Nikki Walton’s creative idea wasn’t just lucrative, it has changed the way Black women feel about themselves. In 2008, the 33-year-old psychotherapist launched her site CurlyNikki.com as a space for ladies to celebrate their natural hair journey and share resources. Almost a decade later, Walton’s “hair therapy sessions” have helped fuel a movement that has put the stereotypical definition of “good hair” to rest.
In her latest book, When Good Hair Goes Bad, which is free here, the entrepreneur shares tips for maintaining naturally great hair. Recently, EBONY.com spoke with Walton about her new book, and how you can keep your hair looking right for the remainder of the long, hot summer.
By: Montrose Tyler
EBONY.com: Your first book Better Than Good Hair was a huge success. What feedback helped fuel the content for your new release?
Nikki Walton: When I was writing the first book people were writing me, “Nikki how do I do it?” How do I go natural? How do I embrace it?” Today, I still get thousands of emails but now they’re more like, “Hey, I’ve been doing this for three years it’s been going smoothly but I colored it last week and now it’s breaking,” or “I decided to blow it out and it won’t curl back up,” or “I’m tired of this twist out I need to try something else.”
It’s about more practical questions for maintenance because we are so free now. Most people have truly started embracing their hair. We’re not seeking inspiration or empowerment as much because natural is the new normal and we’re looking for ways to keep it healthy because it’s so versatile.
EBONY.com: Did you launch your site to help start a natural hair movement?
Nikki Walton: When I started CurlyNikki.com the whole purpose was to save women like myself time, money, and energy because I knew that my quality of life was suffering because of my inability to wear my hair natural — and that I could not have been the only one. So, starting curlynikki.com was a service to help women embrace their natural hair in a quicker and easier fashion than I did. It proved to be very helpful and it worked.
EBONY.com: How long have you been a natural curl girl?
Nikki Walton: I have always been natural. My mom did not let me get a relaxer growing up, so my hair has always been natural, but I wore it straight until college. When I got to college there were no black hair care salons nearby. So for the first time in my whole life I couldn’t just go and get it flat ironed. I had to learn to do it myself, and it was a disaster. I had no idea how to take care of my hair, I hated it and it was horrible for my self-esteem.
EBONY.com: What advice do you give to women who don’t have much confidence in their ability to style their natural hair texture?
Nikki Walton: When I say “good hair” I mean your healthy hair. Re-learning that word and reclaiming that phrase is what’s important here. Some people are going to have thick hair and others will have finer textures, but it’s yours to love. No matter what you do to your hair, even if you use the same techniques as someone else, it’ll never look exactly like anyone else’s hair. It’s cool to go to YouTube to get inspired and find new styles and new looks, but you have to keep in mind that you have to love and to take care for your hair first. As long as you stay in that space of appreciation for your own beauty you’ll be fine and everything else will fall into place.
EBONY.com: What is the most common issue women share about their hair?
Nikki Walton: When I was working as a psychotherapist in North Carolina a lot of my clients would fall into this cycle of hair damage and they would hide it with wigs and weave which would only disguises it. When you’re keeping your hair covered with weaves and wigs it can exacerbate hair loss, especially around your edges. A lot of my clients could never find relief or recovery because they were so busy trying to mask the damage. It’s important to recognize that there are alternatives to covering your hair up.
EBONY.com: Some have called you the modern-day Madame CJ Walker. How has that impacted your business strategy?
Nikki Walton: It’s been a lot of responsibility. I’ve been honored to provide a positive platform for Black women to vent and celebrate one another. Its truly been absolutely amazing, I knew it would be helpful when I started, but I had no idea the impact it would have. I honestly feel that Curlynikki.com has changed the face of Black America; now natural hair is the new normal.
When I first came out, I told people to buy the book and comedian Marlon Wayans said, “Natural hair was the new yaki,” and it is! We love our natural hair texture and it’s a beautiful thing. I’m very proud to have been a part of the change.
EBONY.com: What’s the most inspiring story that really stuck to you?
Nikki Walton: I think the stories that stand out the most are the ones where women have shared they have young daughters who love their natural texture then the mothers, who were raised on relaxers, go natural in order to be a positive role models for their daughters. We all come from different backgrounds and I’m sure there are some girls from my generation that did not have relaxers and were not taught straight hair was the beauty standard, but I know personally that was not the case. I hated my natural hair until I was 18-19 years old, so it’s truly a blessing to see girls growing up today who are starting out with that self-love and I’m excited to see where they end up. The future has to be so bright for them if they’re starting from that place of self-acceptance.
EBONY.com: What sets your curl blog apart from others?
Nikki Walton: First of all I am my curl blog! Curly Nikki is me! I also feel like my business model is unique. I’ve never endorsed a product. I’ve never used sponsored posts for product lines. Everything that I do is objective. My site is a consumer site. It has always been a consumer site since day one, and that’s why my readers continue to come because they know when they read a review on Curly Nikki it’s honest. It’s always been about providing a service for the consumer. That’s what I wanted to do with this book as well; it’s free! It’s completely objective and there is not a single endorsement in it. It’s my real book and Dark and Lovely invested in an educated consumer. I’m grateful for that and I’m proud to be able to offer it to the community.
EBONY.com: What should fans expect from this new book that’s different from the previous book?
Nikki Walton: Well the previous book was for folks who were new to the community, folks who were trying to transition from relaxed hair to natural hair. This new book meets the natural haired woman wherever she’s at in her journey. I would say all the questions I get circle around the same topic, so how I broke this down was different. It doesn’t matter if you’re a newbie or five years in to having natural hair; it’ll be a quick reference guide. You can pick up this book and say, “Sh-t I burned my hair; how do it get it to curl back again?” or “Oops, I left the dye in too long; what can I do?” It’s short and long-term solutions to fortify your hair and recover from any damage.
EBONY.com: What are there harmful ingredients all natural girls should stay away from?
Nikki Walton: That’s a tough one because there are lots of debates about this topic. A while ago you would’ve seen stuff say, “Stay away from all silicones” and now, through research, we found out that some silicones can actually be beneficial in preventing your hair damage. I think you have to do to experiment with what works for you.
EBONY.com: The summer months can be really hard on hair. What tips do you have for readers on how to beat the heat?
Nikki Walton: If you’re dealing with humidity embrace your texture and rock out with your wash and go. Don’t try to do anything fancy, like roller sets, because it’s going to ‘fro up anyway, so invest your time in sculpting it into style you’ll love. Another tip is to use lighter products in the summer. Last, if you’re on vacation place the leave-in conditioner in the refrigerator before applying it to your hair. That way it’s like a nice cool treatment it’ll smooth the cuticle for less frizz and shinier results.
Want more advice? Pick up a copy of Curly Nikki’s book, When Good Hair Goes Bad, here