In early 2018 we had the pleasure of interviewing the multitalented Jamelia. An established singer and actress and mother of 3 Jamelia took the time to speak to us candidly about her natural hair journey and her experience of having natural hair in the entertainment industry.
We really hope you enjoy this interview with Jamelia as much as we did.
Detangled Hair: You’ve been in the music industry since you were 15, you’ve branched into acting and presenting as well as lots of other things; what changes have you seen in terms of ladies wearing their hair natural and general attitudes towards natural hair in the entertainment industry?
Jamelia: I mean in all honesty, I’d say for the first 15 years of my career I never speared a second thought when it came to natural hair. I also worked within an environment where everyone had their hair either relaxed or were wearing weaves and it was just very normal. When I turned 30, that’s when I decided to go natural and it was purely a personal reason, at that point I just wanted to stop relaxing my hair. And I tried [to have natural hair] and to be honest I just didn’t feel as if the environment that I was in allowed me to be in the public eye and have natural hair. And when I say that nobody knew how to do natural hair, I didn’t know what to do with natural hair.
So a couple of times, I stopped relaxing my hair for either a period of one year or 2 years and what happened was that they’d be constantly… and myself actually, that they’d be constantly straightening my natural hair to blend in with the weave and so you know it just didn’t make any sense to me. It didn’t make any sense because I’m always straightening it anyway, so I might as well keep it straight. So I wouldn’t say that there was a negative attitude towards natural hair I just think it’s one of ignorance because it has never been something that people were encourage to be familiar with.
Natural hair particularly afro and my texture hair which I think you call it kinky hair, at the time, there was just no place for it. And so personally for me it wasn’t until about 3 years ago now, my daughter was turning 14 and she said ‘oh I’ve got 2 more years and [then] I can relax my hair’.
Detangled Hair: Wow.
Jamelia: I’ve always been a real champion within the home with my children, I’ve always been encouraging them and telling them that their hair was beautiful and showing them how beautiful it was and always making sure they had their hair in lovely hair styles, because I never wanted them to relax their hair. I got my hair relaxed when I was 10 and I thought that that was a really big mistake that was made. And I just wanted my daughters to love their hair.
So I didn’t understand at the time, I just thought why would you want to relax your hair when your hair is so beautiful, but she was like ‘yeah, I know it’s beautiful [but] when you’re an adult you have to perm your hair. And so to me it was kind of the idea that I had given her this message despite telling her that her hair was beautiful, I wasn’t showing her that her was beautiful and also the women around me, you know we all had either weaves or relaxed hair and it was kind of… she challenge me, she said no one on TV had hair like me, you know every adult woman had relaxed hair and so that’s what you do.
And I’m just like ‘wow’. And I think I was very embarrassed, because you know I always strive to be a good role model and a good example to my daughters but not just my daughters, but anyone’s daughter and so I was embarrassed especially at that time I was on T.V. like 3 times a week and you know she said there was no black women on T.V. with hair like me and I was one of the black women on T.V. You know what I mean? And you know what? I stopped it because it was something that I really wanted to do you know but I guess that I didn’t have a valid reason to do it before hand, so I always had a reason to go back to relaxing. And this was just like you know I just thought wow and again, if you know I can’t be an example to you my daughter, I also can’t be an example to anybody else or anybody else who wants to go on [a] natural hair [journey].
And despite the difficulty that I may have had in the industry, I just thought well I’m just going to have to do it and I’m going to have to educate myself on how to look after my hair and how to, you know encourage growth and stuff like that and that’s what I’ve done since that day. So about two days later, I went to my cousins house and I said just cut my hair off and she went ‘what’? And I was like yes, cut it off and she was like ‘are you sure’ and I was like yes. And then the next day she cut her hair off as well and then we both did the same thing at the same time and you know I was telling the story and she’s got a daughter as well. And yeah, now I think [about it] all of my friends are natural and I’m just thinking about it, like yeah everyone of my friends are now a natural and I’m not saying it’s because of me but I think you know it would be very important I think to have a support system and to have people to communicate with you when you’re doing a big chop.
I mean mine was a big chop, like I had about two inches of hair. When I went on holiday a couple of days later I put some braids in and it. I learned how to crochet my hair, I learned how to then canerow my own hair because I didn’t need to know how to canerow my own hair [before]. I knew how to canerow my daughters hairs but then to then canerow my own hair, I had to do it differently, had to put braids in and I did a lot of protective styling, I’ll say for at least a year. And then I remember it was, it was one day on Loose Women I decided to rock my afro. And then I was really worried like I was thinking oh my gosh, what’s everyone going to think, what are they going to say?
But also I felt like I have to do it because if I don’t do it… I’m going to… because before that point I was still wearing weaves and you know not that there’s anything wrong with weaves but I wouldn’t wear my natural hair out at all, I mean I found it was very hard for me to get used to having natural hair and particularly when I didn’t know exactly how to look after it and how to love it as well. And really it was definitely a difficult time at the beginning and then you know when I did, you know oh my gosh, the response I got from these people I swear I was literally… after the show in my dressing room crying because people were just so positive, so encouraging and it really touched me and I just knew I did the right thing by my daughter.
Whenever I was at home, I would never have protective styles and I would be wearing weaves or anything like that. I would say to my girls my head is just like yours, but when I’m outside or when I’m at work, it was a very different experience. I don’t know but that saying that it takes a village, it’s like you know people don’t understand how much and they formed this community that helped me at that time and I found that they are brave.
And I’m just literally trying to do [different] styles or stuff like that, I mean sometimes I’m not quite at peace or something like that but I love my hair. You know I mean, I don’t think I would have loved it, if I didn’t have other people loving it. And at that time as well, [well] it was a little bit after that, that I was on strictly (Strictly come dancing on the BBC) that every week they would tell me that I had to strengthen hair.
Detangled Hair: Really?
Jamelia: And I remember by that point I had been through so much of a journey personally to get to a state where I’m loving MY OWN hair, then to be in an environment with someone was as… I don’t know, you know it was downright rude and you know for you to tell me to change something about myself, something natural about myself, you know it’s not like I had green hair or even if I did have green hair. It’s not your business how I wear my hair and it became like you know a personal fight for me. You know every week they would say to me that you know we need to keep straighten your hair, it doesn’t look elegant, you know we can’t have afro, like this a ball room…
Even one time it was then [said] in front of my daughters as well and I remember just crying my eyes out, burststing into tears and I just said to them, I said you’re not only offending me, you’re not only affecting my children, I said you’re also offending every other little black girl out there that might see me on the show and I said you know one thing you don’t understand because you don’t have hair like me but you know… I kind of have to explain to them, this is not political statement, this is just my hair and I think when this lady wanted to have the conversation in front of my daughters that’s when I think I became very angry about it because I thought you are willing to have the conversation, to say this things about me and my daughters have never straightened their hair.
So [basically] what are you saying to them and you know I just couldn’t allow that, I didn’t. I was quite insistent when I was on the show that you know they said to me, we’ve got no one to do your hair, so I had to do it myself and stuff like that and that was like cool.
Detangled Hair: So they didn’t offer to get anybody to do your hair?
Jamelia: Nope, because they had like a huge room which had like a team of I would say about 20 people who were doing hair and makeup and if you haven’t got a weave they don’t know what to do, they don’t have a clue and when I say a weave, I don’t mean weave that matches the texture of your hair. It’s like a straight weave. And I would also do [my] makeup as well, they didn’t have anyone that could do black make up which was again…
Detangled Hair: They didn’t have anyone to do black make up?
Jamelia: They had nobody. So I would do my own hair and makeup in my dressing room and then I’d have to come downstairs to the makeup chair and I will pretend that I was getting my hair done, by them. And actually the show won a Bafta that year for best hair and makeup on a T.V. show. I keep telling people that I have won a Bafta for makeup for 10 weeks and then on the day that I left Strictly and I [was] wearing a weave, I was so pissed because they got their way in the end. The one [night] that is probably going to get the most press for them that I’m wearing a wig and I’m just like a little bit upset about that.
Detangled Hair: You go on various shows and do a lot of different media work, is there ever anybody who can do your hair and your makeup or is it still a struggle?
Jamelia: Absolutely not. Like makeup is something that just annoys me, because you get the makeup artist is just watching you like oh wow, how do you do that and then they kind of learn things, but hair is just an absolute [no], just not one person has had to do a natural hair and you have to get in a natural hair specialist, I used to call Dion Smith because she’s brilliant, she’s a black lady.
The thing is it has got nothing to do with colour and it has got everything to do with education and as far as I’m concerned, there’s a form of discrimination because if I’m not allowed to sit down in your chair then you know it also means I’m not going to look good if I can’t do you know styles in my hair if I’ve got to do you know, a dead hair style or whatever, do you know what I mean?
And then on the other hand, I think it’s fantastic for people with hair like me because it forces us to be self-sufficient. I think that’s what I’m enjoying at the moment is how many people are becoming creative and starting businesses, then also we’re looking after each other. You know one of my main aims moving forward is to help other woman like myself, women with hair like mine, you know and to kind of be a part of the empowerment of women movement you know and I think we have been complaining and having these stupid situation for far too long and every time you complain exactly you know people want to invalidate you and say you’re being racist but you know what if me talking about my situation, if I offend you, I mean it’s beyond ridiculous.
So I feel like we have to stop putting our energy into that and putting our energy into positives, like what can we do, because [the] thing is you can’t change the minds of these people, I mean I was on Strictly in 2015, I think 2016/2017, all of the black women had straight weaves which I’m sure were requested. And you know now even one of the dancers on the show, she would be in my dressing room in tears, she was just like you know why can’t I have my own hair but at the same time, you know that’s her job so I understand why she couldn’t complain. And the thing is as well, mine is in the entertainment fields but there are many field where people feel OK to police black women’s hair and I’m not OK with that. you know what I mean?
And for me it’s about…. It’s ridiculous that I even have to say this but it’s about normalizing it, I mean and you know there’s nothing wrong with natural hair and I don’t have a problem if somebody wants to wear a weave or whatever but a lot of people are wearing weaves because they can’t be catered for when they have natural hair.
You know a lot of people, get their hair done and want to get their hair done. Like well you can’t get it done and it’s like if it’s not natural, then there’s very few places especially in the entertainment industry with people who are capable of giving you a different style.
Detangled Hair: I think what you’re saying is there is a really big community that is growing and that is supporting natural hair and I think that’s really positive.
Jamelia: And I think that’s where we need to concentrate our energy. I believe that we are… the community that we are building and that continues to be built and thrive is just so beautiful and I feel so honoured to also be a part of it and so again I want to help that flourish.
You know I mean I was recently asked to be on a show and they wanted me to talk about you know Meghan Markel and why she should wear her hair curly and I was like what? WHO ARE YOU to tell somebody how they should wear their hair? And I just said I’m not going to go on T.V. and diminish another black women, I’m not going to do it. You know I mean we have enough against us in the media, I’m not going to be a part of that. You know… and I encourage and employ other people to go down the same root. Really, I mean like a couple of weeks ago, they had these two ladies to talk about colourism and the lady pulled off her wig.
Detangled Hair: Yes we saw that interview.
Jamelia: And as entertaining as it might have been, I was so saddened by it because I just thought gosh again you know it’s two black women fighting each other, we don’t need to be fighting each other.
Detangled Hair: Definitely not.
Jamelia: I mean we have enough threats and difficulties and challenges out there, and the thing is I did feel that you know A.J. she really tried to be respectful to these women but you know and I just thought this [is] so sad you know, and then the fact that they got shamed so much, but we need to stop even being put in that situation in the first place. I was actually asked to do that chat about colourism and I just thought…. And I kept asking them who else was going to be on the show because obviously they need to have opposing views.
You know I was just going to say well you know colourism is a thing and it concerns me as to why you as white people want to… you know to me it’s like you’re using this colourism conversation as entertainment rather than you know being a part of the solution or helping and you know I mean I feel that we have to be much smarter, we have to be willing to say no to money. You know they kept offering the money and I was like no, I’m not coming on to do that and you know staying with the Meghan Markel thing, I was just [like] l’m not, you know I am not being a part of that. I want to be a part of the good and the encouraging and the empowering and that’s what I want to be a part of because you know I’d feel that we’ve got a great sense of community and you know it’s fantastic.
Detangled Hair: Okay, brilliant. I was just going to ask because I know you said your daughter was coming to a point where she was excited about relaxing her hair and now that she’s seen all the changes that you’ve done and that you speak about, how does she feel about her hair now?
Jamelia: So she’s going to be 17 on the 18th of March and she has zero desire to relax her hair, she loves her hair. I mean I can’t describe to you the mission I went on because I just thought as much as we might need to say to our daughters you are beautiful, you are… are we displaying that self-love and self appreciation and you know you can be confident but we sure as parent have to display it, especially because we live in an environment and a society that doesn’t display it.
So you know along side me being open, proud and you know loving my natural hair and you know we’ve gone on a Journey together and doing styles and stuff like that, I’ve also kind of… and she’s recently got social media and stuff like that, so I have introduced her to people that she should follow you know and certain pages and it was in the pages that she follows like Melanie Queen, black girls etc
Sometimes it makes me want to cry but am just like you know… because for me it was so important that she understand how beautiful and amazing and worthy she is you know in a world that doesn’t always… especially mainstream always display that and I think that’s a fantastic thing that we’ve got with social media now that you can kind of curate your own environment and you know I mean we don’t even watch T.V… like T.V. You know, we watch to laugh at people to be honest but you know her sense of self and her self esteem is just high and I want it to be kept that way and you know when she goes out into the world, you know she’d be 18 next year, so when she goes out into the world, I want her to have a really strong sense of self that it can’t be bettered by outside influences.
Detangled Hair: Yes definitely. So I guess you’re saying that in terms of tips for parents who have young ones, what I’m getting from you is we have to tell our children definitely about how beautiful they are but have to show them. So it is in the example as well, it’s not enough just to say your hair is beautiful.
Jamelia: Yes definitely.
Detangled Hair: You need to show them that it’s beautiful by embracing it yourself.
Jamelia: Absolutely. And I guess that’s the overriding theme then. I was going to say like what tips would you give to parents in terms of young children coming up. So particularly when it comes to natural hair, sure I would say as black people our hair is our crown. It’s something that we put a lot into and I think we should encourage our children. For me every single day that I do my daughters hair, I tell them their hair is beautiful and it might seem like a very simple thing but it stuck with them and they believe it.
And even my new born is coming to eleven weeks now and evertyime I brush her hair I say oh, haven’t you got beautiful hair, like I start it from day one, and I think also as well as making their hair care a good experience rather than you know [saying things like] your hair is so thick or whatever, say it looks lovely and oh, doesn’t it feel soft. And making it an event, you know an enjoyable event and I think that’s really important so that the relationship that they have with their hair is a positive one.
I remember when I got my 1st relaxer and it was… you know my hair was too tough to deal with and you know it was no fault of my mom’s but these are the messages that was passed unto her, you know my mom’s got very different hair to me, I don’t want to exaggerate but you can say curly hair. And I don’t know what the correct term is. But she’s got basically very loose curls, my mom’s got jet black really loose curls and I’ve got my kinky kind of hair and the thing is yes I love it but before the age of ten, I was told it was so tough.
Every time I told it was so tough every time I was getting it cainrow and when you can relax, it was that kind of a relief and [feeling that] now I’ve got nice hair. I had to turn that on its head like at no point do I tell my daughters or make them think that their hair is difficult to deal with and now at 12 and 16 nearly 17, you know they have their own little hair regime, they know how to make it look how they want, they love their hair and they love experimenting with it.
I think it’s all about kind of cultivating a positive relationship and then when it comes to you know outside influence, I think particularly with black people you have to actively seek out good representation, I think you know allowing your children to be aware of great black people whether in history or currently, and I think it’s very important to make them aware. I mean we watch Wimbledon anyway and I know Serena is coming up and she’s going to smash it.
And I’m just reading… It’s like if I read a story about someone great who look like them, it’s very important… Black panther, I haven’t been able to see [it] yet but I’ll make sure that both of them have gone to see it and you know it’s just really enforcing those positive influences and then you know I also make sure the people that around me are the positive people who are ambitious, just doing great things. It’s just that, I think it’s a constant exposure to greatness and making an effort to do that. It’s not hard, most of us do that on Instagram and Twitter you know and if you look for it, you can find it, if you look for great empowering stories, you can find it.
For me now, for my children, it’s just normal to have these messages constantly re-enforced, even though I’ve got pictures around my house and they also include people like Barrack Obama, and Michelle.
Detangled Hair: Have you attended any hair events in the U.K? If you have what did you think of them or what improvements can be made?
Jamelia: In all honesty I haven’t attended any, I live in Birmingham and most event are outside of Birmingham, and with the pregnancy and all of that, like I haven’t. It’s definitely my intention to see it a lot more involved in the natural hair community. I’m actually in the process of developing a hair care range and yeah. It’s purely because like I said, it is something I want to immerse myself in and then not only that, I kind of want to take up the role of an educator as well. I feel like the response I get when I put up that little hair, and stuff, I’ve made my own product since I’ve been natural.
And when people asked me ‘what do you use in your hair’, I kind of feel a little bit [funny] because I just make it in my kitchen. You know, it doesn’t help so I definitely want to immerse myself more in that world and then yeah I think the improvement could be more events in Birmingham.
Detangled Hair: So what sort of things would you like to see at hair care events?
Jamelia: You know I think there needs to be a change in the education, one of the things that I find whenever I’m online is that when I put a picture of my hair on, I get so many dms messages of people asking how do you do this style or can you put up a video about this. You know I’m about to re-launch my Youtube channel because I do love community as well and I mean I think education is a huge part, like the parents have been conditioned into thinking our hair is [something to] deal with but then we’re raising natural children and it has taken me quite a while to educate myself and be confident as a natural hair educate and so I definitely feel that for that you should involve the children.
And I also think you should involve men as well, I think men should learn how to do their daughters hair and also men play a huge part in women accepting their hair and I couldn’t be with somebody who didn’t love my natural hair and you know my husband loves it and he’s very interested in it.
I think you know as a community and a family unit, we all need to be educated and empowered to be with it. You know if you have been relaxed and constantly wear a weave, it is a huge transition to make but it can be made and it can be made successfully.
Detangled Hair: So what advice would you give to people who are maybe wanting to maybe start a blog or focus their instagram pages a bit more, especially for the younger generation?
Jamelia: From my perspective, I would say the first and most important thing is to start and don’t worry about focusing your content much because I think once you start blogging or making videos, you’ll find what people respond to. And how people like best about you as well and I had been thinking about doing my You Tube channel for years and then one day I was just like look… and every time I do a video I will be like nah, because I don’t like the way my voice sounds.
And in then I ended up not doing it and eventually I was just like look just put a video out and then I put a video on a lot of different thing and yeah I have notice that there’s certain areas that people respond to most which helps you to focus and then you gradually allow yourself to hone on your talent and your expertise, and kind of prioritize those things. But get started, that’s definitely my first piece of advice.
When it comes to blogging and social media, you can start with an Instagram account, it doesn’t need to be a full on blog with a website and all of that. And you know, even when it comes to videos, you can film videos on your phone, like don’t get caught up in what is the necessary equipment and having light, natural lighting is always the best anyway. So you know I think get started and do your research. Take inspiration from other people that you admire as well, I think that’s quite important, don’t copy anyone but if there’s an aspect that you like about someone, take a little content, I don’t think that there’s any harm, I mean the whole concept of social media is sharing and to me that’s what sharing means.
Detangled Hair: Can you share a hair care tip with us? Do you have a fool proof tactic that you know never fails, something that you always do that is good for your hair that you could share?
Jamelia: One of the biggest things I think that contributed to the health and the length of my hair is definitely water, on my hair, inside my body, I drink water, I wash my hair. I get my hair wet probably every other day and not necessarily washing it but just duck in the shower…
Like especially black girls, sometimes you’re like I can’t get my hair wet and live like that for years, now it’s kind of like I can’t get enough of getting my hair wet and so yes, even if it’s just damp, I wash my hair say at least twice a week and get it damp at least four or five times a weak and drink lots of water. So I drink at least 2 litres a day…
Detangled Hair: Wow.
Jamelia: Yeah, it sounds like a lot. It definitely is a lot, but the benefits [are grat] and then you definitely get used to it. Just make sure you’re near a toilet for the next couple of weeks. But the benefits are amazing and now I’m addicted to water.
Detangled Hair: Do you think that helps your skin as well, I looked at pictures of you when you were younger versus now and there’s not really any difference.
Jamelia: Yeah, well as a performer you drink lots of water anyway and I think I’ve just gotten into that, my mom made us drink water when I was younger, but you know we mainly drank water and yeah definitely I think it’s a huge contribution and yes, just getting yourself into it and also getting children into it while younger is great. You know it might seem boring, but it’s really good for your body and yeah it definitely been a huge factor with my skin definitely.
Detangled Hair: Okay, perfect. And my question is I know you’ve mentioned that you are re-launching your You-Tube channel and you’re updating your website and you’re hoping to bring out some products as well. Is there anything else that we can expect to see from you in the future that you are willing to share now?
Jamelia: I am literally… my aim is to just literally infiltrate every single part of the industry. I’m writing a book, I’m writing a film, I’m getting ready to do some more music.
You know I just feel I’m in a very fortunate position and I want people to see that you know a black women can’t be sold and we’re lucrative in whatever, it is very important that I allow myself to be seen, you know I think that’s very important and want to encourage other black women to do the same, I want to encourage everyone to do the same but particular black women because I just feel [we] don’t do and don’t go forward because we believe that there’s no place for us but I think 2018 needs to be the year that we insist on taking up space and we make our own place. Do you know what I mean? And so I’ve got a lot of plans, last year I was out of it with my pregnancy, I wasn’t able to be anything, so this year I’m back.
Detangled Hair: Jamelia I want to thank you so much for your time, I really appreciate it, honestly it has been very refreshing in terms of listening, you have really encouraged me.
Please make sure you follow Jamelia on all her social media channels, we think she is awesome!