Tell us your name and where you are from?
Tessa born in Bedstuy, Brooklyn, but I’m currently residing in Hell’s Kitchen. I am a mixed race chick, West Indian-Irish (that’s the condense version).
How long have you been natural?
I have been natural for about 11 years, though when I started my transition 12 years ago, I had a setback. The night of my birthday, I was overcome with fear, and put a kiddie perm in my hair. I was heartbroken for caving into my fundamental darkness. After it was all said and done, I didn’t even make it to my own celebration!!
What do you do? Is there a resistance or compatibility with your hair in your profession?
I work with a Nutritionist Midwife, and I am very fortunate that being in tune with your body is not only supported but a requirement for my job. So I am able to come to work as I am.
Describe your hair.
My hair has a personality of its own, I am just the body carrying it around. It is wild and very textured, a chameleon that transforms depending on her mood and objective.
What is your hair regimen?
Nothing is set in stone for me. I have noticed, after a few months of the same regimen my hair would stop responding. Now I just try to listen to my hair. On a typical wash day I saturate my hair in VO5, detangle and style. I moisturize before bed, with coconut, avocado oil, or with my Shea soufflé. Once every two months I do an apple cider vinegar rinse, I also make my own deep conditioner concoction when my hair is very dry. I may also do a Benoite mud, or henna.
Your best hair advice?
Enjoy the process of discovering your curls, as you continue on this journey they will evolve! Please remember, those who aren’t supportive of you transition to becoming natural, have been conditioned that way based on social construct. Show them the benefits of your lifestyle change through your actions. I know it’s hard, but don’t compare your curls to other, Love ‘em first in order for others to love ‘em! Don’t be afraid to (re)try a technique, what doesn’t work now may work later. Read and inform yourself, know what is going on your hair. Just because a bottle say’s organic doesn’t mean it is. I remind myself of these lessons, as I share them.
Ultimate Hair Crush
When I was growing up I admired Diana Ross, and Chaka Khan, my hair was always compared to theirs. Now I crush on these ladies that exude confidence while rocking their natural hair.
What is the strangest comment, request or hair story?
Geee, that’s a blog within it self!! When my hair is in its fully glory I see the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve been at the airport meeting guest and then some tourist off of the plane ask me to take pictures with me, lil girls asking their mommy “Why does she have so much hair??” The most recent “Really?!?” moments, was when an older women came up to me and before I knew what she was doing, did a WIG CHECK…really! While I was out having a drink with my bestie, a woman was flippant because I wouldn’t let her touch my hair.
How would you describe your personal fashion style?
That’s like describing the color blue. I like to juxtapose many styles and silhouettes. Today I might wear a cactus print shirt with skinny jean paired with loafers, or a midnight blue high waist pleated skirt, a tucked in button down soft pink oxford shirt, draped with a chandler necklace. I just flow with what might take my mood.
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?
Try not to conform to others opinions. As I grew and became enlighten to my own inner self worth, I started to shed those shackles of fitting into a specific box, and started to ask “Who is Tessa, and what does she like?” I believe that is why I started to grow my hair out. It’s hard sometimes not to allow other people’s negative sway you, but that is when you must deepen our inner resolve to be true to ourselves and stand up for your own Natural Beauty. It’s up the individual to seek out what that means for them-selves.
I never leave the house until I feel comfortable in my own skin. Sometimes it may mean adding or removing an accessory or piece of clothing. Don’t follow trends! I feel, what ends up happening is next season you feel obliged to buy a whole new wardrobe because you’re are no longer “in style”. Instead buy key pieces (what I call essentials) that can last a lifetime in your collection.
What would you say to others who judge individuals negatively for their personal fashion style?
I tell them go kick rocks on a long road. If your words are not to uplift and encourage then keep it moving.
When it comes to your style who, what or where does your inspiration come from?
Gosh, it so hard to pinpoint where my inspiration comes from. I’m like a magpie, I pick from here and there and slap in on and see if it works. Always learning from my hits and misses, remixing old and new. I like to play tribute to styles that are timeless.
If you could name one person from the past whose closet you would love to raid, who would it be?
If I could raid a closet it would have to be a major production company’s wardrobe that has period pieces that I can prance around in. There are some garms that I know I will never be able to own, I would love to embody even if it was just for a few hours. Like a dress from the 19th century or an authentic Geisha out fit with makeup and hair, a heavily beaded flapper dress with jewels and furs.
Favorite stores and places to shop for vintage or thrift
If I told ya we would have to have a pack, and swear not to over shop the spot. Once or twice a season I frequent Salvation Army or Goodwill. I take my time and sometimes I get some great pieces. I find the best places to go thrifting is outside of NYC. As far as high street fashion, I dig Uniqlo.
Most embarrassing moment
I was in elementary, and we were on field trip. We were almost at the museum, and I really had to go to the bathroom. I had been holding it for too long, and it didn’t look hopeful. To my dismay, I tinkled on myself in front of my mates. I was like a deer in head lights. Laughs suddenly start…. but thank goodness for my lovely teacher who wrapped her jacket around me. She got the kids to stop their giggles and we continued on our way, not missing a beat. After my pants dried, it was like it never happened.
What is your favorite life lesson?
When I was going through major self-discoveries (what I like to refer to as my internal ugly ducking phase) my mom told me “No one can make you happy but yourself.” At that moment in my life I was looking outside myself for my happiness and I wasn’t very pleased to hear that. Those words of encouragement slowly started to shift the way in which I perceived myself and environment. I was made aware that I had to take full responsibly for my happiness. I started to polish my internal mirror. I am so grateful to have heard such proud words.
Current music playlist and favorite book
Bilal, Dwelle, Madlib, J’dilla, Thelounious Monk. I’ve also been two stepping it to Pandora’s Total Radio station, don’t you miss 90′s r&b?!! One of my new favorite book is Wildseed by Octavia Butler.
Favorite restaurant and dish you would not want to live without
I love this little whole in the wall spot down near Astor Place off of 9th st and 2nd Ave. It’s so small, that there are no seats to eat inside, they make slamming Japanese street food. When your there you have to try their octopus dumplings yummmmy. I can only eat there once in a while since I am now Gluten Free. I cannot live wit out my home made Fried Chicken with a side of Mac n Cheese (brown rice pasta) made from scratch.
Do you have a blog/website?
My website is current being manifested www.afroista.com, I excited to share tips and tools on hair, clothes, and health.
But in the mean time we can link up instagram @_afronista, and fb Afronista.
Thank you to those who have been supporting me as I begin this new chapter in my life!
What makes you an Urban Bush Babe?
I’m an organic chic chick, living in a concrete jungle.