Nobody woke up on Monday morning expecting to be graced with images of newlywed Issa Rae basking in bridal bliss. But one thing that can be unanimously agreed upon is that it was a much-welcomed surprise. The Insecure co-creator and star (who looked absolutely jaw-dropping during her nuptials to Louis Diame in the South of France), wowed from head-to-toe — especially in the hair department. The voluminous low ponytail — a look that she has worn before but never in such a gorgeous, dramatic fashion — is indicative of her longtime hair journey and evolution.
TZR got to find out first-hand from Rae during an interview earlier this year that, while it may have taken her awhile to learn to properly care for her hair, she’s never been ashamed nor felt the need to wear it a certain way to appease others. It’s an attitude that she’s carried on into her professional career as well “I'm just really big on ownership and us having a say in how we present ourselves and how we take care of ourselves,” she says. “I just believe that nobody looks after Black women like Black women do, and that spans across my platform, across the products I use, I think just everything is better in our hands.”
And she’s right. Ahead, find out how Black women have played an integral role in Rae’s hair education, and why she teamed up with clean hair care brand Sienna Naturals to expand her beauty footprint beyond television, movies, and the red carpet.
Can you talk about what your relationship with your hair was like as a child?
I had a kind of tense relationship with my hair. I just didn't really care for it as a child, I depended on my mom. Bless her heart, she was so passionate about trying to get me to love and learn my hair, but I just had no desire to do it. It just felt overwhelming. On top of that I went to school with girls of different ethnic backgrounds and their hair just seemed so much more manageable than mine. It wasn’t until I got to college and started really trying to learn to appreciate and do my own hair. I was on my own and couldn't afford braids so I had to learn how to care for it myself. So it’s definitely been a journey.
You spoke about being at school with girls who had different hair textures. Was there ever an “aha” moment of sorts when you discovered just how different your hair was?
I remember my mom used to do my hair in Afro puffs and my curls are really tight, so it would always look like a little ball on top of my head. I remember a girl coming up to me and like dinging it. She said, ‘Oh my gosh, your hair is like a bell.’ I basically responded like, no, it's not. That's when I realized that my hair has a completely different texture, and people are fascinated by it. I wasn't offended by it at all, but it was just kind of a realization of how my hair is very different.
Your journey is a bit atypical, but did the industry ever make you feel pressured to wear your hair a certain way?
Not at all. Right before I did Awkward Black Girl, I was determined to start over with my hair. After college I’d started incorporating weave into my hair and started using a lot of heat on it. So I just kinda wanted to start over and just be natural again because that’s how it’d been pretty much all of my life. But when the textures started to change I was like, let’s just start over and shave it all off and I'll do that to promote this series. So in that first episode I incorporated the big chop and I didn't realize how many other Black women resonated with the idea of starting over with the big chop. I didn't know there was a whole community dedicated to this because I hadn't seen a lot of natural hair representation.
And since then and that discovery, you’ve become such a hair chameleon. Did that come naturally? When did you decide to start switching it up again?
I met Felicia Leatherwood a couple of years after shaving my hair and she was really instrumental in helping me to figure out how to do different styles for the show with a shortcut because I didn't want it to be monotonous. I wanted to show the different things that you can do, and she really spearheaded all the different looks we had with my short hair. Then, of course, as my hair grew, and I started using products, that really helped to teach me how to take care of my hair. It became easier to do different styles, but early on there was definitely an intention to show the different things you can do with short hair.
You mentioned products, and now you’re actually part-owner of Sienna Naturals. I can only assume that your growing knowledge of products played a role in that?
For me, it actually came from a novice place. As I mentioned, I'd always been experimenting with different haircare products, and I’d been familiar with Hannah Diop’s products and Sienna Naturals and had been giving her feedback until she had the whole line. Once she started making the full line, I noticed that there were products that I just really loved and would continue to incorporate into my routine.
Then it ultimately came down to [the fact that] I was feeling good, I was liking the results, and even Felicia was commenting on my hair, how good it felt, and how my scalp wasn’t as flaky anymore. So we began talking about doing a partnership. Hair has always been a part of my journey. I wasn't necessarily vocal about it because I didn’t know that much about it, and I didn’t feel like an expert on the subject, so to partner with someone who has been in it and really studies it just felt more comfortable to me. I'm just always going to champion what I actually use, I'm never going to get behind a product that I don't use. So it was a natural partnership.
I know it’s probably like asking you to pick a favorite child but do you have a favorite product?
“It's so funny because initially I was like, okay, the shampoo is my product. But now I love the Dew Magic [Leave-In Conditioner]. Now that I'm back on set, I've been using everything. I have to wash my hair two to three times a week when I’m working and I just love it because it makes my hair feel great and I love the compliments I get. Whenever I'm touching my hair it just feels so soft and it really accentuates my natural curls.”
The anticipation builds every time you mention being on set. So without giving too much away, do we have more hair moments from the final season of Insecure to look forward to?
“Absolutely. One of the things that's exciting about this season is just seeing so much growth from Issa both literally and figuratively. And of course, that involves her hair. So you're going to see that growth reflected in her personal style as well as her hairstyles.”
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