Hi everyone! Audrey Sivasothy, author of The Science of Black Hair was kind enough to grant me an interview. As I’m sure most of you know, her book is all the buzz in the natural hair community and is selling in great numbers. Having wrote a thesis on natural Black hair, I have read my share of popular and academic literature on Black hair, but I think that this book is truly unique. I will do a review of the book in the near future. It gets better…Audrey has agreed to sponsor a giveaway!!! Yes, two people have the chance to receive a free copy of The Science of Black Hair!!! Tomorrow, I will post more information about the giveaway. ~Eve
Can you please share what sparked your interest in Black hair and perhaps tell us a little about your hair “journey”?
My fascination with black hair was sparked early on by the fact that I had very little of it for much of my life. My hair had always been an issue. I grew up in a family of women who had gorgeous, full heads of hair—effortlessly— and I could barely make a ponytail. I was still under the impression that black hair was like some magical lottery, and just like the real lottery, there were many more losers than winners. There was absolutely no question which side I was on in the struggle. It had been such a losing battle for me that I had given up entirely on trying to improve my hair’s condition.
When I gave birth to my daughter in 2004, I realized that I would need to get my house in order so to speak.I could not stand the thought of her having to go through what I had been through with my hair.I started reading and researching as much as I could about black hair care but found very little literature on the subject.I found a few hair care forums and practically lived there for 18 months, soaking in everything and also sharing the things I learned with everyone.During that time, my hair really began to take off and improve in thickness and in length.My hair grew from a thin, breaking barely shoulder-length to a thick, lush inch or two above waist length at its longest point.Although my hair was relaxed and color-treated, it was thriving.
But as someone who was interested in healthy hair care, I had no illusions about the fact that I was growing my hair with one hand tied behind my back. I wanted to see what would happen if I maximized or optimized my hair care regimen and eliminated the obvious barriers to healthier hair care—relaxing and coloring.
Also, as a writer— I knew that experiencing my natural hair firsthand would greatly inform my writing of The Science of Black Hair because there is nothing like writing from the vantage point of a lived experience. So, I started transitioning in February 2010. I did my “big chop in December 2010 and haven’t looked back.
Can you share with us a little information about the process of writing The Science of Black Hair. (how long it took to write, individuals you consulted and/or interviewed for the book, and challenges and rewards along the way.
As someone who is deeply interested in understanding the “hows and whys” of hair care, I found myself consulting and venturing into the published scientific literature on hair care more and more. Unfortunately, I was both surprised and disappointed at how very little information was available on our hair specifically. Black hair had not been given much treatment or coverage in the professional literature.I pieced together what I could find, and started writing about the information I was learning through research and acquiring from experience. I began sharing this information in a series of hair care articles on Associated Content, and they were well received by the healthy hair care community.
Helping women better understand hair care and working with them to put together healthy hair care regimens came second nature to me as a Health Scientist. Although hair care is not a typical “health care” problem, it does affect quality of life. Over the years, I compiled my articles and other writings and expanded them into what would later become The Science of Black Hair.
All in all, The Science of Black Hair took about six years to bring from concept to print. Quite a few books have been released on black hair care since I started writing The Science of Black Hair— and this is wonderful! However, I wanted this book to be an attempt at something a little different. The goal was to create a book that could pick up where traditional hair science books left off and provide a backdrop for the current hair care guides on the market. This book stands apart from others on the market in that regard.
This particular book provides an interesting new angle and a unique analysis of our hair complete with photographs in the tradition of a science text to engage the reader. I’ve interviewed and spoken with cosmetologists, hair connoisseurs, and scientists to bring all perspectives to the table. I’ve added interviews from people all over the hair care spectrum to add a bit of life and reality to the technical information.
Regarding the challenges and rewards, this book has been a much needed lesson in perseverance for me. During the course of writing this book, I gave up many times. In fact, I shelved the book in 2007 for almost 3 years. During that time, I lived life a little, completed school and started thinking about transitioning. One of the greatest rewards I encountered during this hiatus was the shift in focus it allowed in my personal life and in my hair life. If I had not transitioned during the writing of this book, it would not be the all inclusive resource that it is today.
In your book, you discuss both natural and relaxed Black hair, are you partial to either one? Please explain.
For my personal head of hair, I am partial to natural hair.I believe that black hair (and any hair) always thrives best in its natural state.
But yes—The Science of Black Hair provides information that is relevant and accessible to women at all points along the black hair care continuum: natural, relaxed and transitioning. We all (relaxed or natural) have to understand the basic structure and architecture of our hair and work to ensure that we are following the hair care principles that bring out the best in our hair— no matter how we choose to wear it. So in this regard, The Science of Black Hair is not partial. I believe it treats both hair situations even-handedly.
What are your thoughts on the state of Black hair in American society? Abroad?
I am concerned about the state of black hair in the US and abroad. Our lack of information about our hair care has created generations of black men and women who are not equipped to care for their hair in any state. Our relaxed hair is breaking and thinning, and our natural hair is often doing the same. In many circles, wearing black hair in its natural state is not even a consideration. What has prevailed in the midst of this, however, is the proliferation of weaves, not as temporary changes in expression or tools for protective styling— but as necessity pieces for hair so damaged that it cannot be worn comfortably on its own. These are all things that I hope will change in the future.
Despite those issues, the picture has brightened in recent years. I am happy to see the growth of healthy hair care blogs, websites, products and books. This is a step in the right direction.
Still, I think much more education about our hair is needed all around from cosmetology schools to consumers. We tend to create our own divisions in hair care (i.e. stylists versus clients, those who prefer one method over another, natural vs. relaxed hair) instead of reaching out and teaching one another in love. I hope The Science of Black Hair sparks discussion and provides some insight for those who desire to know more about the possibilities of our amazing hair.
What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
Although the book is called The Science of Black Hair, I hope that readers understand that while some things are written in stone— very much about our hair care is still flexible and left open to our individual experiences and tastes. Science is not as complete, stagnant or staunch as we tend to make it— it is ever changing and evolving as we probe deeper. This book attempts to show readers how they can listen to their hair to troubleshoot and solve problems that arise based on what we do know. I hope that The Science of Black Hair is just as good a reference text for those who are experienced in black hair care as it is for those who are just starting out. Furthermore, I hope that readers see that there can be, and are often many paths to one hair goal.
Ultimately, I hope that the book gives hope to those searching for answers and better solutions for their hair care. If even one reader develops a greater appreciation for her hair and how she chooses to wear it— I’d say it has been “Mission Accomplished.”