Changing the “Coarse” of Curlee Hair: Interview with NaturallyCurly
Introducing our new blog series, “Changing the Coarse of Curly Hair”! In this series we interview curlee change makers: salon owners, hairdressers, curlee platforms, curlee journalists, and much more. Stay tuned, because Curlee Girlee is changing the coarse of curlee hair and it begins right here … Tuesday is blog day!
I am honored to introduce Michelle Breyer, co-founder of NaturallyCurly, an amazing website and resource for curly hair. Michelle and her business partner, Gretchen Heber, launched NaturallyCurly in 1998 with the help of a 14-year-old web designer. Today, NaturallyCurly is a leading authority for everything curly. I am so excited to feature Michelle!
Curlee Girlee: What made you decide to launch NaturallyCurly?
Michelle: I had always been frustrated with my hair, and the lack of information, products, curl-savvy stylists, etc. for people with curly hair. As a teenager, I would pick up the Hair issue of Glamour magazine only to see straight-haired models. I had been teased about my hair through middle school.
By the time I moved to Austin in the early 1990s to work for a newspaper, I was trying to come to terms with it, especially since the humidity made my daily straightening routine – blowing it out, putting in hot rollers and then dousing it in hairspray – an exercise in futility. I was finally letting it do its thing, and had two curly friends who were in a similar “curl
When a friend overheard us complaining about our hair at a brunch, he was amazed that we could spend so much time talking about our curls. He suggested we start a web site or magazine, and we had drunk enough mimosas to think this was a swell idea. We actually got on the computer at the party searched for information about curls. This was 1998, before
blogs and YouTube, and all that came up was one curly hair product company. It reinforced what we knew – there was a huge void in the market when it came to curls, and who better to fill it than three curl journalists.
We knew how to create content, how to do research and one of my partners was an expert in layout and design.
Curlee Girlee: How long ago was that?
Michelle: In September 1998, with the help of our web designer (my neighbor’s 14-year- old son) and $300, NaturallyCurly launched.
Curlee Girlee: Who would you say your target audience is?
Michelle: Our audience was anyone with texture. We always talked in terms of texture, not skin color, so we attracted a very inclusive, very diverse community. I don’t think we anticipated how broad our audience would become – from young teenagers struggling with their curls to grandmothers who decided to transition from relaxers to their natural texture – some for the first time in their lives.
Another surprise audience was the professional stylist. Since most cosmetology schools still don’t provide a curriculum on how to work with texture, we have become a go-to site both to find out about the latest trends and products their clients are talking about and also to gain business through our Salon Finder reviews.
Curlee Girlee: What do you hope to impart to your readers?
Michelle: We want people to feel inspired and empowered. So many times, us curlees have felt like we have a problem we have to solve. We want people to feel good about their curls, coils and waves, and to feel like they have the tools – products, styling tips, access to good curl stylists – that will give them the power to get the looks they want. We also want to help broaden the standard of beauty beyond what it long has been – from long, silky hair on stick-straight models to a wide range of shapes, textures and skin colors. We want people to value their uniqueness. curl stylists – that will give them the power to get the looks they want.
Curlee Girlee: I heard you are writing a book. What is that about?
Michelle: The Curl Revolution: Inspiring Stories and Practical Advice from the NaturallyCurly Community comes out Oct. 3. The book is a little bit of a hybrid. It’s part business book – how a grass-roots movement changed the haircare industry and NaturallyCurly’s role in that – part how-to- book packed with the info from the top experts and community members about how to care for curls, coils and waves and part coffee-table book filled with beautiful images of curl icons, influencers and community members.
Curlee Girlee: I have often found that curly haired women have a personality that matches their hair. Do you find this to be true?
Michelle: I do think curly women have a certain confidence born out of their journeys to accept and love their hair in a society that may have told them they didn’t look like they were supposed to look. I know I have a certain strength that has come from years of feeling like my hair wasn’t good enough and trying to accept something: curls that were often unpredictable and stubborn. We also feel a certain sense of freedom now with the growing acceptance of texture – not that any of us were willing to wait around until others told it was okay.
Curlee Girlee: What do you think is the biggest difference between straight hair and curly hair?
Michelle: Straight-haired friends say their hair has not really defined them. For many of them, it’s just hair. For curlee girlees, their hair represents a lifetime of struggles. And even after all of these years – even after starting a company to empower the curlies of the world – a bad haircut or a super humid day can still make me feel insecure about my hair.
Curlees are also product junkies. According to our latest TextureTrends Consumer Insights report, they spend 104% more on haircare products every three months than their straight-haired counterparts. If you look in the bathroom cabinets of most curlees, you’ll find multiple bottles of shampoos, conditioners and styling products. We’re always on the hunt for the latest Holy Grail products.
Curlee Girlee: What is your favorite go-to curlee hair product?
Michelle: It depends on what day you ask. Right now, with all the heat and humidity in Austin, I love my Ouidad Advanced Climate Control Heat & Humidity Gel. I’m also a big fan of Olapex 3, a strengthening treatment that really perks up my curls after I’ve mistreated them with heat or too much hair color.
Curlee Girlee: How important do you think it is to help Curlee Girlees start to love their hair and embrace their curls?
Michelle: It is absolutely essential. Your self esteem is shaped at a very young age, so if kids are making fun or you for your hair or your mother says your hair is a mess, you internalize that. It sticks with you. Having a curly daughter has been interesting because I want her to accept and embrace her curls early. When she was in elementary school, she used to say she wanted straight hair, despite having access to the best stylists, products and information. I think some kids just naturally want what they don’t have. But now as a 16 year old, she loves her curls. When someone suggests she straighten them for a special occasion, she adamantly refuses.
Curlee Girlee: What is your best advice for Curlee Girlees, younger and older?
Michelle: Find the products, stylists and tips that are going to help you embrace your curls. It’s unrealistic to think that people are going to wake up and accept their hair, but that process can be a lot easier if people feel empowered. They feel in control.
Curlee Girlee: There are 1.6 billion curly haired women in the world today, and they overwhelmingly dislike their curls. What would you tell these women to help them realize they are beautiful just as they are?
Michelle: I would urge them to go to NaturallyCurly and look at all the beautiful images of curly women. There’s no way you can’t look at these photos and not appreciate the beauty of curls, coils and waves. In our society, unfortunately, the media has often ignored texture so it can make you feel like you don’t fit in.
I would also urge them to read all about products for their texture type and find a stylist who is skilled in working with texture. It can make all the difference in the world.