you give to people who might be afraid to show their true fashion sense or natural hair for fear of being judged by others?
Do it anyways.
Do what you feel.
To each his own.
Of course it can be difficult to step out, but self-expression is an ultimate desire, and it’s not about what others think, it’s about how you feel and how being comfortable with yourself will allow you to accomplish all of your greater goals.
What would you say to others who judge individuals negatively for their personal fashion style?
You don’t like it now, but you probably will sooner or later. It usually ends up that way.
When it comes to your style who, what or where does your inspiration come from?
Erykah Badu. She’s all encompassing and she’s such a free spirit. I am also inspired by Kesh. She’s a British, LA based artist whose work influences her style and way of life. In an interview she speaks about her monochromatic wardrobe, how it mimics her artwork and how it’s functional and conducive to her lifestyle. Nubby Twiglet is a Portland based graphic designer whose work also influences her style and vice versa. She’s inspired by Swiss design and wears mostly red, white and black, which is prominent in her designs, wardrobe, home space, etc. All of these women are brilliant, creative individuals both internally and externally and the things that inspire them, influences all that they do with purpose.
If you could name one person from the past whose closet you would love to raid, who would it be?
Clarissa from Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All. All those Doc Martens.
Favorite stores and places to shop for vintage or thrift
I’ve been frequenting a thrift store off of Morgan Ave on the L train. Urban Vintage. TONS of things. My grandmother’s basement in St. Louis is where I get a lot of my clothes as well. She has both my mom’s old clothes from college, but still has her own wardrobe from the early 90′s. She has clothing racks full of bold colors and prints, including shoes and jewelry, it’s just amazing.
Most embarrassing moment
I have a lot of them. I am a pretty clumsy, awkward person at times. I trip a lot and run into things.
What is your favorite life lesson
Do what you love. I truly believe that doing what interests you and what’s important to you will always lead you in the right direction. So do just that. You will be at the right place at the right time. You will meet and build relationships with the right people. Everything will fall into place. Not with ease, but you will witness it forming which can be a gratifying experience. In the movie Garden State, Natalie Portman’s character is talking to Zach Braff and she says “You’re in it right now and I’m looking at you telling this story, and you’re definitely in it.” I use that phrase to describe people who are doing what they are meant to do and things are falling into place for them. They’re in it.
Current music playlist and favorite book
Music I can play on repeat is James Blake, Tame Impala, Toro y Moi, Ratking, The Smiths, J*Davey.
My favorite book is Saul William’s Dead Emcee Scrolls
Favorite restaurant and dish you would not want to live without
Avocados. Anything with avocados in it. But to be more specific: salmon, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas and kale, with avocado on top of ALL of that.
Do you have a blog/website?
My design portfolio is ‘Her Name is Raphael‘
My photo/self portraits blog is ‘Crater on Mercury‘
I can share an excerpt of a Ralph Marston quote my dad sent me the other day:
“Actually do it. It’s great to know precisely what you want, and why you want it, and how to make it happen, but that’s not enough. You have to actually do it…Achievement happens only when you actually do it. And the only time you can actually do it is now…Focused, purposeful, positive, effective action is what counts. And right now is the time to actually do it.”
What makes you an Urban Bush Babe?
I’d like to think of our generation as celebrating and embracing this movement of the contemporary afro. This can be described as someone who wears his/her hair naturally and with comfortability. I think that is what the equivalent of an Urban Bush Babe is. I celebrate my hair in its natural state and am more concerned with the health of my scalp and tresses than having chemically treated hair. At the same time my natural hair expresses myself and my ideas, and that’s what makes me an Urban Bush Babe.