Gee, I think we've all had moments when we've gotten out of bed, went into the bathroom to style our hair and, it seems like no matter what we do, nothing comes out as we planned. Ugh. Usually what we call that is a "bad hair day," right? Oh, but is it really? If you've been finding yourself wearing more head wraps and hats these days and you've chalked it up to having more bad hair days than usual, I just want to provide you with a few things to consider — ones that, if you take them into serious consideration, you could end up having a whole lotta less bad hair days in your future.
First of All, There Is Absolutely No Such Thing As “Bad Hair”
You know what's a trip about bad hair days? Have you ever noticed that when it seems like you have one that a whole lot of other stuff isn't going all that right either? What I mean by that is, it's not usually that our hair decides that all of a sudden, it's not going to cooperate. Sometimes, we woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Other times, we're rushing too much to give our tresses the time that it needs and deserves. Many times, we didn't "prep it well" the night before.
Whatever the case may be, the main thing to keep in mind is, no matter how much your hair may seem to be throwing a bit of a temper tantrum right along with you at any given time, there really is no such thing as "bad hair". Therefore, if your hair seems to be showing out a bit, it's usually not because of your actual hair (so don't do anything drastic just yet) but some other circumstances that could be causing it to not get in line with what you want it to do. I call these "hair inconveniences". Inconveniences like what?
6 Hair Inconveniences That Can Lead to Bad Hair Days
Too Much Humidity
OK. Since most of us have some sort of curly texture to our hair, that's a part of the reason why it stays drier than non-Black women's locks do. The "science" of it all is the natural sebum that comes from our scalp has difficulty moisturizing our strands from root to tip, due to the twists and turns that it experiences while trying to get down our hair shaft. As a direct result, we have to take a few extra steps in order to keep our hair hydrated such as deep conditioning, sealing our ends, sometimes using a humectant on our hair and/or sleeping with a humidifier.
However, as with most things in life, there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing". In this case, when our hair is affected with too much humidity, that won't only result in shrinkage but frizzing too. So, if your hair is frizzy as all get out and you sleep with a humidifier every night, you might want to turn your setting down. If you're going to use heat to style your hair, make sure you apply a thermal heat protectant (it will protect your hair from outdoor humidity). And when you're styling your hair, in general, applying some whipped shea butter certainly can't hurt. It will help to add a little "weight" to your hair, so that it can combat frizz while also making sure that your hair maintains the moisture that it needs.
Maryam Hampton is a popular YouTuber who has a video that can walk you through how to make whipped shea butter from the comfort and convenience of your own home. You can check it out here.
Too Little or Too Much Protein
I don't know about you but a huge mistake that I tend to make is not giving myself a regular protein treatment. This is necessary because well, your hair is made up of mostly protein (keratin). According to most professional stylists, a protein treatment is something that needs to happen every 4-6 weeks.
So, how do you know if your hair needs a protein treatment? It doesn't have a lot of elasticity. It's limp and can't hold a style. It's breaking a lot. You've recently color-treated your hair. It feels "gummy" to the touch. If any of these things are the case, no wonder you're having a so-called bad hair day. And what if you're someone who actually does give yourself protein treatments but you're not sure if you're overdoing it? If your hair feels super stiff, is hard or brittle, lacks sheen, snaps off at the ends rather easily and/or you've got more tangles or split ends than usual — lay off on the protein treatments for a couple of months and focus on deep conditioning your hair instead.
For the record, a conditioner that has jojoba in it is awesome because that is something that is really effective when it comes to treating protein-sensitive hair. Give it a shot if your hair seems to be over-processed from protein.
It’s Time for a Cut (or Trim)
If you've got a lot of fairy knots. If your hair can't seem to hold any definition or style. If your ends are "see through" and straggly. If your locks seem "stuck" when it comes to growth. If it's been a couple of months since you've put some shears to your head. These are all strong indications that you need to either get a cut, a trim or at least that you need to dust your own ends (you can watch a video on how to do that here). If you ignore these signs, not only do you increase your chances of having even more bad hair days, you also run the risk of damaging your hair even more because, the less your hair does what you want it to do, the more prone you will be to constantly manipulating it with styling tools or even your hands. That's why you really should make a practice of trimming/dusting every eight weeks or so and getting a professional cut once a season (no less than twice a year).
You Need to Switch Up Your Hair Products
I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who has at least one space that is designated for all kinds of hair products — and at least 65 percent of them, you don't even use.
While finding the right ones that complement your hair are about as taxing as finding the right partner, it's important to keep in mind that 1) just because a particular product might work for your favorite YouTube naturalista or even one of your girlfriends, that doesn't mean that it's going to work for you and 2) there are clear signs when a product isn't really your hair's homie — if it leaves behind a ton of build-up or residue; it irritates your scalp; it zaps out moisture; it reduces volume; it severely alters your hair texture; it makes your hair less manageable; it causes the color of your hair to fade at an accelerated pace and/or it doesn't complement the season that you're in.
For instance, when it's cold outside, you're probably going to use your central heat more. That, on top of the fact that cold air can actually raise your hair's cuticles and dry them out, you need to make sure that you not only deep condition your hair, each and every wash day, but that you add an oil like grapeseed (it adds moisture and shine); avocado (it adds moisture and repairs damaged hair); olive (it softens and boosts your hair's antioxidant levels); argan (it protects your hair and scalp from environmental damage) and/or pumpkin seed oil (it nourishes your hair follicles and increases volume) to your conditioner (even if you use a leave-in conditioner), so that your hair is provided with extra moisture and your scalp is provided with extra protection. During the warmer months, your hair needs products that will protect it from UV damage, creams and gels that will encourage less heat styling and deep conditioning masks to combat things like sweat, salt water and chlorine.
Bottom line, failing to alter your products with the seasons or not observing how your hair is reacting to a particular product can also lead to bad hair days, if you're not careful.
You Need to Switch Up Your Mood
Maybe it's just me but it seems like if I'm already in a bad mood, it's about a definite that I'm going to be hypercritical when it comes to my looks or mad impatient while I'm in the process of figuring out what the heck to do with my hair. That's why, if you know that you know that you know that you woke up on the wrong side of the bed, avoid a mirror for a while. Instead, do some meditating; listen to some of your favorite (non-triggering) music; eat a favorite food that will put you in a good mood (check out "In A Bad Mood? These Foods Will Lift Your Spirits!" and "Eating Well: 10 Foods That Can Improve Your Mental Health"); throw on a hat and take a quick walk outdoors; engage in some morning or shower sex; audibly declare some things that you love about yourself or pull out your gratitude journal and jot down some things that you are truly thankful for. Once you do something that can offer up some "silver linings", it'll be easier to look at your hair with the love and patience that it truly deserves.
You Need to Give Your Hair a Break
Think about it for a second. How would you feel if you were constantly being tugged or pulled on? My point is, sometimes, what we perceive to be a bad hair day is simply the universe's way of saying, "Give your hair a break, why don't you?" That same-placed ponytail is adding too much pressure to the same spot on your head. That flat iron is starting to damage your hair's natural texture. The way you've been parting your hair is training it to not be very flexible anymore. Sometimes, all we need to do with a so-called bad hair day is just…leave our hair alone. Put on that turban, hat, wig or weave and just give it a chance to be totally left alone. Or we can really go all out and just let it do…whatever it wants to do.
Was this little write-up supposed to convince you that your hair is always going to cooperate with you? Nope. That's not how life works. Hopefully, though, it helped to shed some light on the fact that oh, about 7 times outta 10, you've got more control over bad hair days than you've probably been giving yourself credit for. Now that you know that, seize the bad hair days, sis! Straight up.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
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