Hair As Identity Menu



Coolishness and Fakery: The Joys of Fake-a-licious by Petra E. Lewis

Remember that old mantra: “If you can’t grow it, then you can sew it”? I was always of the other camp: Why sew it when you can grow it? Trust me: Unless there’s a serious medical condition involved, everyone can grow it—with the right care. Yeah, I guess I’ve already outed myself: I have never been a fan of fake hair.

Fake hair for me was always a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency measure. In the decades it took me to actually understand my über-complex hair, let’s just say there were a number of mishaps: some that ended in tears. (Sound of glass breaking.) That’s when I would reach for extensions, or during some particularly tragic episodes, even a wig.

Mind you, my own hair is so thick, when I used to mildly relax my hair, and (wet with water and product, in the process of drying) it hung down past mid-back, I’d get that old shady side eye from folks on the street and the train that I used to translate as: Yeah (suck teeth) you know that mess is a weave. Nah, sweetie, it was actually my hair. I guess that’s part of the reason why I had such an aversion to fake hair—inside I was chanting: I can grow it, I can grow it—SEE!!!

I’ve never had a weave in my life. But I recently submitted to a delightful life of fake-a-licious-ness, not out of any tragedy or emergency, but willingly. Why? Because right now time is the most precious commodity I have—at moments, even more precious than money. I’m a writer, entrepreneur, and knowledge worker—and the more time I have to simply sit down and think (then strategize and/or execute) the better.

Currently I take care of my own hair—having been stylist-free for a number of years. But when I do need to return to salon-level expertise, I return to my old stylist, owner of Y·O·U Hair Wellness & Lifestyle Spa in Jamaica, Queens, Liana Robinson*—with whom I’m still good friends.

Right now the first novel in my trilogy is about to go live in March; I’m expanding the offerings of my ghostwriting business (BookStar Business Ghostwriting + Development); I’d been doing my due diligence, and am about to launch another (long-term) entrepreneurial venture I attended the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac NewVenture training program for—and recently was inducted into their very selective coaching program; I need to finally get my professional website together—and expand my social media footprint, which takes werk; and I’m also actively seeking, and beginning to get, speaking gigs and other opportunities related to my book.

Yeah, I’m laying the foundation for that kind of life. The kind of life where having income from multiple revenue streams—instead of one job—can either make you look unfocused—or it can make you look like Jay-Z.

For 2014, the theme at my church, Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in Brooklyn is: focus. And so I am. Although I tend to wear my hair up most times anyway (which means it’s not that time consuming), I called up Liana and told her that I wanted to put the back portion of my hair into synthetic twists. I’d had that style once before. The hair she gets is so similar to my own hair, it’s kind of scary.

She completed the style on February 11th—and I love it! All I do once a week is use a spray moisturizer called Quench and saturate the twists and my own hair, use cinagrOrganic’s Scalp & Hair Health Vitalizer on my scalp for growth, use a different product on the long “kitchen” hair at the nape of my neck and gather and twirl it into one twist, which I then sweep up with the rest of the twists in a no-snag elastic, then elegantly pin my bun into place. Done! All I focus on is the front of my hair, which I also tend to only do once a week, since I usually sweep it up into a Samurai-style topknot, then only wet and refresh the edges at the front of my hair every three days or so.

My one worry with this style stemmed from my book tour. My curls are as much my signature as my writing, and I wanted new fans to see the whole me—the real me. Instead I compromised on a style that allows me to have no-brainer convenience (synthetic twists in the back) and my own free-range hair in the front that I can either wear in a top-knot, or a punky cascade of curls for book appearances.

I am loving this style—and shamelessly celebrating the Joys of Fake-a-licious! Or at least reveling in it for the next 3 – 4 months.

*If you’d like to learn more about Liana Robinson and her Y·O·U Hair Wellness & Lifestyle Spa, visit:

Petra E. Lewis is a writer, author, entrepreneur, Tastemaker, and Synergist who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The first novel in her trilogy, The Sons and Daughters of Ham, Book I: A Requiem debuts February 2014, : : @tastemistressp : :

  • Malla Haridat (@MallaHaridat)

    And this is the one of the best parts of being a woman in 2014 – options. It looks fab! Keep rocking it and invest every last additional minute in your business and enjoying life!

  • Petra

    Thanks, Malla! About to do the old weekly moisture down and pin up right now–before heading out. Have a fab weekend! #fakehairdontcare LOL

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Love Out Loud: A Series by verta ayanna

Verta Maloney

Mommy! My friend said my hair is not soft.

Mommy! My friend said my hair is puffy.

Mommy! My friend said my hair is not straight.

My heart unraveled into a thousand fragile strands that day as my daughter told me what her friend had said. She was hurt. Not solely because of what her friend said but more precisely how she said it. A nuance not missed by my intuitive young daughter. I took a deep breath. I chose my words with care. “Your hair is soft,” I told her as we touched it. “Your hair is not straight, but it could be,” I told her as we looked at pictures of all the amazing and stunning ways black girls and women could wear our hair. “Your hair is puffy sometimes and sometimes flat and other times wild and magnificently crazy,” I told her as I tried to make her smile. “We have options little love!” I proclaimed.

After all this conversation, after all this focus on the words I chose, I began to realize that my four-year-old daughter was becoming slightly obsessed with long, silky, straight hair. My four-year-old daughter, whose mother had a fierce and powerful ceasar in college. My four-year-old daughter, whose mother rocked the hell out of some box braids back in the day. Though I told her that I loved her hair so very much and so should she. She was not convinced. I could see it in her eyes. Oh the things I can see in her eyes. Eyes that were fixed on my ever-so-fly, short, straight, relaxed, silky, precision cut done to perfection every six weeks in Brooklyn. Another nuance that could not have gone unnoticed by my ever-watchful little girl. I became fully aware that what I said was less important than what I needed to do.

Hair does not frighten me any more. It used to. I once feared what others would think, what others wouldn’t think. There was a time I feared the way I chose to wear my hair would mean I didn’t love myself enough or loved being black too much. I used to fear that how I chose to wear my hair made me more feminine, more attractive or at times too masculine, too strong and less attractive. It took years of trying on different hairstyles, before I could finally embrace the different versions of myself. Hair can be the outward expression of the fears, hopes, dreams, beauty and love that we, as women, have within us. We get to decide which, depending on the day. As mothers, we get to decide which we pass on to our daughters.

What I did next shocked my girl (and my boy) in a profound way. On a hot Saturday in July, I chose to share my love for her in the loudest way I knew how. I know and understand that there are no silent expressions of love. I cut my hair off. I did it for Simone. As she looked at me, eyes wide, with the hint of that smile I adore on her perfect little mouth, “I want hair just like yours,” I said. “So beautiful and so perfect.” Forgetting how much I love teeny-weeny afros, I also promised to grow it out just like hers. That was a mistake. I have no patience for things like that anymore. For weeks she would proudly and loudly tell people, “My mommy cut all her hair off because she wants it to be like mine. That’s going to take her a looong time!”  She has a good sense of humor that one.

I do know for sure I did something that day, in that moment, to help give her a stronger sense of self. Today she is a seven-year-old girl who gets inspiration from strawberry shortcake and has me twist pink and green strands into her two-strand twists one day. Today she is a seven-year-old girl who will rock her twist out until it is black uhuru locked and tell me when I try to tame it, “Mommy, I don’t care, I love my hair when it’s all wild and crazy!” Today she is a seven-year-old girl who has rocked a long straight do for about 18 hours or so because children can’t help but play and sweat out the best of intentions on yet another day. Today I do know for sure that for right now, in this moment, my girl fearlessly loves the skin and hair she is in and she is doing so in the loudest ways she can.

Verta is writing her first book, loving out loud, because she believes that love should never be silent! verta shares how she is inspired by stories, by memories and by life at
  • Tina

    Hi Verta! I just looked at your piece again and I really love it!

  • verta ayanna

    thanks Petra! thanks Tina. that means so much to me. thanks so much for the opportunity to share my voice 🙂

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Happy New Hair: The Curly Girl and Naturalista’s Guide to Four Life-Changing Books – Part I! by Petra E. Lewis

A New Year always means a “New You”—even if you fall miserably short. I made two lousy resolutions last year and didn’t accomplish either of them. They were tiny things. The kind of stuff I call “should have been there, should have done that” items. Ironically, while I never got around to fulfilling those two (relatively) easy-peazy vows, I did breeze through big, non-resolution items like finally finishing the first novel in my trilogy, and launching two businesses. Go figure.

Cover of Curly Nikki's curly-girl guide, Better Than Good Hair

Cover of Curly Nikki’s curly-girl guide, Better Than Good Hair

So let’s resolve not to make resolutions. Instead, let’s simply tap our inner Oprah—and pursue our best self.  Where should you start? Here—or should I say: HAIR. As we wrap up 2013, and optimistically leap into 2014, HAIR is my end-of-holiday-season gift to you—must reads for having some of the baddest hair anywhere. And I mean that in the RUN-D.M.C. sense of the word: Not bad meaning bad—but bad meaning GOOD!  A perfect segue into my first pick in this countdown-style listing of books. Here are the first two life changers on my list…

4/ BETTER THAN GOOD HAIR  Stumbling upon all these new team-natural blogs and instructional videos in recent years has spawned what I call my “old dog, new tricks” hair education. Arguably La Reina del Naturalista Blogosphere is the Queen herself: Curly Nikki (Nearly 300,000 Facebook likes and 46,000 Twitter followers—and counting…).  My first crack at Nikki’s 2013 curly-girl guide, Better Than Good Hair —a title I found absolutely brilliant—made me LOL (one of Nikki’s not-so-secret weapons: being snot-out-your-nose funny)! She also has that “girlfriend-confidential” thing on lock—you feel like you know her (personally), and she knows you. I was among those who preordered Better Than Good Hair, and while I haven’t gotten through all of it yet, the hi-lar-ious forward section from Kim Wayans (yeah, of the In Living Color Wayans ha-ha! clan) is worth the price of the book alone. I remember Curly Nikki once advising on her blog that when you detangle your hair, you should do it as delicately as if it were lace. Every time I detangle my own hair, that little gem of advice pops into my head. It’s that kind of simple, yet solid baseline advice that makes this a must have on every naturalista’s bookshelf.  TO PURCHASE: Better Than Good Hair 

3/ CURLY GIRL Back in the day, when I used to texturize my hair to stretch out my natural curl, I would literally go into a panic when I took the “what if” leap in my mind about living abroad. I felt like I could not live without my stylist at the time. Today: Homegirl—and all those dreaded chemicals—are long gone, and I take care of my own hair. Now, among the things I cannot (and I mean *really* cannot) live without (anywhere in the world) are the DevaCurl brand of products, created by the Patron Saint of all Curly Girls, Lorraine Massey—co-owner of the Devachan salon and spa in SoHo (a beautifully scented sanctuary for curly girls). To me, Curly Girl is the original spiral-haired manifesto. And like most manifestos, initially it seemed radical to me: Ditch your shampoo? What the…. Then only use a product she invented called “No-Poo” to cleanse your scalp, and (again) do not use shampoo on the rest of your hair! (Faint rustling sound as old girl tries to tip toe quietly towards the door, to get away from this crazy woman.) But Lorraine was right.  Just know this book will rock your world—and its complete paradigm shift on caring for curly/kinky hair is mandatory, if you want to start rocking those curls the way that God intended!  TO PURCHASE: Curly Girl

Check in next week for #2 and numero uno….

Till next time: Love, Peace, and Hair Grease, my friends y amigas….


Petra E. Lewis is a writer, author, entrepreneur, Tastemaker, and Synergist who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The first novel in her trilogy, The Sons and Daughters of Ham, Book I: A Requiem debuts February 2014, : : @tastemistressp : :