1tiana_urban-beauty.jpgIn a thrilling Internet Pageant that took place on going-natural.com, America’s Next Natural Model is finally announced. The competition was interesting, exiting and tough. Ten beautiful ambitious natural heads worked hard to try to become the new face of Eden Body Works. A company that quickly expanded after 15 year old founder Jasmine Lawrence appeared on the Oprah show and shared her story. She started her own natural hair care line after a disastrous experience with a relaxer.

The goal of this annual competition is to take natural African hair to the next level in order to seek its righteous place in the beauty industry, the fashion world and even the workplace. In their quest to win the pageant, ten aspiring models completed ten challenges in ten exhilarating weeks. Delivering great pictures week after week takes quite an effort and it soon proved to be too challenging for some of the contestants. Competition remained tough throughout the pageant and only six of the initial ten chosen candidates managed to complete all the tasks.

The jury had a hard time choosing but after a week long deliberation they finally announced the 23-year-old aspirant model and actress from the Seattle area, Tiana Tamara Townsell, the winner. She won the most challenges, delivered the best pictures and won the popular vote. With this successful event the owner of the website Mireille Liong writes history. America’s Next Natural Model is the first pageant in the world that celebrates natural African hair. Still, the true beauty of going-natural.com and its competition is the concept of using new technology to challenge the ancient fallacies of “bad hair” that are still alive in today’s world. Clutch caught up with the winner Tiana to find out how it feels to be Miss Nappturality.

Q: Why did you decide to enter the “Miss Nappturality” Contest on “Going Natural”?
I first learned about the Miss Nappturality contest on a Nappturality.com thread and I thought that it would be a great opportunity for the winner as well as the contestants involved. I decided to enter because the benefits vastly outweighed the doubts I had about my ability to be chosen in the competition. I had done a few hair shows for and modeled on the cover of Napptural Roots Magazine, a Seattle based hair magazine so that gave me a confidence boost. I knew it couldn’t hurt to enter and that the worst that could happen was that I wouldn’t hear anything back. However, I knew that if I won, it would be a fabulous way to bring more awareness to the beauty of natural hair, thus strengthening and empowering the black community. I felt like I could be Miss. Nappturality because I’m infatuated with my hair and its health and I consider myself a hair educator who can teach others about healthy hair as well. I had also done pageants before, the Ms. Washington USA Pageant twice, and I wanted to give pageants another shot before I gave up, this was it.

Q: How long have you been natural?
Technically, I have been “natural” all my life, but like many other women I have been hiding my roots under caustic chemicals. I came out of hiding and have been embracing my natural hair texture for about three years now, since March 25, 2005. Being natural has been very uplifting and a rewarding experience for me. People say all the time to “just be yourself,” and although I had heard this often, I never fully embraced myself while I was processing my hair. This is not to say that cutting off my chemically processed hair, automatically changed me and made me embrace every aspect of my being, but it was definitely the “Big Bang.” It led me to a journey of love, change and self-acceptance, in which I’m still embarking on, that has helped me find myself and grow astronomically; the journey is the reward.

Q: Did you do the “Big Chop” or grow out your relaxer?
After deciding I was no longer going to chemically process my hair, I spent about the next 4 months building up the courage to cut my hair off. When I had about 2” of new growth, I did the Big Chop.

napptural-angel.jpgQ: What are some of your staple products and brands?
My staple brand used to be Dudley products until I realized that some of their products contain mineral oil, which is derived from petroleum or crude oil extract and is a gasoline byproduct. I still use a few of their products that do not contain these ingredients, however now the brands I use are more diverse. I mostly use products from black owned businesses because it is important to me to support my community and our endeavors, especially if we are producing quality products. I do not however have a staple product or brand anymore and I am currently in the works of replacing the Dudley products that contain the mineral oils and “cones” (silicone, dimethicone, etc). In fact, I just ordered a sample pack from Oyin Handmade and Qhemet Biologics!

As I move forward in my journey I have learned to choose all of my hair products based on ingredients, not smell or brand. Some of the brands I currently use are Eden Body Works, Jamaican Mango & lime, Dudley (I still use their setting lotion, gel, and a hair rebuilder), Nexxus Humectress conditioner, Dark & Lovely hydrating spray, Suave conditioner for co-washes, and Karen’s Body Beautiful shampoo. I also use natural products, oils, and extracts such as EVOO, lemon grass, witch hazel, spearmint oil, kelp extract, jojoba oil, almond oil, honey, and henna. Some of these products I was introduced to because of the Miss Nappturality 2008 Pageant and I also have some products left from the competition that I’m still using like Kemi oil. However, these are all products that I use now-and-then; on a daily basis, I only use a homemade spritz, and a hairdressing for moisture.

Q: What makes you proud to be natural?
Living in the US, what some have deemed to be “Plastic Nation”, it is easy to succumb to the pressures of the media. In order to sell products some companies have to tear you apart so that they can offer a solution to build you back up. For instance, women are told that wrinkles are ugly so that companies can sell their anti-aging creams, or people with textured hair have been said to have “bad” hair so that companies can sell “good hair in a box” (straightening chemicals, flat iron, and combs, etc). What makes me proud to be natural is that, one day something clicked and I was put into a situation where I was able to ask myself “Why am I hurting myself for straight hair?” A lot of times people can get so caught up in spin of life that they end up doing detrimental things to themselves and to their confidence and not even realize it, therefore are not able to ask “why”. I am proud to be natural because I am proud to be myself; to be the queen I was born to be, unapologetically me. I am also proud to be able to shed some light on natural hair and to inform people who may have never thought of natural hair as an option. I am proud and happy that people who I come in contact with have an opportunity to see someone who is not altering the texture of her hair and who is proud of it. Even if some people are thinking negatively about my hair, it is something they have noticed, and are thinking about, which is the first step to awareness.

Q: “Going Natural” has termed the competition as “The Bad Hair Pageant”. Do you think this will help those with negative views and opinions of natural hair rethink how they feel about the term “bad hair”?
From a marketing perspective, I definitely think that is an attention grabbing title! I know that it will stop a lot of people in their tracks and get them to inquire about what a “Bad Hair Pageant” is. Once their attention is invoked, that is when those with negative views and opinions of natural hair may be able to start rethinking what and how they feel about the term “bad hair” and their natural hair in general.

Q: Why do you think it’s so important for Black women to embrace their naps?
I think it’s important for Black women to embrace their “naps” because it is part of embracing themselves. Hair texture is one of the dominant characteristics that show others what ethnic background you are from; others include skin color, nose structure, etc. While these things are not exclusive to one ethnic group or another, in our culture today they largely define the perception that you are given by society. When we fully embrace all of our features, we then start to build a strong foundation that allows us to move forward collectively. I have heard some women say that chemicals are a “styling option”, yet these same women are quick to run to a salon at the first sight of an “ugly nap”, this tells me there is an underlying problem and it is detrimental to engage in “options” when you do not yet have the strong foundation; this becomes not an “option” but a “cover-up”, which is not a solution to the underlying problem. As of now, we as a people do not have that strong foundation, and as those in construction know, without a stable foundation, the structure is volatile. A lot of us are still broken people, still failing the doll tests and struggling with this mindset of “good” is closer to white and “bad” is black, but once we start to fully embrace ourselves, that is when you can embrace others and we can be embraced by others and grow and flourish as a people.

Q: Sometimes women with relaxed hair can feel unwanted on sites such as “Going Natural” due to them being on the fence on the decision to go natural, mainly because they don’t think it would look right on them or have never managed their natural hair texture. Especially when they visit and see terms such as “Permie” or “living the lye” how do you feel about this divisive terminology and what does “Going Natural” do to encourage women with this issue?
Firstly, the Creator does not make any junk, so for those who may not think the hair that grows out of their scalp will not look right on them, the best advice I could give is to go to one of these sites, soak up as much information as you can, and give it a try and see. Sites like “Going Natural” and “Nappturality”, to my knowledge, were both created by women who have once used chemicals in their hair, so they understand the concerns that women who use chemicals and are thinking about natural hair may have. These sites are full of information on how to manage our hair (which is not difficult; it is just like learning something else that is new), and address the issues that women who are wanting or curious about letting their hair grow out naturally have. Sometimes women visiting sites such as these may feel a little apprehensive about the whole process, so I understand that they may be a little on edge. They may bring with them uneasiness about if they will look attractive with their natural hair or fears of not being able to manage their hair however, I do not personally feel that “permie” or “living the lye” constitute divisive terminology. “Permie” is simply referring to the texture of one’s hair, such as “nappie” does. “Living the lye”, in my opinion is a double entendre; it’s a word play on putting lye in your hair and hiding your hair (living as if your hair is naturally straight). So, although they may think, at first, that the terms are somehow conflict-ridden, hopefully they will see that it isn’t always so, and they may even agree with the chosen terminology. Embracing your natural hair is about being true to yourself; keeping it real. Going Natural and other sites try to encourage people to embrace their natural selves and ask as many questions as possible. Obtaining knowledge is half the battle to understanding. Going Natural and Nappturality are sites that are centered on love, so my hope is that no one who is ready to embrace their true self or even contemplating doing so, feels left out or turned away.

peace.jpgQ: You are now the face of Eden Body Works. Tell us more about the line and what you will be doing to raise awareness of the brand.
Yes, I am and I am really excited to be the new face of Eden Body Works! This has been like a dream come true! Eden Body Works is a company that was created by Jasmine Lawrence, who at the age of 13 started making her own hair care products. This is a product line that works with all natural hair products and it is rapidly growing. Jasmine has already diversified her company a bit so that it also rejuvenates the body as well as the hair, thus it is also providing bath salts, which provide a healthy and relaxing way to rejuvenate and unwind. Thus far I have not been able to get full details about what my role will be. However, I am in contact with Eden Body Works and we will be discussing the matter later this week. It is my hope that I will be able to travel as a spokes model and be a champion for the brand.

Q: What’s next for you?
Once I start the project with Eden Body Works, I will know more about my future schedule and be able to go from there. I really hope that this opportunity helps me future my career in acting as well as my other endeavors. In the future, I plan to revive the OAAU, Organization of Afro-American Unity, drafted originally by Malcolm X and contribute to a solid community organization. I am part of the National Action Network and I attended the re-commitment ceremony in Memphis, TN in April and spent the week there with Al Sharpton and others, soaking up information on how to make our communities stronger. I would really like to start doing and putting into action some of the information that I was given. I feel like the title of Miss Nappturality 2008 gives me a platform to stand on, and talk about hair and other things that I am passionate about. I am committed to marketing the right (healthy and empowering) messages to the black community instead of the detrimental ones that can my found on any channel and media outlet.

Q: Do you have any advice for women interested in going natural?
Don’t believe the hype. Taking care of natural hair is not rocket science, however it is a new process that will need to be learned. I say go for it! Embrace yourself fully and completely. Take your time and treat your hair gently. Visit going-natural.com and Nappturality.com for advice on questions that may come up, I know these sites have been tremendously helpful for me. Also, I would tell them that once you embrace yourself and others like you, your mindset will change and if you haven’t already, you will see how beautiful and healthy natural hair is! When I was a young teen, I used to be one of those people who thought I was only beautiful when I was wearing long synthetic hair but now I see that that stuff doesn’t hold a flame to my real hair. Nothing is more beautiful and more appealing than being the real you! Naturally!

To learn more about Miss Nappturality, Going Natural and more please visit www.going-natural.com. Also, check out our interview with “Going Natural’s” founder Drs. Mireille Liong here.

To learn more about Eden Body Works please visit www.edenbodyworks.com

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