For an inside look into acting and modeling with natural hair, check out the next installment of my Inside Scoop Series with actress Nicole J. Butler.
Actress Nicole J. Butler has appeared in numerous national and regional commercials, television shows, and independent projects. She has been featured in actors’ trade publication, Backstage, and continues to work in Hollywood, while mentoring other actors who are on the same path.
1. When and why did you decide to go natural?
I had been getting my hair relaxed since my early teens because it was pretty much a “rite of passage” amongst my peers, but I never felt quite comfortable about participating in a ritual that reinforced the notion that my hair was inherently inferior by virtue of my birth.
When I realized that I felt resentful about having to straighten my hair in order to be seen as attractive, well-groomed, and professional, I decided to get off the relaxer roller coaster and had a friend shave my head. Because so much of my identity was wrapped up in being “the girl with the long, pretty hair” I had to re-grow my confidence, starting at the roots. I found my support in online communities, because the people around me all thought I was crazy.
2. Describe your hair regimen. Do-it-yourself or let someone else do it for you?
I do it myself whenever possible, which is 99% of the time. When it was short, I learned to shape it with clippers. Sometimes I made mistakes and ended up almost bald, but within a couple of weeks I had a little hair again, so I didn’t worry too much when that happened. When I had Sisterlocks, I had a wonderful loctician who kept my hair tight for a few visits… then I decided to maintain them myself, which meant they became more freeform. I’ve let my hair grow big and bushy at times, and right now it’s at an in-between length because the weather got hot a couple of months ago, and all that hair was making me hotter, so I took the scissors to it. Maybe once every year and a half I go to a stylist who specializes in curly hair, but other than that, I do it myself.
I co-wash about 3 times a week with either Kinky-Curly’s Knot Today or TRESemmé Flawless Curls Conditioner, spritz with food-grade whole-leaf aloe, and scrunch with a t-shirt. If, due to time or temperature, I can’t allow my hair to air-dry, I blow it dry with a diffuser.
I have a sensitive scalp that will start itching at the slightest bit of build-up, so when I wash it (usually twice a week), I use either SheaMoisture Moisture Retention Shampoo, Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Oil Castille Soap, or Neutrogena T-Gel, depending on what my hair and scalp need at the time. Following the wash, I condition and style as mentioned above.
Other days I may spritz it with aloe and let it do it’s free-form curly thing, NOT spritz it, and fluff it up into an afro, or grab a scarf or some side combs and see what my hair feels like allowing me to do to it that particular day. I’m a big fan of keeping it simple when it comes to my hair.
3.What, if any, are the advantages to being natural in the industry? Have you ever experienced any challenges? Rude comments? Negative experiences?
This may come as a surprise, but I have NEVER gotten a negative comment from anyone in the industry. Not ever. For me, the advantage of wearing my hair natural is that I never really need more than water and my fingers to get my hair camera-ready. More water = more of a curl pattern; less water & more manipulation = less of a curl pattern & more of a classic “afro.” Easy, breezy. Even more so when my hair was really short, and I didn’t have to keep an eye on it to make sure it didn’t go lopsided or flat in the back.
I generally arrive on-set with my hair DONE, and the hairstylists are happy that they don’t have to bother with it, except for maybe a little hairspray or pomade to smooth flyaway edges.
4. Recently, there has been an increase in the number of models and actresses with natural hair who appear in commercials and advertisement. What do you think accounts for this increase?
I think people are getting used to seeing naturally kinky hair. Except by the truly insulated and uninformed, an afro is no longer automatically seen as a symbol of radical socio-political beliefs, nor is it assumed to be a sign that the wearer doesn’t care about personal grooming. The entertainment industry is all about the bottom line, and since highly-textured hair is becoming more commonplace, the general public is less likely to see it as off-putting and scary.
5.What is your advice for aspiring models and actresses who want to wear their natural hair to auditions and casting calls?
“Do you.” We all have insecurities, but there is always a place for someone who is unapologetically comfortable in her or his own skin. Speaking specifically to actresses: our work requires us to strip down emotionally. How can we do that if we are in hiding? I’m not talking about styling choices, I’m talking about that fear of someone seeing that your REAL hair is actually naturally a spirited, nappy mass, and not a silky, swingy mane? And I’m not just referring to black actresses, because I know some non-black actresses who face some of the same challenges. I’m not a member of the natural hair police. I don’t think all curly, kinky, nappy-haired girls and women HAVE to wear their natural hair texture. I would just love for us all to get to the point where we are COMFORTABLE ENOUGH to do so, and sometimes the only way to get that comfortable is to wear it that way for awhile. Own it. Then do whatever you want with your hair, but don’t do it because you’ve been shamed into it.
6.What upcoming projects do you have?
I just shot an episode of CSI: NY that will air in January 2013. I also shot an episode of Nick Cannon’s new sketch comedy show “The Incredible Crew,” and worked on an indie feature “Brahmin Bulls.” I don’t have dates for those yet, so watch for me!
7.Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I LOVE that the media has become more inclusive. There are still a lot of instances where I’d like to see more diversity, but we’re moving in the right direction. There truly is a place for all types of people, and you don’t have to try to be what you think “Hollywood” wants. Be who you are, and know that you are enough.
8.Where can my readers and guests find you on the Internet?
I’m easy to find!
My website: http://www.NicoleJButler.com