Q&A with author Ernessa T. Carter

July 15, 2011

As a participant in the book tour for Ernessa T. Carter’s 32 Candles (see my review here), I got an opportunity to ask her some questions about the role hair plays in her book as well as a little bit about her own hair care routine as well as her natural hair journey.

ernessa carter

Author Ernessa T. Carter rocking a fly TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro for the uninitiated).

Davidia, the main character in 32 Candles, wears an Afro much to the chagrin of her boss, Nicky. Why did you decide to have Davie wear and maintain natural hair? What do you want readers to learn from her? Also, how does Davie feel about her hair?

At the time I was writing 32 CANDLES, I had super-long locs, which were starting to get on my nerves. My hair was too long and I was gathering the courage to cut it. At the time I would have given anything to keep my length and just wear it in large Afro. But that wasn’t in the cards, so Davie got to rock the bodacious Afro. The truth is I was living vicariously through her. Still, I love that one of Davie’s worse features (her hair) eventually becomes one of her best with proper care.

As far as I can remember, Davie and Mama Jane are the only two characters with natural hair. Any particular reason for this choice?

Well, the majority of African-American women aren’t natural. It wasn’t a deliberate choice to make all the other female characters have relaxed hair. On the contrary, I think Davie’s the only person in the novel, who made a super-conscious decision to wear her hair the way she does.

I love your hair in all of the photos I’ve seen of you. Would you mind sharing your hair routine? Favorite products?

Oh, the hair routine seems to change every other month, since I big chopped again last fall. But right now I shampoo once a week with Giovanni’s TeaTree and condition/detangle with Hello Hydration. Then I put in some Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Cream and kind of do this shingling/twisting action with EcoStyler Olive Oil gel. But it’s almost long enough to do a twist out soon, so I’m looking forward to that.

How are you wearing your hair right now?

Right now, I’m on vacation in Hawaii, so it’s been two weeks of wash-and-gos after daily activity in the ocean. I just co-wash every day with Hello Hydration, scrunch in some fantasia IC gel and finish it off with Moroccan Oil. Easy-peezy.

Let’s talk a little bit about your natural hair journey. Did you always wear your natural hair? If not, what made you decide to return to your roots (so to speak)?  How did you transition?

I’ve actually been natural since I was seventeen. It’s been a long journey from a TWA to 12yo locks and back to a small fro: I wrote all about it here: http://bglhonline.com/2010/08/guest-post-letting-go-of-locs/

I know from reading your blog that you have a little girl. How do you make hair time special for your daughter?

Dude, I totally don’t make hair time special with my two-year-old daughter. Usually it’s me spritzing her hair and throwing in some product before styling it into two puffs. It doesn’t take me more than five minutes. I’m looking forward to when she’s older and we can actually spend some quality doing her hair. Meanwhile she’s a squirming toddler, and I’m a busy mother, so five minutes is all we get.

What’s your favorite way to style her hair? What’s her favorite hairstyle?

I think the two puffs I usually put her in are super-cute, but if it were up to her no-style would be her favorite style. She loves messing with her hair, just jamming her fingers into her hair — and mine! I can’t tell you how many times she’s messed up a fresh style. It’s hard out here for a natural mom.

Finally, any favorite resources for natural haircare?

I’m a huge CURLYNIKKI.COM fan. And I’ve had to stop watching natural hair care videos on YouTube, because I’ve lost literal hours watching other women walk me through their hair routines.

It was really great talking about the natural hair component of the book. Thanks for the fresh take.

And thank you, Ernessa, for taking the time out to answer my questions!

You can read more from Ernessa at her blog Fierce and Nerdy, and, of course, in her book 32 Candles.

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  1. Vasilly

    I love this interview! Hair is such a refreshing topic to talk about when it comes to this book.

    • Akilah

      Thank you! As soon as I saw that cover, I knew hair was going to play a part in the novel, and it’s what I wanted my Q&A to be about. Black women and their hair. What more is there to say?



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