Tagged with "you"
Natural hair offers a new point of view
Category: Voices of Jazz
Tags: natural hair embracing new you word life production feature blog

Embracing the hair you're born with sounds like it should be the easiest thing in the world, but for some, it's a huge challenge.

Nikki Walton, a 29-year-old licensed psychotherapist whose own journey to hair acceptance has grown from a passion into a business, knows that hurdle all too well.

As the founder of CurlyNikki.com, Walton now confidently boasts a lush, natural texture that lives up to her online nickname, "Curly Nikki." On her website, she leads the charge for a community of women seeking a resource and a space where they can let their hair down, just as it is, no straightening required.

But Walton can vividly recall the days when straight hair meant beautiful hair, and if she couldn't be seen with it straight, she'd rather not go out at all.

As a young adult, Walton would feel "gorgeous" and "ready" to take on the world when her dark hair's natural twists and turns were straight, sleek and swinging thanks to a stylist's heat tools.

But when that style fell flat and the frizz began to appear, "I would become an introvert; I didn't want to do anything," she said.

Eventually, the boyfriend who was driving her to and from hair appointments -- and who's now her husband and father to their 2½-year-old daughter -- intervened.

"He said, 'This isn't healthy. I don't know if you've noticed, but you need to step back and assess this. You're pretty, and I want you to feel pretty no matter what the condition of your hair is,' “Walton recalled. “And he was right. My hair was running my life. My confidence was in flux with my hair."

That conversation inspired Walton to take action, and she soon found herself researching ways she could work with the kind of hair she was born with. Once she unchained herself from her flat iron, she found not only a more genuine confidence but a new freedom to live her life as she chose -- not as her hairstyle mandated.

"Once you get to that freedom," she said, "you'll be very excited to help those around you achieve that as well."

Walton has been lending that helping hand on CurlyNikki.com for the past four years, and she recently compiled her accumulated wealth of hair care know-how into a book, "Better Than Good Hair: The Curly Girl Guide to Healthy, Gorgeous, Natural Hair."

Walton describes the guide as a little like "What To Expect When You're Expecting," mixed with the approachable, easy-to-understand wisdom she extends on the Web.

Depending on the person, opting to wear one's hair in its natural state can feel like a rebirth of sorts. Some women may choose to cut much of their hair off -- doing a "big chop," as it's called -- to get rid of heat-damaged or chemically straightened locks. For others like Walton, who opted to wear her hair more naturally but skipped the dramatic haircut, there's still a learning curve to figure out how to wear one's natural hair texture.

"In my house," Walton said, "any time we had somewhere important to go, if it was Easter Sunday (or) Christmas Mass, we had to make sure our hair was pressed and braided neatly. That's what my mom knew, that's what her mom knew, so we didn't even question it."

By the time she was in middle school, Walton would want to "shrink into a hole" at the salon while she waited for a stylist to blow dry her freshly washed hair.

"I didn't want people to see my hair. I couldn't even look at myself in the mirror," she recalled. "I didn't even know what my real texture looked like. ... I just knew that if it got a little bit wet, or if I sweat(ed) a little bit too much, I put my hands into my roots, and it felt terrible."

As a result, Walton had to do both a habitual and a mental shift when she decided that having healthy hair was more important.

That new way involved regularly trimming her hair herself and wearing what she calls "low-manipulation" styles, like buns, which meant she wasn't putting added stress on her hair with constant washing and styling.

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Celebrity hairstylist and salon owner Ted Gibson concurs with Walton's careful, routine trimming, which he says is essential whether you chemically straighten your hair or are as natural as can be.

"Sometimes women, when they get a relaxer, they don't want to get a haircut, but that's part of the service for us," Gibson said. "Getting your ends trimmed is essential in growing your hair and making your hair so that it's in better shape. Hair will split after a period of time, and that's sometimes where thinning hair comes from."

It took Walton about a year and a half to get rid of her damaged bits, and at the time, she was simultaneously working on being able to leave the house with her new, natural 'do.

At first, "you have that spotlight effect, because you think everybody's staring at you, because you're very self-conscious," Walton said. "And most people aren't staring at you, and if they are, maybe they're thinking good things, not the negative things you're projecting onto them."

On her site and particularly in her book, Walton emphasizes how necessary confidence is to the process.

"This is your hair, and people have to accept it because you do. And when you exude that confidence, people get that from you and they don't bother you. Often, we have to fake it till we make it, because people will be able to detect that insecurity."

The phrase "natural hair" is thrown around a lot, and it can mean different things to different people. There are those who would agree with celebrity stylist Laini Reeves, for whom being natural starts with the product.

"Being a hairdresser, I look for two things: I look for performance, and I look for ingredients. It's hard to find completely 100% natural hair care that has the performance that you need, but technology is becoming so advanced that the chemists know how to alter ingredients that make it have the performance," said Reeves, who's worked with stars like Amy Adams and Emily Blunt.

For example, if you're a curly, you might want to check out coconut oil to use as a conditioner, Reeves said, in an effort to rebuild the hair and get a softer texture.

"My advice to anybody: Read the label and educate yourself," Reeves said. "I'm not an extremist. I'm not anti this or that; I just like to make more conscious decisions in my life."

Walton, too, cautions against the perception that maintaining natural hair means standing against chemical straighteners or straight hair overall.

"It's all about achieving versatility and achieving healthy hair and achieving the freedom to be able to wear your hair curly or straight," she said. "The goal that I had for myself was to feel just as attractive and just as professional and sexy with my hair curly as I felt when it was straight. I'm there in that place now, and I want other women to be able to experience that too. That level of confidence, we call it genuine self-esteem -- the kind that doesn't fluctuate."

There's also a side benefit to all of that confidence, Walton added.

"Accepting what your hair does naturally will help you attain a better quality of life," she said. "You can straighten your hair and do whatever you want to do, because we're women; we like to change it up. It's that key of getting comfortable in your own skin. My quality of life has greatly improved now that my first thought and consideration is not my hair."

By Breeanna Hare, CNN
updated 2:14 PM EDT, Wed March 27, 2013

Source: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/27/living/natural-hair-curly-nikki/index.html  

Toni Braxton is an R&B singer-songwriter and actress
Category: The Golden Era
Tags: toni braxton breathe again you mean world.unbreak heart wordl life production golden era feature

Born in Maryland in 1967, Toni Braxton's big break came after Bill Pettaway overheard her singing to herself at a gas station, and subsequently helped Braxton land a record deal with Arista. In 1992, she caught another big break when she was asked to fill in for Anita Baker and sing on the soundtrack for the film Boomerang. The following year, Braxton released her debut self-titled album,

garnering wide acclaim for singles like "You Mean the World to Me" and "Breathe Again." She later scored a megahit with "Un-Break My Heart," included on her second studio album, Secrets (1996). In addition to her successful recording career, Braxton made history in September 1998, when she became first black actress to play Belle in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast.

Early Life

Toni Michelle Braxton was born on October 7, 1967, in Severn, Maryland, to parents Michael Braxton, a minister, and his wife, Evelyn. Brought up in a strict, religious household that prohibited any sort of engagement with popular culture, Toni and her four younger sisters began singing at an early age at their father's church. Over time, Michael and Evelyn Braxton eased their household rules, allowing their daughters to gain more exposure to soul and rock singers like Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan.

For Toni especially, music became a central component in her life. She entered a number of local talent shows, and also collaborated considerably with her sisters. Following her graduation from high school, Braxton planned on becoming a music teacher, but was easily swayed to leave college when songwriter Bill Pettaway overheard Braxton singing to herself at a gas station. Pettaway, who had recently penned Milli Vanilli's "Girl You Know It's True" hit single, was moved by Braxton's husky, driving voice. With his help, Braxton landed a record contract with Arista Records for both her and her sisters.

Career Breakthroughs

The Braxtons, as the sisters called themselves, released the single "The Good Life" in 1990. While not a huge hit, it did manage to catch the ear of producers Antonio "L.A." Reid and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, who signed Toni to a new deal to the Arista subsidiary, LaFace Records.

In 1992, Braxton caught her first big break when she was asked to fill in for Anita Baker and sing for the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy movie, Boomerang. The album gave Braxton significant exposure and helped her secure her first big hit: the single "Love Shoulda Brought You Home."

A year after the Boomerang soundtrack, Braxton released her eponymous debut album. The record more than met the enthusiasm that had built up around it prior to its release. With hits like "Breathe Again," "You Mean the World to Me" and "Another Love Song," the record went on to sell more than 8 million copies. It also earned Braxton a pair of Grammy Awards, for best new artist and best female R&B vocal performance.

In 1996, Braxton released her second studio album, Secrets, which included the monster single "Un-Break My Heart" and the hit "You Make Me High." At the 1997 Grammy Awards, Braxton won two Grammys: one for best female R&B vocal performance and one for best female R&B pop vocal performance.

But instead of getting the chance to dig into the hard work of creating a third album, Braxton got into contract wrangling with Arista. At issue was Braxton's claim that she deserved to receive a larger cut from her record sales. To further drive home the point that she wasn't making enough, Braxton filed for bankruptcy in 1998.

Unable to reconcile her contractual issues, Braxton suspended her studio work and headed to acting,

where she made history in September 1998 by becoming the first black actress to play Belle in a Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. The musical, which featured a song written specifically for Braxton, was a huge success.

Soon, Braxton and record executives were back at the negotiating table, and following an agreement in 1999, the singer-songwriter released her third album, The Heat. Largely stripped of the "lost love" themes that had greatly shaped her two previous studio releases, Braxton's new album gave the singer's fans a fresher, more confident Braxton. It also featured two hit singles: "He Wasn't Man Enough for Me" and "Just Be a Man About It."

In 2010, Braxton released her seventh studio album, Pulse, which was issued by Atlantic Records. She also continued to pursue other types of performance work. The lineup included her own reality television series, Toni Braxton: Revealed, and a short stint on the hit dance-competition show Dancing with the Stars.

In January 2011, media outlets began reporting that Braxton would be returning to the small screen with a new reality series, Braxton Family Values. The show, which debuted in April 2011 on WE tv, follows Toni and her sisters as they pursue their respective careers in show business.

Health Issues and Bankruptcy

She accomplished all of these successes while also battling health issues. She's been treated for hypertension as well as pericarditis, a viral infection of the sac surrounding the heart. More significantly, in November 2010, the singer told the world she was battling Lupus. The announcement shook her fellow recording artists, most notably Lady Gaga, who has family members who've dealt with the deadly autoimmune disease. "Toni, your strength is admirable," Lady Gaga wrote in a message to Braxton. "As a woman whose family as been affected by Lupus, I understand your struggle and have you in my thoughts."

More bad news followed in late 2010, when Braxton announced that she was again filing for bankruptcy. Some reports stated that she owed as much as $50 million.

Saying 'Goodbye' to Music Career


In early 2012, Braxton announced that she had begun working on a new album. That spring, she released the single "I Heart You"—thought to be the first single off the singer's new project at the time. But fans' excitement over what would be Braxton's eighth studio project soon fizzled out when, on February 8, 2013, Braxton announced plans to retire from her career as a recording artist. Signaling the end of her 20-year recording career, Braxton's announcement, made during her guest appearance on Good Morning America, came as a big shock to many—especially since the singer-songwriter's previous statements regarding her future retirement seemed to center on a final album release.

Braxton went on to explain her decision, citing, among many things, a loss of musical inspiration, a disinterest in making any future recordings, and shifting sentiments surrounding her future goals. "It's not affecting me, making me feel that thing I've always felt when I perform. It's leaving me. I'm not sure what's going on in my life. Maybe a female mid-life crisis? My heart isn't in it anymore. I hate to say that,

" Braxton said. "For what I do I have to love it. I have to feel that excitement and it's gone. I'm just not going to do any albums anymore; maybe touring occasionally here and there because I love performing, but not as much as I did in the past. But no new projects."

Personal Life

Braxton married musician Kery Lewis in 2001. The couple split up in late 2009. They have two sons together, Denim and Deizel.

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