THS Interviews Natural Hair Icon Sophie Ann aka TiSophie!
THS: Hi there, would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
SOPHIE: My name is Sophie Ann. I grew up in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti until I was 13 years old; when I moved to the US in 2005, I went from being called Sophie Ann to just simply Sophie. I am 21 years old now, graduated from the University of Florida, and am planning on attending medical school.
THS: You are natural now but how old were you when you had your first relaxer?
SOPHIE: For my very first relaxer, I was 10 years old. My hair was huge like a lion’s mane… It looked more like a blow out on kinky natural hair than a slick fresh relaxer (I am kind of upset that my mom did not take any pictures). However, shortly after, I suffered from a scalp issue that made my dermatologist suggest that I stop getting a relaxer immediately. I was about 12 or 13 years old when I started relaxing my hair again.
THS: What/who inspired you to go natural?
SOPHIE: There are multiple influences that lead to my final decision. I started thinking about it around my senior year of high school. As part of my graduation requirements, I had to complete a research paper on the early history of Haiti; this involved an extensive study of the African influences on my culture, and made me further appreciate its roots. In addition, some of my friends and I were truly getting involved in the idea that black history is something that should be included in all high school curriculums as a standard course, just like we learn about European history. Of all the research we did on the subject, Malcolm X’s “Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?” speech really resonated with me.
The idea of being natural scared me a little because I had no idea how I would style my hair, especially since I knew that I did not want to have the same “little girl hairstyles” that my mom did for me as a child (cornrows, chunky plaits, beads, bows etc…). But I was encouraged by two of my friends that had been natural their whole life, then later on during my freshman year of college, I had two other friends that were transitioning then became newly natural. I was also now noticing that my hair was so much thinner than it had been years earlier, and my scissor-happy hair stylist had just cut about 4 inches of what she said were dead/split ends. The final straw was when I found Naptural85; with all her cute hairstyles and amazing tutorials, I really had no excuse to postpone it any longer since that was the main issue holding me back. So when I was asked “when are you getting a touch up on your new growth?” I answered “I’m not anymore.”
THS: Did you big chop or transition?
SOPHIE: My last relaxer was in early October 2010. My initial plan was to transition for a year then cut the relaxed ends afterwards. It wasn’t too difficult for the first couple months because it was my normal time frame between relaxers anyway. Then I decided to get braid extensions around January 2011 and kept them in way too long. When I took them out in April, I lost a massive amount of hair in the shower and cried myself to sleep that night (lol just kidding, but not really…). Afterwards, I let my mom cut (very unevenly) a couple inches of my hair every month or so and started experimenting with styles like twist outs and braid outs with my hair at about chin length. Then one day I was tired of having my two hair textures fight with each other, and of seeing so much hair fall out all the time, so I made an appointment with my hair stylist for the next day. I big chopped in late June 2011.
THS: What is your hair type?
SOPHIE: I have a problem with the hair typing system. Not one strand of my hair fits into a single hair type. In the same strand you can find a tight spiral curl, an S curl, a wave, a kink, and all over there is a lot of frizz. The general trend is that it tends to have a higher concentration of waves and S curls at the top, and a higher concentration of kinks and tight curls towards the sides and back. However, if I had to pick something off the hair charts, I’d have to say type 4 (a, b, and c?) because my hair grows up and out, shrinks, and doesn’t fall down onto my shoulders unless I manipulate it with a twist out or similar style.
THS: When you decided to go natural what was the most challenging thing you faced? How did you overcome that?
SOPHIE: Literally the day after I big chopped, I got shoulder length braid extensions. Regardless of all the compliments I got that day on how amazing it looked, I still felt very awkward and boyish. I was used to always having hair that was shoulder length or longer, except for the couple months before my big chop. This was the shortest I had ever seen it, and it made me feel uncomfortable because we live in a society where a woman’s hair is her crown and glory. So I have to say my biggest challenge was my own acceptance of my hair for what it was; but that didn’t last very long. I took out the braids just 3 weeks after getting them and started rocking my TWA. I loved how easy it was to do my hair in the morning (co wash, leave in conditioner then put a headband and I was out the door). I had a few people asked me why I went natural since I had such “good” and long relaxed hair, but I just told them it was just hair and it would grow back. I realized confidence was the key to feeling good and comfortable.
THS: What is one tip you have for women who are considering going natural?
SOPHIE: I don’t think everyone has to go natural. To those who are still dedicated to the “creamy-crack,” enjoy it if that’s what you like. But I always encourage anyone telling me that they are, at least, considering going natural. I think the phrase “natural hair is not for everyone” is wrong. The first thing people need to realize is that there is no “right” or “wrong” natural hair texture. And to all those hiding behind the claim that their hair is “unmanageable,” I think you just haven’t found the RIGHT way to manage and style your own hair yet. Stop fighting with it, stop continuously envying those who have looser or tighter curls than you and learn to love your strands the way they grow out of your head. I am not saying that you can’t admire the hair of others with different hair textures as your own, but envy and jealousy and resentment over the fact that your hair “never falls” or “lays” the way someone else’s hair does is detrimental to your own hair health.
THS: Do you have any hair struggles now?
SOPHIE: Single strand knots. The back of my hair retains length at a slower rate because of them. I hate knots in general really… But I guess it comes with the package. I just don’t have the patience to deal with them.
THS: Your hair color is beautiful. What color is it?
SOPHIE: I went to a professional to get it done, so I don’t remember exactly the name of the color. Black hair has to have its dark pigment lifted before color can be deposited. She used a high volume developer to lighten my hair, and then she had to go back and use a very low ammonia bleach on the ends because the year before, I had put henna in my hair, which prevented the pigment from lifting. The color she deposited was called something like “deep mahogany brown”, and the bleach she used caused slightly lighter parts throughout the ends of my hair.
THS: Do you consider your colored hair “chemically” altered?
SOPHIE: I consider myself natural. I don’t necessarily think of natural hair as completely devoid of chemicals. Everything we put on our hair is a chemical compound. Even water (H2O). If we want to be extreme about the definition, we would have to not put anything on it at all.
To me natural hair is just about embracing your hair as it grows out of your head; enjoying your own texture and realizing that it’s proof of our amazing ancestors. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it and play with different styles and colors that suit your own fashion sense. My hair didn’t change textures when I dyed it, and I love my big/poofy afro textured hair, just the same. I don’t miss straight hair at all.
THS: Your twist-outs are gorgeous. What is your secret for a perfect turn out?
SOPHIE: I wash my hair in about 6 large sections, and then detangle it with conditioner. After rinsing my hair, while I’m still in the shower, I apply a mix of olive, castor and coconut oil to it and rinse it a little bit with just water. So by the time my hair is clean and just damp, it’s completely detangled, soft from the oil rinse and ready to be twisted. Since my hair is already in 6 sections from my wash, I split each to make two twists per section. I then apply my leave in conditioner to each section and seal that in with a thick oil or butter. Sometimes I use gel depending on my mood and the amount of time I have. The most important step is to let the twists dry completely before taking them down. I like a lot of volume in my hair, so I always separate them a lot after taking them down.
THS: Who is your “Hairspiration”?
SOPHIE: Hmm… I find inspiration from so many everyday natural women that I see throughout my daily life. But I guess the one I’ve followed since day one of my journey and still do now is Naptural85.
THS: What is one hair product you cannot live without?
SOPHIE: Wow… It is really hard to just pick one. I’ve experimented with a few different products throughout my journey, and I have a couple that are my staple products now. But the one that has been there since day one is not really a product at all – you can find it in your pantry – it’s just olive oil.
THS: How often do you straighten your hair? How do you prevent heat damage?
SOPHIE: I straighten my hair no more than 3 times a year. I usually detangle, then blow dry my hair on low heat using the tension method, then I spray a heat protectant and use a flat iron with a temperature gauge. I like to go to a hair stylist with experience in natural hair instead of doing it myself, because it always lasts a lot longer when they do it. I just always remind them about 10 times during the appointment that I don’t want heat damage so they better be using low heat. And of course there’s always that sigh of relief when I finally wash it and the curls come back haha.
THS: Do you take any hair supplements? What kind?
SOPHIE: Not really… I tried GNC’s hair and nails supplement for like 1 month, but I’m very forgetful and didn’t take it consistently. I didn’t see any noticeable difference.
THS: What is the secret to having beautiful, natural hair like yours?
SOPHIE: Well… I’m not sure that I have a secret, really. But I’d say, always make sure to detangle with a wide tooth comb or, if you have the patience, with your fingers. I would not recommend detangling dry hair, only damp or even sometimes wet hair. Oil rinsing helps tremendously with the softness of my hair. And finally, the order that your products go in and sealing in moisture with a butter or oil is very important in keeping your hair strong. Most importantly, as I’ve said before, love your own hair and appreciate its versatility! 🙂
THS: How can our readers contact you?
Youtube videos coming soon: tiSophieHair
THS: It was great talking to you, Sophie! Continue to grow!
SOPHIE: Thank you for featuring me!