The more I do these interviews the more I realize how many curly friends I have! Alaia and I network in the same Facebook groups and then I joined her At the Helm Facebook group. Come to find out we have over 40 FB friends in common!
How long have you been natural?
It's probably been about 10 years since I had a relaxer, but the way I look at it, I went natural in 2011, when I stopped getting my hair pressed and flat ironed. For me, that was when I consciously went natural.
What made you decide to go natural?
I've always felt like a bit of a failure when it came to my hair - like I never really knew what to do with it. When it wasn't in braids or done by someone at a salon, I'd throw it back in a ponytail and call it a day. And there were even days where I felt like I couldn't get a ponytail right! I'd seen friends of mine talking about natural hair workshops on Facebook. I saw that Felicia Leatherwood had one coming up. I signed up and learned a TON of stuff I just had NO CLUE about. That was the night I decided to go natural.
Did you big chop or transition?
I guess you could call it transition. I hadn't been to a salon in ages because it was costing me a small fortune. The day after the workshop, I tried out some products Felicia mentioned and hopped on YouTube to learn how to do Bantu knots.
What was your families’ / friend’s reaction to you going natural?
Most people thought it was pretty cool. Several of my black friends were already natural. And I'd already spent most of my life with my hair as a topic of discussion among non-black friends, so this didn't feel different. I did have a few non-black friends directly say that they thought it was really cool that I was embracing my natural hair.
What have you discovered about yourself or your hair since you’ve gone natural? Anything surprise you?
Being natural is actually MORE work. I spend more time on my hair now than I ever did before. Braids are obviously low maintenance. When my hair was relaxed or pressed (always by others), I'd just wake up in the morning, run a brush through it and go. In the last four years, the washing, twisting, knotting, and fluffing...it all takes more time and care. I'm also a little more paranoid. I wear a fro now, so I'm always checking to make sure I haven't flattened it on one side or that its fluffed as much as it can be.
But it hasn't been all bad. I've also learned a lot more about my hair because of this process. I'm still learning and my twisting skills could *definitely* improve, but I have no regrets about the change.
Please tell us about your business.
I do a couple of things. In my primary business, I help business owners get organized and get the right systems and processes in place. I am a systems geek and love to help people connect the dots in their businesses. I'm also a community builder. I've run a networking group for almost nine years and I also launched a women's business conference and community called At the Helm in 2011.
There is an incorrect theory that natural hair is unprofessional. How do you find people in business react to your natural hair?
I guess I mostly deal with awesome people because, as far as I know, it hasn't caused any problems. I had a job when I went natural and though you can see on people's faces the initial shock (which happens when anyone changes a look), everyone seemed fine and most people at the small company actually made a comment - and every comment was positive. As for my business, I work with clients one-on-one for the most part. If they haven't met me in person, most have seen me on my website or online, so its not a surprise what I look like. So, I figure anyone that's bothered by it just won't bother reaching out to me - and that's perfectly fine. A client that's bothered by my natural hair is probably not a client I should be working with.
I do live in a large, progressive and liberal city (at least compared to others). We've got every kind of person looking every kind of way here in Los Angeles. I think that helps.
Where can we connect with you online?
The best place to go is www.alaiawilliams.com - it will link you to all my work, podcasts and social media accounts. My favorite platforms are Twitter - http://twitter.com/alaiawilliams and Periscope - http://periscope.tv/alaiawilliams