India Arie says ‘I am not my hair….‘
I disagree with her. I am my hair. Of course my hair (dreadlocks these days) is not all that I am. But it is all that I have chosen it to be. Hair’s one of the few physical characteristics we have control over. Everything we do to our hair is a choice. We can (fairly easily) change its texture (temporarily), style, length, feel …whereas it’d take plastic surgery to alter our facial features.
So what’s the point of spending vast amounts of money, time and energy putting in a weave or relaxer only to say “it’s only hair?” All of it is a choice. Personally I’ve sported weaves, relaxers, braided extensions, afros, twists, cornrows….And when I chose those styles I chose them because I liked the way it looked on me, at the time. Later, I fell in love with the natural texture of my hair and chose to reveal it. Whatever style we go for, why should we disown our hair and our hair choices – whatever those choices are – by saying I am not my hair? Our hair is surely as much a part of us as our brain, our eyes and our heart . I claim my hair
Read on for an interview I did with the writer Memphis at Charcoal-Ink
Precious Williams UK writer and author of the book Precious (Color Blind U.S. version) shares with us how she became a writer and what inspired her to write her first book. Along with being a writer Precious rocks natural hair and shares with us her natural hair journey.
Precious when did you begin writing?
As soon as I’d learnt to read – aged around three and a half – I felt an urge to write my own stories. So I began writing as soon as I’d learnt how to use a pen or pencil.
How did you know that writing would become your niche?
It was the thing I’d always felt most excited about from as far back as I can remember.
As a young black woman living in the UK did you find it hard to get your work recognize as a writer?
I was first published at the age of eight – so the answer to your question is clearly ‘no’. I’m not clear why being young-ish, black, female and living in England would make one assume I’d find it hard to get my writing ‘recognized’. When it comes to getting work as a writer, in my experience the most essential factors are talent and tenacity, not having a specific shade of skin. I encourage aspiring writers to focus on their craft and not to assume that their ethnicity or gender is going to be some kind of handicap.
You’ve written a memoir called Precious (Color Blind US. version) about growing up in foster care with a white family, can you tell us why you chose to write about this?
Many writers’ first novels are autobiographical. I decided to simply write a memoir instead – my childhood was complicated and colourful and it kept hijacking any novel I attempted to write. Having written my memoir I feel I have the space and freedom to create fiction. I’m finishing my novel right now.
What would you like people to gain or take from reading your story?
That you create your own path.
What are your thoughts about people such as Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Eva Longoria that adopt outside their race?
I’ve nothing against people adopting outside their own race. However I’m very concerned about this lingering idea that African children – and African people in general – need to be ‘rescued’ and ‘civilized’ by white Westerners. It’s like a modern-day colonialism and it is extremely damaging.
You’ve written for big magazines such as Elle and Cosmopolitan just to name a few, what tips do you have for aspiring young writers wanting to get to that point?
Aim high. Imagine if you always assumed you’ll succeed and that people are out to be kind to you rather than assuming you’ll fail and that people want to discriminate against you. Harness that feeling and go for it.
What tips would you give to someone wanting to write their first book?
Write a book that you yourself would feel excited to read. If people try to tell you “it’s almost impossible to get published these days” tune out and don’t listen to them.
Now on to the natural hair …
How do you rock your hair? locs, afro, twist outs, etc …
I’ve had dreadlocks for nine years. They had grown to waist-length but I just had six inches cut off them this summer as I felt they looked just a tad too hippy-ish.
How long have you been natural?
All through the 90s I wore hair extensions and hair straighteners and bought into the idea that black women actually HAD to drastically alter their hair in order to be accepted and acceptable. Then one Saturday morning In 2000 I was taking out the latest set of straight hair extensions (a task that would take hours). The plan was to then put a hat on my real hair (never allowed my own natural hair to be seen in public), jump in a cab and get to the hair salon ASAP to get yet more straight extensions put in. But then I caught sight of my own hair in the mirror and fell in love with it. It was an absolutely huge lively-looking afro, sort of like the singer Maxwell’s hair used to be before he cut it.
I hadn’t observed my unadulterated hair properly in years. I’d taken to seeing my natural hair as a demon that needed to be corrected or covered up. That day I cancelled the hair salon appointment and decided to keep my own natural hair instead. It felt like one of the most daring decisions I’d made in absolutely years – honestly it felt as though I was doing something utterly forbidden. When I unveiled my hair to my family they were utterly horrified, all of them. Even the Nigerian sales clerk at my local supermarket had a go at me about my hair. It was mainly only white people and Rastafarians who were able to like or love my hair at that time. A white friend asked me why I always straightened my hair when my real hair was so ‘pretty’. My mother told me to expect to be sacked from my job (as a reporter at a national newspaper) if I continued walking around with my natural hair. I was unmoved by the comments, good or bad. My afro grew and grew. So did my “self-confidence”.
What made you want to go natural?
Well in no small part because I really LOVE the texture of natural afro hair. And in retrospect I realized that I’d found it deeply humiliating walking around with the hair of Asian women woven into my head to supposedly make me look more “acceptable.” I feel rather ashamed of the fact that I was once willing to go to such ridiculous lengths (no pun intended). One of the lies I had come to believe back then was that black women had to wear fake, straight hair in order to be desirable to men. Of course that turned out to be complete crap. Most black men are very used to the presence of hair extensions but that doesn’t necessarily mean they like them.
In fact there is a group on Facebook called Black Men Against Weaves. As for white men, I still recall the utter confusion on the face of a white man I’d been dating during my hair extension phase. He ran his fingers through what he thought was MY hair only to feel the tracks where the extensions were attached. Weeks later he nervously asked me why I insisted on wearing “those strange little wigs”. I had no answer. The weekend when I finally took out the hair extensions for good I felt elated. For me personally the wearing of fake hair had become a sort of pathology.
What’s your hair routine?
I pretty much just shampoo and go. I also use ayurvedic hair oil for moisture. But mainly I take care of hair health by eating right and taking Omega 3 oil etc.
What’s your favorite hair product?
It’s not very exciting but I guess my favourite product is my shampoo. It’s an ayurvedic shampoo I get from a health food store in London.
What troubles you most about your hair?
I slightly fear going grey. I don’t have any grey hairs yet and I can’t imagine how I’d look with a mane of grey or white dreadlocks.
Who is your hair inspiration?
I really love the singer Goapele’s hair. Her dreadlocks were just beautiful and I love her braided styles too.
What advice would you give to newly naturals?
Enjoy your hair!
To learn more about Precious and her book you can visit her website at www.preciouswilliams.com
one of my very first celeb interviews :) for the Evening Standard (London)
When Lenny finally saunters into the hotel lobby, he doesn't apologise for his lateness. Flanked by a thickset bodyguard and his 11-year-old daughter, Zoe, he throws out nonchalant greetings of "Yo" and "Alriiiight" before ducking into the lift. Minutes later, I'm ushered up to his hotel room.
"Hey," he drawls lazily, arching an eyebrow. He is slumped on the sofa, his lithe body swamped by a shapeless and shabby burgundy cardigan that is held together with a giant safety pin. A matching knitted cap is pulled down low over his forehead. Lenny Kravitz is possibly the only man in the world who can make saggy knitwear look sexy. I ask whether he's growing his trademark long dreadlocks back - surely the only excuse for sporting such unflattering headgear.
"No. They contained too much bad energy, y'know?" he says in his laid-back LA drawl. "They went through a lotta heavy things. I had to let 'em go."
The dreads may have gone for good but the piercings are still very much in evidence. Six diamond studs and hoops in his left ear, one on either side of his nostrils. Lenny has, he tells me triumphantly, another three piercings that are out of my sight. One silver ring in each nipple and a third, that he refers to as "the family jewel", hidden beneath his flared jeans. "I enjoy having them done," he says with a satisfied smirk. He claims that being a sex symbol is the "furthest thing" from his mind. He finds it absurd that a musician who doesn't even comb his hair should be an international pin-up.
Whether Lenny approves of his lady-killer image or not, he certainly knows how to take advantage of it. In the course of his career he has (allegedly) seduced Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia and French former pop star Vanessa Paradis. Currently he's strutting around town with Hollywood starlet Gina Gershon (who stars in the video to his forthcoming single, Again), although he has also been linked with model Devon Aoki.
Lenny's most enduring relationship was with Cosby Show actress (and Zoe's mother) Lisa Bonet. But their marriage broke down shortly after Lenny penned the raunchy Justify My Love for Madonna. Lenny wrote a song for Lisa, It Ain't Over Til It's Over, but sightings of Lenny smooching with Madonna seemed to convince Lisa that their marriage was indeed over. Following the release of Justify My Love, Lenny is said to have dubbed Madonna a "cold bitch", but today he speaks of her fondly. "She's my girl. We're very good friends."
He is also so spiritually close to Lisa these days that he has given her his shorn dreadlocks to keep in her LA home. "But I'm single now," he adds, momentarily avoiding eye contact. "It's just me. The only woman in my life is my daughter, Zoe. She lives with me. It's a lot but you make it work."
Like Zoe, Lenny was an only child. Raised mainly by his grandparents in Bed-Stuy, a ghetto-ish enclave of Brooklyn, Lenny lived on the same block as Puff Daddy. Lil' Kim and Spike Lee lived just around the corner. Then, during his teens, he was transplanted to star-studded LA, to live with his parents. He got his first taste of the glamour and excess that now dictate his lifestyle when he attended Beverly Hills High School. "Teenage kids driving Porsches and Ferraris. But I didn't even have a car. I rode the bus. And I never even had, like, a quarter, y'know?"
It is unlikely that Zoe will ever have to catch a bus to school. Today, multi-millionaire Lenny flits between a popart mansion in Miami and a beach home in the Bahamas. His mother, TV sitcom actress Roxy Roker, was a native of the island. His father, Sy Kravitz, is a Russian/Jewish TV producer. "My mom always taught me that I was as much one thing as the other," says Lenny of his multi-ethnic heritage. "She taught me to be proud of both sides, of being Jewish and West Indian. But at the same time my mom taught me that society would view me only as black."
Did this cause him confusion as a child? His expression alters from arrogance to momentary anger. "I've never had a thing about what I am. I never had a problem."
Maybe, but plenty of critics have had a problem with his identity. Throughout his five album, 15-year career, he has constantly been accused of not being black enough. And despite selling 12 million albums and receiving three Grammy Awards, black radio stations throughout America still refuse to play his music. "Everyone forgets that black people actually invented rock 'n' roll. I may not do what black people are supposed to be doing, but that's just so closed.
"People call me naive for writing all these love songs," he continues. "But I don't believe that."
A couple of days after I was born, my mother advertised me in a magazine called Nursery World. I've seen the original ad but no longer have access to it. It said something like 'Nigerian baby girl needs new home.' Back then - in the 1970s - literally thousands of west African babies and children were advertised in this way. Not only in Nursery World but also in the Evening Standard and in local newspapers in the Home Counties too. Naturally, these advertisements were like gold dust to paedophiles and other shady types- they could flick through the pages of ads and select children to abuse who met their requirements.
I know very little about the first person who responded to my mother's ad. All I know is that this person sent away for me after seeing the Nursery World ad and my mother duly delivered me to them - somewhere in Somerset. I was about nine days old when I arrived. For reasons as yet unclear, my mother supposedly didn't visit me again for four to six weeks. When she did finally visit me, she was, she's said, appalled by the state I was in. I don't know what is meant by that - it's not clear whether I'd been neglected, abused or was simply unhappy because I was pining for my mum. Anyhow, my mother removed me immediately and took me back to live with her. I would have been about 7 weeks old at this point. But by the time I was 9 weeks old, I was advertised in Nursery World again! This time a white woman in her late 50s, based in West Sussex, replied to the ad and I was sent to live with her when I was 10 weeks old. I called her Nanny. She'd previously fostered two other west African babies who she'd seen advertised in Nursery World - but their birth parents had finally taken them back.
After more than a year with Nanny, who dressed me up like a little princess and seemed delighted to look after me, my real mother took me back, seemingly for good. Nanny was devastated and found a new African baby girl in Nursery World's classified pages and sent away for her. Several weeks later, with her new foster-daughter installed in her home, Nanny was flicking through Nursery World just out of curiosity when she came across an advert that looked very familiar. My reunion with my mother clearly hadn't worked out - she had advertised me in Nursery World for a third time. Nanny sent away for me again and I returned....
More than 30 years later a journalist from Nursery World contacted me to interview me about my history with the magazine. And here's the piece:
Precious William’s memoir Precious: A True Story has just been published by Bloomsbury. I am pleased that she agreed to answer my questions about her book and the books that have inspired her.
Your book is a memoir about your being privately fostered to an English family in West Sussex during the 1970s. Why did you decide to write it in this narrative non-fiction style when you could have protected yourself and your family by writing it as fiction?
I decided that if I was going to write down my story, I was going to go all the way with it and write it in a naked, tell-it-all way. One of the themes running through the book is the subject of childhood abuse. Even in 2010 there is this 'don't talk about it' attitude (especially within black communities) that allows child abuse to happen, the secrecy of it gives paedophiles a chance to thrive. It's not an easy task to talk about it and admit it happened to you but talking about it and bringing it into the light is an important thing to do. That's why I did it.
How has your family responded to the book?
For most of my family members (foster family and biological family), this book doesn't contain any revelations. They knew what had happened, we just didn't talk about it before. The transformations that have taken place with some of my family members and friends, as a result of writing and talking about this book, are just amazing. Relationships have been taken to a whole other level of openness and mutual respect and compassion. One of my family members apologised to me as she felt she hadn’t been ‘there’ for me during the traumatic moments. Ironically she was one of the relatively few people who were very kind during my childhood and it was extremely sweet of her to say she wished she could have done more.
Read the rest of interview at Tricia Wombell's blog here:
first published in Glamour magazine
WHEN I meet Celine she is wearing a floor-length Marc Jacobs coat over Chloe jeans, a TSE Cashmere sweater and Jimmy Choo spike heels. She jokingly calls herself a "label whore." In reality she is also a whore in the more traditional sense of the word.
Celine, a 20 year-old Economics undergraduate at New York University (NYU) has never had a pimp and she never walks the streets (she takes cabs everywhere instead) – but she is a fully-fledged hooker. In between lectures at NYU she gets paid $300 an hour for sex with strangers who are old enough to be her father."I don’t see sex and love as being inextricably connected," says Celine, a tall, slim blonde with long legs and perfect skin. "I can make more cash on my back right now than I’ll maybe ever earn with a straight job," she admits, tossing back her sleek, shoulder-length blonde hair (kept sleek and straight with a $700 Japanese straightening process four times a year at Frederic Fekkai). "And it’s easy. Nobody keeps tabs on you, especially not in a big city college like NYU. Nobody is in your business at all."
copyright Precious Williams 2010