Portia Clark

Portia Clark – TV Personality

Portia Clark is a mother, writer, and wife. She is a clever radio personality for CBC, the oldest broadcasting network in the nation, and a household name. Portia aptly divides her attention between her passion for public broadcasting and her deep love for her children.

Portia’s beautiful children are 4 and 6. “They are the centre of my life,” she says. Time spent styling her own hair has been displaced to taking care of her children’s hair. Portia is of Barbadian and Nordic heritage, and her husband is an English Caucasian man. They weren’t sure how their children’s hair would end up looking. “We thought our son could be anywhere from being a redhead to having an afro–to having a red afro,” Portia admits with a laugh. Her son was born with soft ringlets that demand little to no maintenance. Portia says she finger detangles her son’s hair and has it cut once a year. Ridiculously easy. Her daughter’s hair is another story.

Portia’s daughter’s hair is completely different from her son’s. “Hers is a lot closer to my hair,” Portia explains, “she has a few different hair types and does not enjoy having her hair played or dealt with.” Portia is experiencing a bit of what her mother went through when her mother was trying to style Portia’s hair. Portia was adopted into a Caucasian family and her mother had no idea how to style or take care of her hair. “My hair would always look unkempt because I didn’t want her to touch it.”

Now that she has experienced both sides of the situation Portia is much more sympathetic to her daughter’s squeals of pain and contempt for the comb. “It’s not worth either of our time for me to be chasing after her about her hair,” says Portia. So she usually leaves it. Once a month Portia will sit her little girl in the bathtub, douse her head in conditioner, and take time to work through the knots.

Black Hair and TV Broadcasting

For 7 years Portia hosted the CBC supper hour news with natural hair. That is rare occurrence now – never mind 10 years ago. “I have received different advice from consultants throughout the years on how I should or shouldn’t wear my hair on TV,” says Portia. They asked her to cut it, sleeken it, and tame it so that she would be less of a distraction. She has now defined what “presentable” and “professional” means for herself.

Portia says she’s excited about Black Hair Spot because it is a resource she didn’t have access to when she was developing her hair identity. “It took time for me to figure out how to do my hair in a way that matches my identity,” says Portia.

Jen Holmes

Jen Holmes – On Natural Hair and Standing Out

Hers is a story that many women can relate to, but few have had the courage to step out of. Jen has a confident voice, contagious laugh and a distinctive head of hair thanks to her Jamaican and English/ Scottish heritage.

Born and raised in Edmonton, Jen is a makeup artist by profession. She’s used to making people look beautiful, but she didn’t always realise the beauty in her natural hair. She stands out, but it hasn’t always been something she embraced.

At the tender age of eight, Jen went up to her mum and asked her to chemically relax her hair. Her mother didn’t put up a fight- the hair tugging and time spent braiding her hair every couple of nights was a difficult process for the both of them.

“I wanted to have straight hair, just like my friends… [Curly hair] was so time consuming and hard and I didn’t want to face every night of my mum pulling on my hair.”

So she took the route of that most girls with curly hair go–she relaxed her hair.

The chemical relaxer did what it was designed to do– it suppressed the spunk and free expression of natural hair, leaving behind societal expectations in the form of straight hair.

Then there is the price that we pay for conforming. With her straight hair, Jen was left with scalp burns and unhealthy hair.

“It was super brutal. It’s ridiculous what you’re putting on your head. But it’s that creamy crack–you just can’t quit it.”

Natural Hair Transitioning

Eventually, Jen decided to stop chemically straightening her hair and she began her natural hair transitioning. Chris Rock’s film “Good Hair” as well as seeing more and more women, especially Solange Knowles embracing their natural curls, helped her with her process.

Her transition entailed her not using heat on her hair, and leaving it wavy. This helped make the grow-out easier and less noticeable. YouTube tutorials were also extremely helpful with styling and helping her create a new routine.

People’s Reaction

The change has helped her embrace her individuality, and the attention that comes with it. People’s reaction has generally been positive, but she’s experienced everything from people trying to touch her mane to people asking if her hair is a wig.

“Lots of people will come up and touch and grab my hair. It’s rude and impolite and I don’t like it. Some people will come up to me and ask, which is nice, but I decline.”

She believes that this is due to a lack of awareness, and the only way that this can be changed is by education and more women taking the plunge.

“Putting the message online so people can find it even if they weren’t looking. Simply talking to them when people ask questions. I don’t mind talking and answering questions about it. I think that the more I start doing it I think is going to be the biggest thing… I hope that in the future more women will be natural and people will take notice and be more aware and knowledgeable”

Her favourite products are olive oil and coconut oil. She’s a firm believer in natural products, and she uses Aubrey Organics Shampoo and Conditioner. She does a twist out to define her curl pattern, and uses coconut oil for added moisture in the process.

Her advice to other women is not to let their children go through the same experience that she did

“Don’t ever relax your hair. If I could speak to my younger self, I would tell myself not to. It’s horrible and extremely damaging for your hair, and honestly at this point you would love your hair. I regret relaxing my hair all those years. Appreciate your hair. Love your hair.”

Sintra Lewis

Put together. Stylist. Fit. Beautiful.

Those are some of the words I would use to describe Sintra Lewis. For fourteen years, Sintra was a dedicated track and field athlete. Then one day she decided she was over the tomboy look. She started searching through various blogs online and suddenly found herself waist deep in clothes, shoes, jewelry—and a modeling contract.

“I like the way fashion makes me feel. It gives me the opportunity to be artistic. Sometimes I lie in bed and instead of sleeping I put outfits together in my head.”

Unfortunately, as I’m sure we all know, being fashionable is expensive. “Keeping up with the latest trends can be a pain,” says Sintra. But somehow, she does it. Sintra frequents fashion blogs like Cupcakes and Cashmere and Atlantic Pacific for her daily inspiration.

Sintra’s hair is an integral part of her overall style. She describes her style as classic and feels that her straight hair enhances her look. “I just need it to stay in place,” she says with a chuckle. Sintra’s hair is usually relaxed with a few added weave tracks for body. She trusts her salon so much that her hairstylist is not just her stylist—she’s her friend. “Once Yvette of Yves Salon gives me a wash and blowout I have good hair days for weeks.”

Sintra is in her thirtys and was born in Grenada but grew up in Trinidad. She describes herself as Afro-Caribbean and now lives in Edmonton, AB.

Sintra says when her roots grow out her curls are between 3B and 3C. Her 5 favorite hair tools are:

Check out Sintra’s favorite hair products with her reasons why below:

  1. Redkin Smooth Down Heat Glide
    – I use this right before I flat iron my hair. It’s a leave-in serum that provides heat-safe control to take frizz.
    – A dime size is amount enough for my entire head.
  2. Big Sexy Smooth & Seal
    – This is a finishing spray to help lock out moisture and keep my hair smooth and shiny.
    – I usually spray it on my hair before applying heat.
  3. Big Sexy Spray & Play Hairspray
    – This is the most ideal hairspray!
    – Gives my hair hold and movement. It’s manageable and shiny and the next day it does not have that caked-on finish.
    – This product makes it easy to comb through my hair when I’m tired of one style and style my hair another way.

Have you used any of these products? Do they work for you?

Have you used any of these products? Do they work for you?

Krystle Dos Santos

#BHSHerStory, with Krystle Dos Santos – Krystle’s Branded Fro

The air feels electric as Krystle Dos Santos winds down from the second-last song in her set. It’s only 10.30 on a Sunday morning and a horde of blues-lovers have gathered in the streets to dance away the afternoon. They are completely taken by her music. Her groove.

“Okay we’ve got one more song for you beautiful people,” she croons into the microphone. Audible groans and protests come from the audience. The dancers deflate a little bit. None of us want her set to end.

The drummer counts four beats and Krystle’s band launches into a dynamic cover of Pharrell’s “Happy”. I throw my camera into its case and join the revived frenzy of hip-shaking and happy-making.

*****

Krystle’s giant curly fro is a big part of her brand. “People recognize me because l have a big afro.” It isn’t just us black women that drool over her perfect coils. Krystle says when her hair was straight people told her she didn’t look like… Krystle. “When my second album came out and I had dead straight hair with straight bangs people were like ‘I don’t see you in this picture.'”

Krystle has not always had such buoyant healthy hair. “I dated a hairdresser for three years and he helped me keep my hair healthy and growing. My hair was about shoulder length while curly when one summer my mom suggested I lighten up my look a little bit.” Krystle agreed and went to a local hairdresser for the dye job. The hairdresser left bleach in her hair for one hour. Krystle’s hair went dead straight-pun intended.

After cutting all her hair off, growing it out, cutting it off again, growing it out… Krystle realized the two things she was doing wrong. Chemicals and heat.

“I treat my hair like a baby now.” Krystle’s family is from Guyana. She explains her heritage as a mix of Chinese, Portuguese, African, East Indian, European and Amerindian. Her hair type is a mixture of 3B & 3C.

Krystle’s parents were completely lost when it came to taking care of her hair. “My mom took me to black hairdressers when I was younger and we did weaves, braids, cutting it short – everything. It wasn’t until my 20s that I realized curly hair is beautiful.”

Krystle has taken her musical career to Vancouver, but finding products for her hair is no easy feat. “Everytime I come back to Edmonton Images and Shades is like a candy store. I like to experiment”

Krystle can be a bit of a hair scientist when she gets her juices flowing. “I’ll mix mayo, eggs, olive oil… vodka, beer – whatever I can find in my house to make my own hair masks.”

Krystle Dos Santos can be a bit of a hair scientist! #bhs Click To Tweet

Krystle’s giant curly fro is a big part of her brand. “People recognize me because l have a big afro.” It isn’t just us black women that drool over her perfect coils.

 

Asha McLeod

Asha is an award winning hair stylist whose style work has graced the pages of Vogue, Essence, Passion, Modern Salon, American Salon, and Shop Talk. Asha’s story of how she opened her salon, Jazma Salon, is start studded and filled with obstacles.

Check out the Jazma Salon Profile here

I grew up in Trinidad and was working in my mother’s hairdressing school and salon. At five years old I was scraping scabs off of my aunt’s scalp because they got so burnt from pressing combs, hot oils, and relaxers. I was traumatized.

I came to Canada when I was 13 years old and after school I started working in white, Jewish salons. I was surprised that no one’s scalp was burnt and no hair was breaking off. I decided I would never do black hair again. It made no sense to me why people were in pain.

After hairdressing school my mom kidnapped me and took me to Brooklyn. She left me in New York until I was able to do black hair and not be afraid of the trauma I went through as a kid.

When I was in New York I worked with the top artists but I realized that even the biggest celebrities were getting their scalp burnt. Everyone was getting their scalp burnt. What my mother had been doing back home wasn’t that different from what I learnt working with the best artists in the world in New York. I couldn’t understand why no one was coming up with a solution.

My mom was very famous. She knew people like Paul Mitchell and all of the top artists in the world. So of course—she wanted me to take over her business. One day I met a lady on the plane while I was on a trip. She was a black lady and she said to me, “You’re a stylist? I have a salon in Yorkville.” And I thought to myself there are black people in Yorkville? She invited me to come and work with her, so I did. I was so excited.

My boss—who eventually owned and created MAC Cosmetics — wanted me to introduce black hair products to his community. But I didn’t want to introduce anything that didn’t have the proper research behind it. However, I was still doing all my black friend’s hair on the side.

I decided that I was going to figure out black hair. Then I realized: the less you do with it, the stronger it is. So I started to talk to different chemists and visited different labs. Then I met my husband Ron, who is Canadian black. My husband was always very interested in the black hair I was doing in my basement. My entire network started to pressure me to open my own salon.

But I was still doubtful. How could I open up my own salon when I didn’t have all the answers? Ron had a degree in chemistry and decided to research the questions I had. So I wrote out some questions for him to answer.
  Why does relaxer burn the scalp?
  Why are shampoos dehydrating instead of hydrating?
  Why does black hair break?
  How can we handle our hair on a daily basis like other races?
  What is the growth potential of black hair?

Ron discovered that in the 50s when they invented the chemical relaxer, they called it a hair straightener. The reason why they changed it to relaxer is because when you straighten the hair you take all of the strength out of it and the chemical makes it break. Instead of educating the consumer, they just changed the name so they couldn’t be sued. Nobody read the jar. I realized that no one was paying attention.

So I learned:
  When you relax black hair you take all the strength out of it
  If you take the salt out of shampoo it helps hair retain moisture

Almost thirty years ago when we started Jazma we were the first to create a shampoo without salt. Ron sent me to a lab to see how products are made. I understood for the first time what moisture was. Moisture has nothing to do with oils and silicones. Moisture comes from water and sealing those water molecules.

When I told clients they had to shampoo more often and hydrate with water I had people telling me I was crazy. It was a struggle. But I didn’t open up a salon just to do hair or to make money. I was on a mission to educate my consumers on the fact that kinky/coily/curly hair is beautiful.

At the time I was also doing seminars for about twenty years at the Bronner Brothers and Proud Lady. The name of my class was: “Kinky/Coily/Curly Hair is Beautiful”.

Many people would come to these seminars but there would always be a fight. People would always argue that it’s impossible to grow black hair long and strong. So I provided slides and photographs of my own clients (Canadian Blacks) who didn’t want their hair processed and didn’t want their hair straight—and their hair was halfway down their back.

Then we came up with the wash ‘n’ wear relaxer. We loosened the curls 50%–just enough that clients could wake up, shake it, and go. As years went by we also created more products.

When people say to me “I don’t want chemicals in my hair” I think to myself everything is a chemical. When you think about it even sugar and salt are chemicals. My older brother is a chemist and my husband has a degree in chemistry and this is the way I think. I can only think about things in a factual way.

Would you take a cup of salt or a cup of sugar and put it in your food? No. You would use a pinch. And that is how we should be handling a chemical when we’re using it to relax our hair by degrees. When you use a pinch you are enhancing the hair just like we enhance our food. We came up with a product to gently relax the hair.

When people say that they don’t want a chemical in their hair I have to point out the fact that many of us put braids and extensions in our hair. These plastics bleed out chemicals onto our hair. Every time you shampoo your hair with salt, you’re putting in a chemical. Everything in a jar is preserved with chemicals. I believe that if you’re going to use a chemical, use it to enhance. Don’t use it to destroy.

I was sort of forced to open the salon. Once I had all of this knowledge I went out on the road to provide education to other salons about what I learnt about the power of water and moisture and hydration. They basically kicked me out. I didn’t know what do to, so I finally opened up my own place. My boss wanted to go into cosmetics so he sold me the salon.

But then my white clients kept leaving. The more I got into black hair the more they left. Because I was young I didn’t know it was racism. And then I decided that I was going to open up a salon and show them that we can create a safe place for black people to come and have their hair serviced. It was because of the racism that I finally decided yes, I’m going to do this.

Asha: It was such a freeing experience, I realized that I was not bound anymore by anyone's… Click To Tweet

I was able to love my hair because I followed these techniques and my hair grew healthy and strong. How do you keep your hair healthy and strong?

Lily Lynch

Lily connects with her roots – through her roots.

A quick glance at Lily’s shining blue-green eyes, fair skin and light freckles does not tip you off about the shades of her history. But if you let your eyes wander to the delicate dirty blonde coils of her hair, you just might guess right.

Lily Lynch is a twenty-year-old student from Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is blessed with a heritage of Mi’kmaq First Nation, African, and European. “My hair was the element that connected me and made me more aware of my African ancestry.”

Our past informs our future. In her search for discovering her heritage Lily uncovered her passion for black history. “I want to be a junior high history teacher. As I grew up, the only story I heard of black people coming to Canada was through the Underground Railroad. But that’s not the whole story.” In the summer of 2013 Lily worked at the Black Loyalist Heritage Museum and learned about the black female role in history. She studied and shared HerStory.
*****

Lily’s hair journey started off like many black women’s: Lily, her mom, a comb, and a whole lot of imagination. “My mom used to put hats on me. Lots of hats.” Lily’s mother was an adventurer. African style hats, corduroy hats, big hats, pointy hats, braids, poofs – she tried it all. “Sometimes she would gather all my hair on top and tie it together with a ribbon. I liked that. It made me feel kind of pretty.”

 

At fourteen, Lily grabbed a pair of jagged arts and craft scissors and cut off her hair. “I just felt like it was time.” Lily was the only girl with short hair in high school, and she liked that. She liked being different. All the other girls had long straight hair. “People knew who I was because of my hair. I looked distinct from other people. There were other girls with mixed hair or curly hair, but other girls did the disguise.” Lily describes the disguise as when women are uncomfortable in their beauty and decide to cover it with weaves or extensions. “I feel like the disguise is making yourself into something that you might not naturally be.”

 

Lily admits that for a long time, she didn’t know how to take care of her hair. “I just did what other people told me to do. I learned by observation.” Lily grew up across the street from two half African half European girls her whole life and would often visit their house and experiment with their hair products. “They usually used Blue magic on my hair to try and make it look like theirs. One time they had this clear gel with sparkles and I was so excited to use it. It didn’t work at all.”

Now she does a lot of co-washing and moisturizes using oils. Lily’s top 5 products are: morrocan oil, mixed chicks leave-in conditioner, coconut oil, conditioners (any kind). And the olive oil brand . Lily’s favourite hair tool is a wide-toothed comb.

Lily admits that for a long time, she didn’t know how to take care of her hair.

Do you know how to take care of your hair?