I sooooooo couldn't wait to upload this. OHMIGOSH! OHMIGOSH! IT'S DANIÈLE! I GOT TO INTERVIEW HER! Yay! Yay! Yay! Yay! :) When she agreed to do the interview, I literally squealed. Oh....my.....gosh! I was so happy and excited. Anyways, Sammy, Sammy, calm down, it's just Danièle Watts. OHMIGOSH! IT'S DANIÈLE WATTS!!!!
How long have you been natural?
I started growing my relaxed hair out by getting braids 4 years ago..
When did you get your first relaxer and why'd you get it?
When I was around 4 or 5 my parents got a divorce and my mom relaxed my hair so it would be easier to take care of.
What made you decide to go natural?
I was tired of feeling like I needed someone else to make me feel beautiful. I was tired of having to pay someone else to make my hair socially acceptable.
How did your family and friends react to the idea of you going natural?
Overall my black friends thought I moved to California and got all crazy hippie on them, and those who weren’t black just thought it was cool that they got to see my natural hair. My mom actually told me she didn't think I had curly hair "like the mixed girls in the magazines"... I almost believed her until I realized that all I needed was the right products to help define my curls.
What's your hair journey been like so far?
The biggest thing that I’ve learned is that all the external transformation was actually more reflecting an internal strength and a deep internal growth. The days that I felt insecure and ugly because my hair wasn’t “done” were the days that I also wasn’t remembering to breathe and allow my thoughts to flow freely. The braids were incredibly helpful during my transition because wasn’t worried about keeping my hair straight. I began doing more yoga and sweating my hair up regularly in a way I had never felt free to do before, but also putting my attention on balancing my body mind and spirit when before it had been more obsessed with the external. As I broke out of trying to please people externally, my whole self-concept opened up. I stopped being just a “black girl” and began to feel more like a free being—unbound by other’s expectations of how my hair “should” be. I went through a phase where I refused to comb it at all because I didn’t want to give myself a panic attack and start obsessing again. I found myself attracting new interesting friends who didn’t expect me to, or care whether or not I combed my hair. Finally I’m at a point where I can enjoy presenting myself however I want from moment to moment. If I work an acting job where the character wears her hair straight, I wear my hair straight and I don’t judge it. Its much more manageable considering that I’d much rather be creating fun experiences than worrying about my hair… The people who really love me, and not some idea of me with my hair looking a certain way are those who I continue to collaborate with… So I don’t have to worry about living up the expectations of fake friends.
What has your hair journey taught you?
The big surprise initially that it was the non-black folk who seemed to accept my hair the most. And then I realized that they weren’t bogged down with all those oppressive thoughts that many black folk have had to deal with their entire lives… Ie. Making our hair look more presentable.. Ie more mainstream so we can more easily assimilate into mainstream society. I did a lot a research and learned about the backlash to the black power movement in the 70s … people didn’t want to be thought of as revolutionary because the US government was cracking down on groups like the black panther party who carried guns, supported equal rights and wore big afros… because of this, the stigma of “revolutionary” became a threat and a fro could keep a woman from getting a job, so black women got perms... After I had braids for a while, I still didn’t feel quite confident wearing my hair natural and I had a motto: I’d rather get a weave than a “day job” … because I was frustrated that I wasn’t working and I thought it was because of my hair and sure enough.. I got the weave and booked like 5 jobs the following month… Even now I consider going back to a weave so I can work more but then I am reminded that the jobs that I really want are the one's where I'm working with a team of artists that trust that I am a powerful versatile actor and don't just judge me by my hair (which can change!) That's one of the greatest things my hair journey has taught me is that my hair is powerful, versatile, and can change whenever I want! I'm not desperate to fit in. I'm no longer afraid of missing out. That's the biggest relief: NO MORE FOMO.
People believe that dark skinned ladies should have their hair relaxed straight. My own brother has told me to get a relaxer one too many times. What are your thought about the idea that it's a must for dark skinned ladies to get relaxers?
My thought is that it’s just an idea... Ideas can be very powerful. They can feel like they have power over us. For me, this realization is a huge key to my freedom and my ability to excel creatively: ideas only have power over me if I agree to them. My feeling of freedom comes from knowing that I am the one who decides to agree to someone else’s ideas or not. I know when an idea is for me because it brings me joy. ..
…Some people feel good about themselves when they tell others what to do...its like a surge that the ego gets when it feels like "i'm right and you're wrong" ....often times it comes from an impulse to help. Its the same kind of thinking that led European churches to colonize brown people all over the world.... This idea that they were helping to save them from their "kinky" existence.... My mom says she relaxed my hair because I would cry every time she tried to comb it, but on a deeper level it think because she didn't want me to have to suffer the embarrassment of being different. I don’t think my mom was wrong to do that, but now that I’ve had enough experience in making my own choices, I have the wisdom to know that the ideas I agree to are my own decision.
When acting, I know there's the whole hair and make-up thing before you get on set. During the hair process, what do you usually do?
All of the above. It changes with every set, every character is different. I’ve worn weaves before and if it comes down to it, I don’t mind doing my own hair. I like the idea that every choice I make with my physical appearance is done in the spirit of play. So I don’t take it too seriously and usually trust the hair dressers to share with me their vision of what they’re excited about doing with the role. On really big sets, like Django Unchained there are so many energies to dance with… I enjoyed surrendering to the process and allowing the hair stylist to choose. Other times, if people don’t have specific ideas, or aren’t comfortable doing natural hair I like to come in with my own ideas that protect my natural curl.
How do you avoid hair damage (breakage, heat damage....)?
When I was straightening my hair I used to be really obsessed and disappointed when I would get split ends and breakage. Now, I enjoy my curly hair whether it gets a little damaged or not…. And when I notice its damaged, I like to treat it with something simple like washing it really good with a nice sulfate free conditioning cleanser and twisting it up overnight with olive oil like an overnight hot oil treatment…Sometimes a little damage is a great catalyst to get creative and try out a new hairstyle that doesn’t put so much strain on the hair….
What products do you use on your hair?
When I first started wearing my hair natural I swore by mixed chicks leave in conditioner and diva curl no poo conditioning cleanser. Those two together got my curls really defined and nice. Now, I’m experimenting with more natural products like pure olive oil and shea butter.
What's your hair regimen like
I started growing my hair natural so I didn’t have to abide by a regime.. The regime was keeping me down. Now, I do what I want with my hair… when I want. It changes every day.
What's your go-to hairstyle on days you're not acting?
When I was a little girl I dreamed about being as free as the white girls who didn’t have to have a set “hairstyle” and were allowed to go swimming everyday without getting in trouble for getting their hair wet… That being said, when I go to auditions, I usually just pull it up to the top of my head with a scarf, and when I’m just hanging out I usually just set it free. I sometimes still feel the pressure that I’m expected to create a hairstyle, or that I would be prettier if I “did something with it”….but when I’m brave enough to just let it be as it is I usually feel most free and happy about it… and I don’t give myself a headache from tying the scarf too tight lol J
There are times when people just reach out and grab my hair or suddenly gasp and are like, "is that your real hair?" or "is that hair all yours?" You're famous, like loads of people know you so I'm sure many people want to meet you someday (I know I do) and on top of all that, you have really beautiful hair, do people approach you and just grab your hair or do they like stare at your hair while talking to you?
Haha you have great hair I’m not surprised! Thank you for liking my hair! Yes people do, and its usually on the days I haven’t combed it in a couple of days and I’m feeling a little insecure about whether it looks good. After years of feeling insecure about my hair or trying really hard to have “good hair” I’m continually surprised and delighted that people of all colors seem to appreciate what my hair does naturally… even when I don’t comb it.(lol)
Do you have anything you'll like to say to the little kids with a head full of curly hair and to preteens, teens, and adults who are considering going natural, are transitioning or are already natural?
One of the hardest things about growing at any age is trusting oneself … learning to listen to our own inner voice... and ultimately trusting that the inner beauty will translate into looking and feeling beautiful. If my journey to loving my natural hair can be any inspiration hopefully it comes from the idea that my hair is just a reflection of an inner journey… my inner beauty is enough for me to be happy and achieve my dreams in the world. Before I had a regular part on a TV show (WEEDS) wearing my hair natural, I was still unsure of my own natural beauty. It took someone validating me from the outside for me to realize that all that inner work I was doing (yoga, meditation etc) was translating to outer beauty and the achievement of my dreams. I’m still on that journey of trusting myself, but for me the first step was simply embracing my own vision about how I wanted my hair to be and following through with that idea… which made me appreciate myself as my own creation….ever in-process… Loving the journey, not just the destination ;)
You can find Danièle on:
1. YOUR TV (turn it on and go watch her! :) )