ALLURE: Before stay-at-home orders, did you get your hair done professionally? If so, how often and what was your go-to style?
ASIA LEEDS: I would get my hair done semi-regularly — maybe once every two months. My go-to styles done by professionals are sew-in weaves and braids. I did style my own hair in between, usually twist-outs, buns, and more recently, crochet braids. I enjoy caring for and styling my own hair. I started wearing my natural hair full time in 2003 while living in Costa Rica. Doing a "big chop" in Latin America as Black woman is a story in and of itself! I had to teach myself [how to care for my hair] and so I did.
ALLURE: Have tutorials on YouTube been helpful to you at all as you attempt styles?
AL: Before I did my own "quarantine" braids captured in my tweet, I did some research. I searched through YouTube videos for jumbo braids, because I figured bigger braids would take less time to do. I watched the videos (including this one) a few times to capture the technique before braiding. I have tried and failed to do my own braids and twists before so I was a little bit intimidated by it. I chose a free day with no commitments so that I would not be rushed. It took me about six hours with breaks to finish the braids. The parting was the hardest part!
ALLURE: Do you have to be on video calls for work/school? If so, do you feel pressure to look "presentable" on-screen?
AL: I do have to be on Zoom calls for work and that was part of my inspiration for braiding my hair — I wanted to look nice on camera. I show up to campus quite fashion-forward (I give looks, honey!) so although I did not dress up for Zoom classes, I still wanted my hair to look nice. I'm less experimental and more practical and protective right now with my hairstyle choices.
ALLURE: What do you most enjoy about doing your own hair? Do you feel more connected to your Blackness?
AL: Braiding my own hair does make me feel more connected to my Blackness. I feel beautiful and powerful in braids and when I am wearing them, I feel very connected to my African heritage. In normal circumstances, I get my braids done in a salon with French- and Wolof-speaking West African braiders, so I definitely miss that diasporic experience.