I may be a co-host of Bravo's "Fashion Queens," but I was a laggard when it came to hair weaves. While other girls in my set were early adopters, I didn’t get my first weave until I was 30 years old. Coming of age in the 1980s, the only people with weaves were either performers (Diana Ross, Robin Givens, drag queens and Miles Davis) or girls with the inability to grow a healthy head of hair. By the 90s that changed, and all of a sudden, here a weave, there a weave, everywhere a sew-in or glue-in weave!
But even though weaves were going mainstream, I didn’t join the movement right away. Being one of only two black people at the advertising agency where I then worked, I knew that showing up with “new hair” meant volunteering to host a show and tell at the water cooler on how my hair went from 10 inches to 28 inches overnight—no thanks.
Then I went to work at VIBE magazine. After spending a decade being one of the few black people in the office, I arrived at VIBE where the majority of people on staff were of color and OUR CULTURE ruled the roost! Suddenly, there was a freedom I had never experienced, a laissez faire when it came to my hair—braids and twists and WEAVES, OH MY!
I had my first weave put in the afternoon before I left for Milan Men’s Fashion Week—not a good idea. I ran to the beauty supply store, asked for packs of hair (also not a good idea), took the hair to my local “weaveologist,” and four hours later I looked like a sepia-toned “Baby Alive” doll but with longer locks.
A good weave should look like it’s your real hair, a bad weave is “unbeweavable” (to quote Biggie), and my first weave fell into the latter category. The hair was a texture resembling NOTHING known to man; it was straighter and shinier than Barbie’s, and the style itself looked like Farrah Fawcett’s if her hair had been a toupee.
I was devastated, but I had a plane to catch, so I dried my tears using my surprisingly absorbent weave and dashed to the airport. Upon my arrival, my fashion friends raved about how beautiful my new hair was, how chic … REALLY?! Suffice to say, one woman’s plastic baby doll coif is a gay man’s glamourpuss. I was the toast of Milan with my atrocious weave, and I basked in the praise knowing that when I arrived back home in Harlem I would be ROASTED for having such a tragedy on my head.
I didn’t get another weave for a very long time after that debacle. I liked my own hair and I was back to thinking weaves were best left on the rich and famous. I only decided to throw my hair back into the ring of weaves when I became a TV personality and public speaker. In my new career, there are a plethora of un-vetted hairstylists who style my hair. Having a weave means my own hair is protected and I don’t have to worry about that one stylist who uses an entire can of hairspray or applies a combination of curling irons, flat irons and for “texture” a crimper, to create my look.
My own hair is in a weave cocoon, and if they mess up the weave there’s more where that came from; it’s being harvested in India as I type. And by harvested, I mean truly harvested in hair factories, as seen in Chris Rock’s documentary "Good Hair." Women in India cut their hair for religious reasons, and then their hair is sold to the weave manufacturers that distribute it to countries all over the world, and give folks the luxurious look of their dreams.
The hair I currently use costs a small fortune, but hey, I’m worth it (said while tossing my weave, as one does). I have an amazing stylist who puts in my “system”—yes, SYSTEM—as I’ve now advanced to having a weave with a closure. I’m no weave professional, but to my understanding a closure is like a merkin for the head, a small caplet of hair allowing the weave hair to be styled in various ways because it contains a replica of the human scalp. It’s a bit Hannibal Lector, but it makes for a very realistic looking hairdo.
Which finally brings me to my complicated relationship with my weave system. I absolutely DETEST that it takes four hours to make my hair look “REAL.” The process is: wash your REAL hair, braid your REAL hair, have your weave tracks sewn in, then the weave is cut and styled. Even worse than the time it consumes, my biggest pet peeve about my weave is that I MISS MY REAL HAIR! I miss it when having sexcapades. I miss it when my scalp itches (as Beyoncé says, “Pat your weaves, ladies.”). I miss it because no matter the length or the texture of my hair, it’s GOOD and it’s MINE.
I stop taping my show in May, and I have every intention of spending a good chunk of my summer with no weave. My ultimate goal is to wind up on TV like Whoopi Goldberg. I dream of showing up to work, and my glam squad’s only job is to spruce up my natural hair, apply lip gloss and a bit of powder on my face. Now that’s a system!