A few weeks ago I scrolled past this captivating book cover on Instagram. I stopped to see what it was and clicked on the link. What I came upon was Naturally You: A Hair Journal for the Curly, Kinky, & Coily. I was immediately intrigued. I scrolled through the website, remarked on "how cool" this was, and immediately purchased 2 books for natural friends. Once they'd shipped, I got a personal note to make sure I received them and was on my way to enjoying. Wow. This is marvelous.
*Disclaimer. I am not natural. My hair is relaxed, however I am a hair health enthusiast, and stop at nothing short of keeping these tresses as happy as possible. This sentiment is just one piece of what I later learned...
This past Sunday, I got the empowering pleasure of starting my day with Mrs. Layla Bryant, author of Naturally You. It was not only refreshing to chat with her, but she enlightened me on what it took to put this masterpiece together.
Of course the first thing I wanted to know was what inspired her to write a book. She told me she's "been natural for about 15 years. It was before it became 'a thing, a revolution--a movement'. I was getting scalp burns from relaxer. In all that time, it hadn't been a thing to be natural and healthy. Today, it's a different ballgame to have bloggers and stylists committing to keeping natural and all hair healthy--relaxing less, putting an emphasis on healthy hair." So true. With the internet being a wealth of any and every kind of information, it's so much easier to work through getting and keeping healthy hair. We have too much knowledge these days not to.
Layla said she cut her hair one day--with regular scissors--starting her natural journey. As she continued contemplating writing this book and how, she realized, "what's out there is mostly how-to books, but there's lots of side conversations about being relaxed v. natural." The side conversations have taken on their own life, as a matter of fact. She saw this book as a means for continuing those conversations..."What does your texture mean?" "What if you don't like your curl pattern? The politics, natural hair in the office...I wanted to give people a path to discuss hair. Give them the questions to make them go beyond the steps of hair care--past everything visible about the hair. What about women who cover their hair? With so many things to think about... what if you don't have the 'optimal curl'? And who decides what that is? How?" With so many questions, Layla was well on her way to compiling more than a journal, but a conversation grabber.
I wanted to know more about how she put together the pieces of Naturally You. Layla said she started with all those questions (and more) and went from there. "I talked to people about it, and put the discussions I was having down on paper. I broke down the different topics of hair-- hair care, business of hair and products, hair at work... I expect there's a fair amount of people who won't even write in it, but will see it as a coffee table book. It could be a conversation piece amongst girlfriends."
Ladies, we all know we've had these discussions. This book will help us take them to the next level.
I was curious as to the group whom surprised her the most in loving the book. She said it was teenagers! "They love the look of it, and probably will write in it. It gives them a lot to think about and reflect on. The book gives them the chance to have these conversations amongst each other. Everyone else is having the conversation with them--media, videos, Hollywood, etc. The book will have the conversation with them adults close to them may not." Layla hopes Naturally You encourages them to consider business, product creation, independent thinking, self-love and more. She hopes it will open their minds beyond the pressures they see on social media.
I then asked for her thoughts on what the natural hair movement means beyond hair and products. She reigned in on a very key point, "For people who study the history of black people and hair, it's in our DNA for hair and hair styles to have certain meanings. It transforms in so many ways to set us apart. When there's a movement, our hair goes with it--afros, dreadlocks, braids, whatever. Think about Colin Kaepernick--as he became more of an activist, it seems like his fro got bigger. Our hair makes our point with us." That's so real!
As we continued to chat, I wondered, in all her research how she defined "natural". She said she always hesitates to define "natural", but terms it more as "natural for me". "Natural is a lot of things to a lot of people. Hearing different debates, some have even said adding color no longer makes the hair natural. It creates the further debates of what natural really means, and how. 'Is natural a spectrum, or an either/or?' I see it as trying to achieve your healthiest hair without changing the composition."
With so many discussions going on around hair and beauty today, it was important to know what Layla thought about what her book does for these discussions and hair care in action. So eloquently put, she noted how today's beauty world really pushes for inclusion. "In the world today, we are doing our best to embrace everything. It's all inclusive or nothing. I appreciate all of these blogs and bloggers showing people how to care for their hair and showing them how to love what they have. I think the hair type discussions are important to help people realize what works for them and what doesn't. We need to have resources for people with every curl pattern. We, as a people, span in so many ways-- hair care, body types, skin tones, everything."
Wait, what about natural?
With natural hair having such a stronghold in our social construct today, there are obviously misconceptions. Layla shared some of the most common as believing you have to go natural at all and what that experience will be like. "There's a lot of pressure right now on women who are relaxed to go natural. It's like telling people who decide to get locks--something so permanent. I encourage others to use resources to make the decision. I believe it is a very personal decision. It's not easy. It really is a journey and takes mental fortitude to get to where you want to go."
"It's easy to think 'going natural, your hair will look like _____.' You never know. You do have to go through different products to see what works for you. Manage your expectations. That's the beauty of our hair. You can do different things. It's flexible. You can't have any expectations. It's an exploratory process. Go in with an open mind v. seeing others go natural and think it's what you should expect."
This is definitely a sentiment we didn't have on natural hair 20, even just 10, years ago. The time we're in now is remarkable.
Not being natural, her words were encouraging. Layla assured, "there's things in the book that apply to everyone, regardless of what state your hair is in. The hair is like an arm almost. It's its own part of you. It reflects who you are, your mood, etc. Many women take their hair through every state you can imagine throughout their life." It's our privilege, no?
What do people think?
I know how magnificent I think the book is, but I had to ask about the varied feedback she's gotten. "I've gotten amazing feedback. I've learned some things in creating a product and marketing. Everyone loves the cover, but people were tripped up on the word 'journal'. Some thought it was blank. After spending a little time with it, people say 'This is awesome', 'This is really cool', 'I hadn't thought about that', 'Ooo, I need to get this for my girl'.
As I suspected, Layla defined the book as "yours". "What you do with it is what's going to make it awesome. It's just to get you started."
After working very hard to finalize the book, just before having a baby, mind you, it was published just over a year ago. In the time since, she's pushed hard to engage as much as possible, learning a lot about marketing and promotions in the process. She even came across a hair show in Texas called "Naturally You", and like all empowered women do, they worked together to promote.
So what's next for her Naturally You movement? Layla attended the Natural Hair Show in Atlanta last weekend, and networked with products gurus and other natural hair enthusiasts. She plans to "focus is blogs and bloggers, who are doing the job of sharing with people. I believe we've put together a good product and are working to find ways to get it to people to help tell my story that way." As she continues, she plans to be more directed at youth, and after hearing feedback from teenagers, that's definitely a good move.
Like others taking part in the everyday Wonder Woman Movement, wearing her cape and crown effortlessly, Layla keeps in mind how her work will reflect to her children.
"There's a part of life you want to keep for yourself so kids can see you doing other things, and doing things for yourself--more than just a 9-5, and more than just being their mom. You have to live in a way that inspires them and do things that matter to them. Use the rat race to get to another level of living--appreciate so much more--engaging with people, spending time with yourself. Know there's so much more to life to experience and achieve."
She mentioned her mom shared a clip of Denzel saying he "was happy he was successful because of his talent, not partying with the right people, or giving in to trends." He just kept plugging away at it and now he's "a 20-year overnight success." There's never a disadvantage to working hard and doing the right thing. Layla's goal is to sell hundreds of thousands of copies--because hundreds of thousands of women would want a gift like this. I know a few friends who did. And a few more who were added to that list by the end of our chat.
When not wearing her author hat, Layla works as a Project Manager doing software implementation. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and 3 children. Wonder Woman Movement. Cape. Crown.
We ended our Sunday morning chat with talking about how important it is, especially in today's social climate, to love yourself and constantly improve yourself. With so many things telling you you aren't enough, you must push to keep reminding yourself to do and learn more. She said she doesn't know that this book will change the world, but it will show our hair is more than just strands.
I think it will change the world.
Check Layla and Naturally You out on social media and order your copy now!