Hair & Acting with Teyonah Parris
Hey Teyonah, introduce yourself…tell us a bit about who you are & what you do
Hi ladies! My name is Teyonah Parris. I’m an actress..Living in LA, by way of NY, raised in South Carolina, though.
Have you been natural all your life? If not why did you choose to go natural?
I have not been a naturalista all my life. I actually never even saw myself rocking natural tresses. I, like many others, had a certain “idea” of who women with natural hair were. In my mind if I was FABULOUS, outgoing, and liked to wear makeup then CLEARLY- why would I have natural hair? (I say that sarcastically) There was no one in the media that I related to that had natural hair. No ONE.
My “aha moment” (as Oprah says) and as it pertains to natural hair was when:
It was a beautiful Summer Day in Harlem and I was walking down the street with a good friend of mine and there was a young lady that had this beautiful twist out (I didn’t know that at the time) and I said to my friend
“Wow, I wish my hair could do that!” and she replied
“uuuhh…. it can, you just have to wet it.” and i said
“girl, you know my hair is super straight! I wet it and it goes limp.” she looks at me like I have 4 heads and responds
“Teyonah, that’s because you relax it.”
I actually had to stop walking and thought to myself “Dang, I guess you’re right.”
She goes “that’s what you’re relaxing- the wavy new growth.”
I felt so dumb at that moment. Because I knew that, but I have known nothing else but relaxing my hair since I was a little girl. Once a month- Gotta go get that relaxer! So, it was at that moment I said to myself I’m gonna go natural!!! I don’t know exactly what I was trying to prove to myself- but I was so embarrassed that my hair being kinky and curly was a notion so far removed from who I was at that moment.
And I also figured what could it hurt? I wore sew ins all the time anyway and if I didn’t like it I could always GO BACK!
As an actress how has the acting world received your natural hair, has it ever been a problem?
I remember when I first got out of school I felt like there was NO WAY I could book a job if i didn’t have my extensions laid perfectly and the hair as straight as can be. You wouldn’t catch me at an audition any other way. I remember one time getting a big audition and was in the “between stage”. It was a Thursday and I had taken my extensions out because i didn’t have anything scheduled for Friday and then I got that last minute call!! I freaked out and called my manager (who is an older Caucasian man) and I said
“MY HAIR’S NOT DONE!! I can’t go in, can we reschedule?? If you saw me you would know what I’m talking about!!”
He said ” Teyonah, its hair. Go blow them away and we’ll tell them you’ll look like the picture next week.” I was so surprised at his response.
As I’ve auditioned a bit more over the past few years I realized every time I’ve booked a big gig my hair has been different. Once, a ponytail (was in the between stage, lol), my straight extensions another, loose curly/wavy extensions another, and finally when I went in for Mad Men I actually wore my natural hair in chunky two strand twists and sort of pinned like pin-curls. I thought to myself, why am I freaking out about this.
I do believe your appearance is huge when you present yourself in auditions, but I also choose to believe, for my own sanity, that my talent and ability to deliver will ultimately book me the job. Maybe I’m living in a dream world….but hey a girl can dream can’t she?
I see you like to switch it up between curly and straight hair, do you have a preference?
I love to switch it up! I am not a naturalista that believes what I choose to do is superior to anyone else’s choice. But I do believe how we choose to wear our hair should be a CHOICE! When I was straight before it wasn’t a choice. I was actually quite oblivious or in denial (probably a bit of them all, lol) as to what my hair could naturally do. So, some days I may throw on a straight wig, or short, whatever I feel like doing. I won’t put limitations on it. Maybe y’all will see me with a long straight weave down to my booty! I don’t know….maybe, lol!
How do you manage your hair while working?
I learned early on that I will always have extensions when on a set, or a wig. I never want to subject my hair to the onset brutality. Some days it takes me 2 hours to finger detangle my hair….on set I just don’t have that luxury, lol.
Have you made any hair-care mistakes in the past?
When I was transitioning to natural while wearing straight extensions I kept flat ironing my edges and horseshoe (the hair left out around the part). So, when all the rest of my hair had fully transitioned when I went to wash the whole thing I realized those parts had heat damage and as a result had taken on a completely different curl pattern. It was wavy and long while the rest was a TWA. I looked ridiculous!
Do you have a hair regimen?
Everything I’ve learned about my natural hair has been from that same friend that “enlightened” me, lol and from friggin’ YOUTUBE!
The girls on there have consoled me during many a nights of crying from frustration and calling my friend threatening to her that I was going to relax my hair. The first time I tried to wash and detangle my natural hair it took me 4 HOURS!!!
I was in the shower: arms tired, crying, shampoo in my eyes, stomping my foot, sitting down in the tub and quitting with the shower still running, finally finishing and calling my friend shouting “I quit, this is STUPID! Why the heck am I doing this?” etc. Thank God for her support and for the gals on YouTube.
I adapted my regimen from ‘Naptural85’. She uses a lot of natural products that are straight from the kitchen. I tried a lot of the popular natural hair products and didn’t care for them. I really got excited about, essentially, being able to eat anything I put on my hair.
I keep extensions in my hair, now even! They’re just kinky/curly ones now! The stress that I was putting on my natural hair for auditions and being on set became too much. I had to figure out how to still rock my fro but not damage my natural hair. Hence, afro extensions, lol! So, I mix essential oils with jojoba or avocado oil and use a medicine dropper to get into my extensions and moisturize my hair every few days or at least once a week. I keep it hydrated by misting it with water.
I also use this whipped shea butter that she teaches you to make. After I take my extensions out I make sure I deep condition with a homemade egg, mayo, honey, Greek yogurt conditioner. I let it sit in for hours while I clean the house or do other stuff. It’s messy and stinky because it starts dripping down my face and neck but I make it work. I try not to flat iron my hair much. This year I said I’ll only do it twice. But I do blow-dry making sure to use a heat protectant maybe every 2 months.
If you could only choose one product to use what would it be?
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil!!! My hair loves, loves, loves that stuff!! Plus I always get compliments after deep conditioning with it.
Any words of encouragement for the ladies wanting to go natural but are afraid?
I would say do it when YOU’RE ready.
Not because others are pressuring/or guilting you into it. I WANTED to go natural and STILL almost quit many times. It’s more than just changing your hair. It can be emotional and will reveal a lot of things you didn’t know about yourself. I cried the first time I wore my afro out. I did not want to leave the house! I just wasn’t used to seeing myself like that. My girl had to come over and coach me out the house. Told me I was beautiful and just wasn’t used to it and quite literally had to hold my arm down the street, lol!
Not that this is necessary or that we should rely on this, but I got so many compliments from all types of people that it encouraged me and quite frankly helped boost my confidence! So, that’s my advice do it when YOU’RE ready and not because of anyone else.
Any tips for the young actresses out there?
If you truly want to be an actress, work on your craft. A lot of people want to be actors and have never even read a play. Get into theatre! That’s where you get real training and discipline. Theatre has been a part of my life since I was about 10! Study it; find a good program or teacher or coach and wok on it. It’s not easy: the work or the business, but believe in your talent and be smart about the business of it all.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Also that I’m enjoying experimenting with my hair and learning what works for me. I really can’t see myself ever relaxing my hair again. The thick mane of kinks and curls are so much more fun! And an unexpected positive is the amount of growth I’ve been able to achieve and maintain. My hair hasn’t been this long since I was probably 8 years old (pre relaxer,lol). The longest section of my hair is about 13inches stretched out and the shortest is the section that had heat damage in the front at approx 6inches. I’m slowly nursing that section back to health.
Where’s the best place to find you? (e.g. website, twitter)
You should definitely follow my fan page on Facebook at: Teyonah Parris
and I am quite active on Twitter! @TeyonahParris and my website www.TeyonahParris.com
Thanks Ladies! and Good luck on your journey! Stay Strong!!