For every curly girl, there is a story. A tale of torturous years spent in battle with the frizz. Trying everything under the sun to tame wild unruly tresses only to be beaten by them time and time again. The straightening iron was an ally. The blustery weather a dastardly enemy. Oh the shame, oh the frustration oh the agony of bending your curls to your straightening will! Then you hear a voice, one that was always there, but is now rhythmically pulsating in your head pleading “Enough Let me be ME!”. And then the rest is history. Your curls are freed. But what if that voice just happened to be from your most precious of people in your life? For anaesthetist and Mum Upeka Karaiskakis (née Ranasinghe) that is exactly what happened. After years of indecision shuttling back and forth between curls and non-curls, it was her little five-year-old daughter, Aayla, who inspired her to commit to curldom for good! But let Upeka tell you how it was in her own words…
I know a lot of South-Asian curly kellas choose to risk the health of their hair in order to mimic the long-sleek-shiny look so revered in the Orient. But here’s the thing: curls can be just as attractive and striking. It just takes some commitment and research. The past 14 years have seen me refining my technique, testing out hairdressers GLOBALLY and learning what lends itself to a cool curly cut! Every salon I’ve been to, I ask questions to search out the key. Now, styling my hair is a ritual (isn’t any hair routine?) but it actually a) is quicker than straightening, b) safeguards the health of my hair and c) looks fab.
So I bring this blog to fellow South-Asian sisters. Here you will find helpful tips, curl-specific products and hairdressers so you can rock those curls with confidence.
They say no two curls are the same. Well the same goes for curly-hair salons. I’ve been to a few; from the bohemian Unruly Curls in London’s Ladbroke Grove to the playfully surreal in Melbourne’s Neel Loves Curls. And now there’s a hair salon that gives curls the real glamour treatment. During my Italian Sabbatical I booked an appointment with Fulvio Tirrico, top hairdresser and founder of ILoveRiccio (Italian for “I Love Curls”), a stylishly decked out salon headquartered in Milan. It’s been in operation for a mere five years but is so well known that it is now the country’s curly-hair hot-spot. Fulvio himself is a household name: he is among the world’s top curly hair stylists – alongside the likes of Lorraine Massey and Ouidad and is the brains behind the X-Curl Cut– a patented method of cutting natural hair. The ILoveRiccio brand also extends to its own line of products and hair dyes- (check out my product review later on). So with accolades such as this, and a hairstyle that is 6 months old, I jump at the chance at putting my curls up for the chop and find out what puts the “X” in the X-Curl cut.
Loving your curls is about loving who you are…or is it the other way around? Whichever way it was for you, embracing your natural hair is about staying true to your identity and no-one knows that better than my next admission into the Curly Kella Hall of Fame. Meet 25-year old Mishelle Sandali; an Australian-born Sri Lankan working as a radiographer in Melbourne. We’ve been Instagram buds for a good part of a year, but our friendship goes beyond the world wide web. We are curl comrades in arms. Despite being both beset with hormonal issues that have affected our curls, and relatives who weren’t exactly exalting over our frizz, we’re proud Sri Lankan kellas with a love for our desi DNA. She’s been curl-ready for little over a year and wants you all to know that championing curls was all about reclaiming her South-Asian roots- hair and all!
P ics by Gretchen Oris-Chong @Eightcorners
How far would you travel for a good curly-hair cut? Answer: 17000 km. That is the distance I covered from London to Melbourne where Australia’s king of curls, Neel Morley, is sovereign. Since a chance meeting in 2013, I have followed him religiously on social media, not only because he rules over curl cuts but because he truly loves them! The Aussie press can’t get enough of him either; some want to big up his reputation as a curly-hair stylist, others focus on his entrepreneurial talent and then there are those who are hyped up about his quirky fashion sense when he turns up at the Melbourne Cup. So upon going Down Under, I had to book myself in for a signature cut at his funky salon, aptly named, Neels Loves Curls and grab a word with the mane monarch himself.
Long before I flirted with the frizz, there was one kella who had nailed her curly look; Anjali Tandon- my sister’s best friend’s sister. Compared to the long silky locks of my Indian peers (the archetypal look of an Asian babe), her look was completely the opposite; short, choppy, wild, streaked with coppers and reds. In truth before the hype, celebrity role models, magazine beauty spreads, and natural hair blogs, Anjali was my original inspiration and thanks to her I was able to roll with my own unruly curls.
But little did I know how much her curl style allowed her to overcome a lack of confidence and eventually empower her to resist the cultural stereotype. In her own words, Anjali tells me all about her journey; from an unsure, timid girl blindly wrestling with a wild head of frizz, to a young woman revelling in curl confidence.
Ever notice that no matter how rigidly you keep to your styling routine, your curls never come out the same? It’s the mane reason women hate curls. But we shouldn’t blame ourselves, because a hair disaster might have something to do with our hormones. I got talking to trichologist and hair afficionada, Nicola Smart, about what exactly is going on with our curls at different stages of our lives and how best to tailor our regime to get the best out of them.
Ever wondered just what makes our hair curly? Why our hair springs out in twists while others’ flow in waves or straightness? Yes, genes are a big part of our hair-story, but I often questioned just what is in its biochemical make-up to make it act the way it does. Now that I’m in the natural-hair world, I decided that to better take care of my curls I need to get to the root of its structure. So time for me to geek out, don a lab coat and delve beneath the surface of our kinks and curls.
Curls are the constant dread of girls. For Asians there is a pressure to nuke the hell out of our hair to achieve that glossy mane so tossed about onscreen. It is rarely talked about…that is until BBC Radio London asked me to guest on a panel discussion about hair. I jumped at the chance, wanting to address the Asian prejudices against curls. Joining me on the show were natural hair blogger Valley Fontaine and the winner of BBC2 Hair Phil Hunt.
I previously posted “Feel the Fear and Go Curly Anyway”, a five-step guide to help you embrace your naturally God-given hair. Following on from that, I appreciate it’s not so easy as 1,2,3 (4 and 5), and in doing so I wanted to share the twists and turns of my own journey to curls. It wasn’t easy and often riven with bad-hair days, chopping and changing my products and digs from my relatives back in Sri Lanka as well as here. But as you will read, once my attitude changed it became so much easier and fun! Anyway time to rewind back to circa 1983…
My five-step survival guide to transitioning and most importanly loving your natural hair
Coming out of the curl closet is a daunting task. I should know. To reclaim my curls meant doing a complete one eighty on my hair routine. It was hard at first. My curls just wouldn’t play ball. One day they would look amazing, then the day after, the frizz took hold and I looked like I’d had a few thousand volts sent through me! Put together with the constant jibes I got from fellow Sri Lankans (heavens forbid an Asian girl having curls!) – I had to stomach a lot of ‘straight’ talk!
But I remained steadfast. It wasn’t always easy and I had many disastrous moments. But in truth what hair type doesn’t have an off- day? Five years on and I am confidently curly! Don’t get me wrong I don’t have the fail-proof key and I still struggle at times. But every time a girl compliments my hair it’s all worth it. If you are one of those girls wishing to embrace your twisted tresses, here are 5 rules to keep you on track: