Love your texture!
Musician Esperanza Spalding talks hair, beauty and self-esteem
To say that we’re completely obsessed with singer Esperanza Spalding’s curls would be an understatement. Her number-one rule for making natural curls look great? Let them do their own thing!
Esperanza Spalding is our current music icon and hair crush. We’ve watched this classically trained jazz singer and bassist rocking those curls everywhere from the Grammy Awards to the White House – and how she embraces her hair’s natural texture is the ultimate beauty inspiration.
“I let my curls do their thing – when my hair is wild, that’s when it’s doing its best thing,” says 32-year-old Esperanza. She especially likes it big and brushed out: “I feel I can pick up more inspiration – you know, like my antennae are up.”
With her fifth album, Emily’s D+evolution, out this year, the Portland, Oregon native put down her bass to talk beauty and self-esteem.
When did you start to love your curls?
At 15, I decided to bleach my hair, relax it, colour it – I did everything. At 17, when I left home [for Berklee College of Music in Boston], I shaved my hair to less than a centimetre on my head. As it grew into an Afro, I liked that look. And it’s pretty much been growing out like that ever since. I like to let it be completely wild; it forces me to face people not knowing how I’m being seen. I don’t know what it’s doing and I just have to be cool with that – especially if I’m around somebody new. I’m like, “All right, let’s go. This is it, unfiltered.”
Your brushed-out ’Fro is your signature look, but it wasn’t always. How did you deal with your hair growing up?
Growing up, my hair was no fun at all. My mom never let me flatiron it or put relaxer in it; she wanted me to embrace what my hair did naturally. I was allowed to brush it and let it dry, but that was it.
When I was 12, my hair was really thick and super curly – so dense and impossible. I went through a very embarrassing few years there. I just wanted to get my hair out of my life, out of the way, out of people’s sight and away from everything because it was so crazy.
For your new album and tour, you wear your hair in uncharacteristic braids. Why did you depart from your usual style?
Emily, which is my middle name and what I was called growing up, is my on-stage alter ego. She’s also the inspiration for Emily’s D+evolution. Her look reflects who she is and what she’s about, and draws from my childhood. Her hair is different from how I usually wear it: she has long, twisted-down braids, soaking up the energy of her world.
Walk us through your styling routine
Once I’ve washed my hair, I work in a sulphate-free conditioner. I get it super goopy in the shower – think jellyfish consistency – and I detangle my hair with my fingers. I don’t wash out the conditioner; I just let it air-dry.
When I want my locks in Afro mode, I brush everything out with a paddle brush. Brushing is my one commitment when it comes to my hair; it can take an hour, but that’s when I watch the news or phone my mom. Brushing my hair when it’s dry seems to help it do what I like, which is this wild, frazzled thing – all kinds of messed up.
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