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About Me|My Hair Journey

by on Feb 22, 2012

Sticky: My Hair Journey

My hair journey was just that… a journey. Being in the fashion industry and constantly in front of cameras added even more pressure. It wasn’t always easy, but in the end it made me strong and more confident.

 

  • When I began modeling at age 15 it was a bit unexpected. I was raised in the deep south (Jackson, TN) where light skin and long hair equal beauty. While I never felt ugly, I was certainly never the considered the pretty girl at school and no one (even me) thought I would go on to become a successful model. My agent suggested I get extensions to protect my shoulder length hair from the wear and tear modeling would almost certainly bring. After my first photo shoot with my newly weaved hair I started booking jobs and I got scouted by agencies in larger cities.
  • After graduating high school, I moved to New York to model full time and things really took off. Although the quality and appearance of my extensions got better, the health of my own hair was on a swift decline. I no longer had healthy shoulder length hair. The constant styling and strain from extensions had taken it’s toll. I figured it was well worth the sacrifice because I thought the extensions were part of my success.
  • Everything changed for me just before 2007. I was enjoying a successful career in the U.S. but I wanted to go international. I wanted to see the world and experience different cultures. More than anything, I wanted to walk the runway and do high fashion. My manager, Annette, made appointments for me to see all the major modeling agencies in Paris, France. With a hope, a prayer, and a head full of weave, I set out on my way.
  • To be honest, I didn’t get the response I had hoped for. Paris is a very different market from NY. It is harder for black models to make it there than in the states. Many of the agencies told me they already represented one or two black girls and at that time in Paris, two was more than enough. On my last appointment, the director of a top agency took one look at my book and asked me to walk for him. After a brief silence he told me that he thought I had potential but didn’t understand why I would hide my beauty under all that hair. He asked what my natural texture looked like and I had to admit I didn’t really know because I had been pressed or relaxed since childhood. He said that was unfortunate because I would only make it in Europe if I dropped the weave and showed the real me.
  • I was offended by his frankness but the more I thought about it, I realized he was right. Back in NY I told everyone I had an epiphany in Europe and now realized I needed a new look. With the full support of my agents I took out my extensions but didn’t even consider that it would take TIME to grow my natural hair out. I freaked out! My hair was a hot mess without the extensions. Transitioning is a tough thing for most naturals but it’s especially hard when your career and livelihood depend on your looks. My hair was broken, my temples were thinning, and my braid outs looked pitiful. It looked so dull and unhealthy clients didn’t want to shoot it.
  • I was determined to go natural but didn’t want to do the big chop right away and be left with no hair. I needed to transition and wanted my natural hair to grow without constantly being flat ironed at shoots. My agents and I really felt this was the right move and we believed it would pay off in the end if only we could just “fake it til we make it”. They suggested I get another weave but this time with afro textured hair which would allow me to transition more easily.
  • After about six months of wearing the weave I nervously did my Big Chop.
  • To my surprise, the more I acquainted myself with my natural hair the more I loved it!! I never knew I was capable of growing such a thick beautiful head of hair. I mean, don’t get me wrong- I didn’t have the gorgeous corkscrew curls I had hoped for but I learned to rock my coils and kinks to the fullest. And Honeeeyy, once I learned what a twist out was and how to do it - You couldn’t tell me Nuthin’!!
  • At this point, my career took off like never before. With this new look my agency put me up for my very first New York Fashion Week and I did great! I had no idea what was happening, it was all so fast and amazing. That season I walked the runway for designers like Diane Von Furstenberg, Marc by Marc Jacobs and Catherine Malandrino. I rocked my natural with a swag and confidence I never had with extensions. I loved it and I was pleased that others loved it too.
  • For the next several seasons I had the pleasure of walking the runway for designers such as Marc Jacobs, Tracy Reese, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Sass and Bide, Todd Lynn, and many more.
  • After working with my natural hair for a few seasons clients began to ask if I would straiten it for something new. I love my job and like to think of myself as a chameleon so I wasn’t going to let people use my hair texture as a reason to avoid using me in fashion. I decided to get my hair professionally straitened (flat ironed) for fashion week to make it user friendly and I used clip-in extensions to achieve longer lengths when clients wanted it. It was pretty and I got a great response for my sleek new look!
  • BUT when fashion week was over, I was in for a major surprise. When I washed my hair the kinks didn’t spring back as I expected and I was left with a head full of limp, damaged hair that smelled burnt. I was so shocked and confused. No one ever mentioned this, certainly not the stylist that straitened it! I kept trying twist-outs but my hair was so stringy the twist wouldn’t even stay together. I learned a valuable lesson the hard way. My hair is highly textured and any styling tool hot enough to get THIS hair bone strait, is also hot enough to permanently damage it. Left with no other options, I decided to go with a Grace Jones inspired look.
  • I worked with my hair like that for a while but the heat began to take a toll on my hair and I experienced a lot of breakage and shedding. Finding myself back at square one, I got another weave so that I could allow my natural hair to grow back without being damaged. The extensions were so full, long, and wavy. I must have had the hair of at least 3 Indian women on my head. Back in the day I would have rocked that look with pride but now it just felt wrong having a weave down to my butt.
  • Even though it was unintentional I felt embarrassed for damaging my hair so badly. That was never my intention and I wanted my crown of coils back more than ever. So I started my second natural hair journey and had to big chop for the second time. It was hard yall. My clients were accustomed to the beautiful afro I had before and so was I. The new TWA was so short in comparison.
  • It was frustrating, but I took it one day at a time and focused on having healthy hair instead of long hair. Before I knew it, my kinks and coils were back to the way I love them and I intend to keep it that way. In a world of fashion that doesn’t always accept kinky hair with open arms, I’m happy to represent of a different type of beauty that is possessed by women of color all over the world. I will never let myself forget that again.

 

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  • Neicy

    I love this. Such an inspiration :)

  • Ianaseales

    Your strength is reflected in every kink and coil…your beautiful spirit is reflected in your beautiful natural locks. From one natural sista who is on a journey of her own and embracing it though it has been challenging, thank you for sharing this! 

    • http://www.hollistics.com Hollis

      Thank you ladies!

  • Dev

    Love this feature, your a doll.

  • prettyparticular

    Oh my gosh! First off, you are a wonderful writer…second career maybe? This story is amazing, especially in the context of your career. You are a beautiful woman and I wish you much success.

    • http://www.hollistics.com Hollis

      Wow, A wonderful writer – What a compliment! That brought a smile to my face. Thank you so much.

  • Cute-coils

    Oh my goodness, what a wonderful story! And what a beautiful spirit. Thank you for representing for us natural beauties!!!!

  • Rogue

    I am sooooo happy I found this site. Hollis, you were so fierce in the Dark & Lovely Au Naturale commercial that I had to find out who you were. I am currently transitioning. Your story has inspired me so much. I have gotten so many negative reactions from black people that it’s crazy. It’s insane how much hatred we have for our own hair. Please please please do not EVER straighten your hair again. This is my second time transitioning. I only relaxed it when an employer basically told me outright that she wouldn’t hire me with my hair “like that.” Her words, not mine. Now that I’m older and bolder, I will NEVER let someone dictate how I keep the hair that my parents and God blessed me with. You are such a beautiful woman and an incredible inspiration. You have a lifelong fan in me. All the best.

  • Kyarra Keele

    You’re such an inspiration…thank you so much for sharing your story!

  • Quirk Queen

    Thank you for your story. So beautiful and honest!
    http://www.thequirkqueen.com/