so i’ve been showing some pretty intricate styes in our ‘monday style icon’ segment, and this can be intimidating for those who have little time or styling ability. so, i thought i’d mix things up a little bit and, post an honest conversation about everyday styling. zara is a grad student (previously featured on BGLH) who co-blogs about natural hair at ‘the soul that lives within‘.

BGLH: what are your favorite styles to do? why?
ZARA: for everyday wear, i prefer to wear my hair tied back because it’s faster to style in the morning and i don’t have to worry about reshaping it when i wake up. basically, i’m lazy, lol. so it’s usually in a ponytail (pony-puff?), sometimes with a center part, or a side part, or some curls hanging over my forehead. i also recently discovered that my hair can be put into a bun, which protects my ends as i get to tuck them in, so i was excited about that. L says ~ okay, i’ll be honest, i highlighted this because i’m a bun girl fo’ real, lol… for special occasions, i try to pull off a chunky fro, either with the curls intact or brushed out because the large hair always draws attention =)

BGLH: how do you determine how to style your hair? does it depend on weather, event, or anything like that? or is it just how the mood strikes?
ZARA: my hairstyles definitely depend on a lot of things. weather is a biggie- i don’t wear my hair out much in winter or in dry climates, but in humid hot places, the fro comes out to play more. i’m all over convenience with my hair, i’m a grad student and i definitely don’t have time to be doing anything too crazy with it. i also get irritated if there’s too much hair in my face, so i tend to pull it back or sweep it off to the side. i’ve had stylists scold me because i don’t explore many styles, they tell me it’s a waste of hair 😛 oh, i also stay away from cornrows, flat-twists, etc because my scalp gets irritated and starts accumulating buildup, itching and flaking within a few days. i have no idea why it does this, but even with 2 strand twists, i can only keep them in for maybe a week.

BGLH: what are your ‘holy grail’ styling products? walk us through how you use each one, and what it does.
ZARA: leave-in conditioner: i never ever let my hair go without it. i use Garnier Fructis Color Shield leave-in conditioning cream, diluted with water and a few teaspoons of whichever hair oil i have available (almond, coconut, etc). after washing my hair, i squeeze it dry and apply the leave-in thoroughly.
sulfur-8 medicated scalp conditioner: if i’m washing my hair every other day, i don’t really need this, but once i try 2 strand twists or brush my hair out, it becomes essential because my hair is going to be without water for more than a few days. if i don’t use this on my scalp, it dries up and flakes rather quickly. it probably has a load of unfriendly chemicals, but i haven’t found a product that can treat dry scalp/dandruff other than this. if anyone’s got any natural alternatives, do let me know! L says ~ help her out ladies!!
natural butters: i use these for day to day moisturizing of my hair, and i order them from the awesomeness that is FromNatureWithLove. i’ve used their hemp seed, avocado and shea butters mixed with avocado or coconut oil, and my hair loves it. i was going to order their shealoe butter to try it out, but i ended up ordering hair pudding and hair butter from Curls by Sisters Smith, which i’m excited to try out.

BGLH: how did you develop your “natural style”, was it watching over women? was it research? did you know how to do hair before you went natural?
ZARA: hmm. when i first went natural, i didn’t really have a lot of natural role models to observe. i used MotownGirl a lot for advice on what to do, and i always wanted my fro to look like Erykah Badu’s (before I discovered it was a wig!), but my style evolved by simply listening to my hair. it’s important to know what your hair is capable of handling (eg heat, color, etc) before styling it. i do a lot of research online (BGLH is wonderful for that!) to find out more about how i can style my hair, and i actually like doing hair, which was a plus. i used to give my friends perms, and i still trim and curl/iron their hair (not a lot of people have patience to deal with hair for hours at a time). oh, and i’m amazing at twisting dreadlocks!

BGLH: style-wise, what are the advantages of having natural hair?
ZARA: wow, where do i start? no matter what style i put it in, my hair has personality. i can alternate between curly and straight, and even rock out an intermediate with no stress to my hair. my hair is a lot stronger than it was when i had relaxed hair, and its texture makes all the styles fantastic. my hair looks alive when its natural, instead of dead and flat, mostly because it just has more body. it’s just more dope, more versatile, more expressive.

BGLH: how does your style reflect your personality?
ZARA: i think my style reflects who i am quite well. it’s out there, it makes you turn your head and it’s unafraid. it’s loud and beautiful, eloquent and in your face. it shows that i’m not afraid to try new things. it’s basically awesome =)

BGLH: finally, could you do a ‘tutorial’ for one of your favorite styles?
ZARA: it took me a while to decide on my favorite style, but to date, it would have to be the chunky afro. i pulled it off best when i was down in the coast of Texas by the beach, the humidity seemed to work in my favor. L says ~ it’s the picture at the top. it’s my favorite style because it’s a comfortable style to wear, it looks great, it shows off the natural curl of your hair and you don’t have to worry about keeping it in place.
wash your hair as usual, combing it out in the shower if necessary
rinse out the conditioner with COLD water, this will define your curls better
squeeze excess water from your hair gently with a towel
apply a light leave-in thoroughly
starting from the back, divide your hair into large rough sections, about 3″x3″
divide each section into 2 further sections and twist them together. you may secure the ends with a rubber band if you want, but they’ll probably hold without one
repeat until all your hair is in chunky twists
let it air-dry, but not completely, then take out the twists and shake your head 🙂
it should look like an afro instead of a twistout, except that the sectioning will now allow your hair to be more mobile (yes, the wind will blow it, lol). my afro used to have the steadfastness of a helmet if i didn’t section it first. for those with hair my length, to stop the fro from flopping into your eyes, you can use a thin hairband and push it back about an inch from your hairline. this will lift your hair a little higher so your ends don’t inadvertently blind you.

fabulous tutorial… fabulous advice! thank you zara!

zara’s style snaps

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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9 Comments on "Zara // Natural Hair Style Icon"

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Beautiful hair!


Wow, she just described my precise scalp sensitivities. I cannot wear braids, cornrows, any kind of style that pulls and seperates my hair, definitely not extentions for any decent length of time because my scalp will start to itch uncontrollably and dandruff will ensue-by day two. Nah, my hair needs to be free or in a tug free style or my scalp will go off!Which is a shame, because I love protective styles.

analog girl

Her ‘fro is just magnificent. Beautiful hair and great interview!


I love the thickness!

Ebony Intuition



Absolutely jealous of that thickness!! My hair is so thin in comparison :((. Beautiful hair!


Her hair is gorgeous. LOVE IT!


Her hair is awesome!


Great interview – here hair is wonderful :o)