Given the fact that the interview with Oby Bamidele was such a success, I have taken to stalking even more natural haired beauties in a hope that they will answer a few questions and so share their stories.
In this post, Yoanna Pepper Okwesa gives us an insight into her life as a stylist and a natural haired fashionista. She touches upon an issue that has raised a few eyebrows – wearing natural hair in a corporate environment. She also shares a few pictures of herself rocking a style that is uniquely hers.
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, Pepper! And all the best with your Vintage Boutique when it opens.
NN: About Pepper?
I’m a stylist and have been styling since I was 15 alongside my academic studies. I have a degree in Culture, Society and Communications (jumping in and out of Spanish) which I love. I have styled the likes of the Noisettes front woman Shingai Shoniwa and styled for fashion brands like Nkwo and Zebra Living. My work is mainly styling magazine editorials, art directing look books and fashion shows and personal styling and I am now doing a lot of writing working as the Fashion Editor of FAB Magazine. I am the creative director of Purple Pepper Clothing which is about expressing my culture and my love for fashion and visual art. I’m about to open a vintage boutique in Lagos called Retrospective which I am very excited about.
NN: Have you always had natural hair?
Yes, apart from a very short stint when I lived in Wales as a young girl, I had to relax my hair because my family there could not manage my tough roots. From about the age of 11/12 I chopped it all off and started again. It has since been blow dried, hot combed, plaited, cornrowed, twisted, threaded, braided, Ghana weaved, dyed and then locked when I’m not paying attention.
NN: Why did you decide to go natural?
The decision to go natural was partly influenced by my mother as she said it would be better for me to start again and grow naturally and at that age I had no choice but to agree. Besides I did not like the way my hair was becoming damaged and was growing uneven. As a young teenager, I did feel somewhat left out when I would accompany my friends to by their relaxers but I soon got over it. I liked my mum plaiting my hair and really enjoyed getting my hair cornrowed by our Eritrean neighbour who would make really cool designs and patterns with mine and my sister’s hair.
NN: Any frustrations with going natural?
Not really, I have always had natural hair and know how to manage and care for my hair. I know that if I do not moisturize my hair and comb my hair well before styling or going to bed, then there will be trouble in the morning. I only get really frustrated when I decide to wear my hair out and then it decides to rain because my hair shrinks in water and I don’t look so fly when that happens, lol. I always try to carry a scarf with me just in case, hats never fit me because my hair styles are always too big for my own head ha-ha.
NN: How do you manage to have natural hair and remain professional?
To answer your question first, when I worked in corporate environments or even a restaurant or pub, I style my hair accordingly, either my hair is tied back, braided or cornrowed. But, what does my hair have to do with my professional ability and performance?
I know people who have had issues at work because they are not wearing a weave and the hair isn’t relaxed and slicked back and I think its archaically sad (if that makes sense) to have someone tell you to wear a wig or “tame” your hair because your hair is natural.
I have been fortunate never to have an issue with my hair at work, majority of my life I have worked in the creative industry and I’m at liberty to do what I want with my hair. I guess it’s more about what you bring to the table as opposed to your appearance, in saying that in fashion your appearance does count and your personal style is often accepted and appreciated and at times sadly overvalued.
NN: What is your current hair regimen?
When my hair is in braids or cornrows I like grease my scalp every over day with an Aloe Vera cream a friend brings from Eritrea or a natural Shea butter mix. When my hair is out, I do the same and use an olive oil based moisturizer to keep my hair soft and protected since very cold and very hot weather can be harsh on natural hair.
Every two-three weeks usually on a Saturday, I like to deep treat my hair after washing, I usually steam my hair with organic deep root stimulator, hair conditioner sometimes crack an egg in the mix, apply it to my hair and wrap my hair with cling film and leave it in for two hours, sometimes longer. I like to work while my hair is in conditioner too because I don’t notice that half a day has gone. I do the same with oil, I’ll apply natural warm oils to my scalp and wrap it up to lock in the moisture and essentials.
I alternate between hair styles, having my hair braided, adding extra “natural” hair to my own hair to add volume and having it completely out and free so I don’t stress my hair too much. I also just like wrapping my hair in head wraps and just leaving it alone.
NN: Do you have a hair goal?
Keep my hair healthy and strong and don’t lose my hairline.
NN: What is the one thing you have done with your hair that you think has made it healthy?
Deep treating and using natural hair care products.
NN: Any tips for the ladies?
What works for me may not necessary work for you. Educate yourself on the kind of products you should and should not use on your hair and skin. Invest in natural hair care products, if it works have a go and make them yourself. Eat and drink healthy-it does show and don’t mess about with your too much, your hair does have feelings.
Pepper’s work can be found here: www.pepperokwesa.com.