Naturally Speaking

I first came across Camille E. Reed via a Facebook post that she had responded to about natural hair care. Unlike most, who browbeat with their opinion, her approach was smooth yet unflinching. She didn’t come across rude nor judgmental. If anything she seemed more concerned about educating the vibe by correcting the notions of an eager few. That’s when I decided to contact her to gain a little more insight. In the span of a couple of online exchanges and a brief phone call, I learned of her passion for informing our women about natural hair. Here she shares her knowledge while dispelling a few myths.

1. Where did your hair journey begin? Education and earlier influences?

My hair journey began with my own big chop in 1996, just three months shy of my high school graduation. I locked my hair a year later, while in my freshman year at Virginia Commonwealth University.

I left VCU in 1999 and returned to Maryland. That same year, after meeting Master Barber, David Singleton, at Howard University’s Homecoming is when I decided to shift from art and design in fashion, to art and designing natural hair.

My earliest influences were Minnie Smith and Christina Jenkins. Minnie was my grandmother and former owner of Minneaux’s in Cleveland Ohio during the ’60’s and ’70’s. Christina Jenkins was my great-aunt and 1950’s inventor of the “Hair Weev”(now referred to as weave) process.

Minnie taught me about attention to detail and scientific precision. Aunt Chris showed me the value of helping people, by taking their hair from mess to magnificent!

Vibe on natural
Vibe on natural

2. How long have you been doing hair? Did you start out like most professionals by doing all types of hairstyles or processes? Or was natural hair always your focal point?

I have been working as a professional stylist since 1999. My career began in natural hair as my interest deepened. I improved my skills by pursuing my cosmetology license. I have never handled relaxed or weaved hair because the texture didn’t interest me as much as natural or kinky hair. I found it more stimulating and challenging and I have made it my goal to master it.

Beautiful mane
Beautiful mane

3. What do you think of the current natural hair trend? Are the wrong people capitalizing off the hard work already established by true professionals? If so, in what way?

I think the current trend in natural hair is great. I love the energy of allowing women to become more appreciative of their beauty, without chemical or thermal manipulation. This is a monumental cultural shift for women of color, as well as a game changer for the Black hair care industry (and those subsidiary companies that profit from it).

However, I do feel all of our hard work and earned skills are being co-opted by a few unscrupulous bloggers. Not all of them, mind you. A great deal of them handle themselves with journalistic integrity by citing references and sources.

My disappointment lies with those who have no real education or professional experience as a hairstylist. They are the ones branding themselves as the definitive source on natural hair to unsuspecting consumers. Or when they write books branded as natural hair bibles.

The natural hair industry has existed and thrived since the early 1990’s. There are legends in this business who are far more deserving of these titles than these blogger women who are trying to co-opt our knowledge (without really knowing what they are talking about).

4. If someone was interested in transitioning to natural hair, what advice would you give them? Necessary steps?

Transitioning takes months not years. Prepare a 6-8 month plan and stick to it. Change your shampoos to sulfate free and make sure your conditioners are intensely moisturizing. I often recommend not to let this process exceed eight months because tangled hair, knots and breakage will occur. It’s better to remove the relaxer and have one continuous texture, than to fight with two that are diametrically opposed. In other words, mentally prepare yourself for a big chop.

5. The current natural hair climate seems unfriendly and oftentimes judgmental. Why do think that is? Shouldn’t the focus be more on educating instead of attacking someone for their choices?

The current climate is fueled by a great deal of natural hair neophytes. So zealotry and arrogance is still strong with many of them. It will wear off in a few more years, once more people realize how ridiculous and divisive it is to argue over such superficial tenets required for “blackness”.

Ya gots to chill
It’s not that serious

6. How can we strengthen our relationships as Black women on the subject of hair care?

The female brain thrives on information. It’s designed to interpret a lot of clues both verbal and nonverbal, to properly assess how to solve a problem. Black women need a thorough education on what hair is, what it does, and what products are designed to do it. We’ve spent centuries disconnected from how to groom it without destroying it. It’s time to teach and reconnect on how to love our hair.

7. What would you like to add that we may not have touched on today?

Conditioner doesn’t contain cleansers. Stop using it under the guise that it’s cleaning your hair. Use a sulfate free shampoo instead. Also, Hair Typing is not a cosmetic science. Oprah’s hairstylist, Andre, invented this to sell his product. This term, often used in the current Black hair lexicon was invented as a marketing tool to sell products.

It isn’t true. It is a lie. Some of the blogger girls who spout this, don’t do adequate research. Proper research can be done through studying a cosmetology textbook.

Also, we use Kera Care and Oraje Holistics at Noire Salon. These are the brands that we endorse and stand by.

Education is key to understanding how our hair works

Camille E. Reed is the owner and a hairstylist at Noire Salon

Noire Salon

8225-A Georgia Avenue

2nd Floor Unit B

Silver Spring, MD 20910