Malin­da Williams for Den­im Mag­a­zine

Malin­da Williams for Den­im Mag­a­zine

A few days ago I post­ed pho­tos from a Den­im mag­a­zine shoot that fea­tured actress Malin­da Williams rock­ing a gor­geous nat­ur­al look. The New Jer­sey native, pop­u­lar­ly known for play­ing Tra­cy “Bird” Van Adams in the crit­i­cal­ly acclaimed dra­ma Soul Food, spoke with me about her new do, and being a pop­u­lar icon of black beau­ty. Enjoy!

When I post­ed the pic­tures of you, a few of my read­ers said that you’ve actu­al­ly been nat­ur­al all along, but just straight­ened your hair for photos/press. So I want­ed to clar­i­fy; how long have you been nat­ur­al? Is this look a new thing for you?
Malin­da Williams:
I go back and forth. I think the great thing about hav­ing short hair is that you sort of have the free­dom to, you know, diver­si­fy, move around a lit­tle bit if you want to. Because I’m con­stant­ly cut­ting my hair, if I do decide to put chem­i­cals on it it’s lit­er­al­ly a mat­ter of month before it gets cut off.

I decid­ed to grow my hair long and when you’re tran­si­tion­ing into nat­ur­al hair from a relax­er you have that whole ‘chem­i­cal on the ends, curly in the roots’ thing and it’s kind of dif­fi­cult to real­ly rock a style, so I put a weave in it. Also, when I’m in the in-between stage I get so tempt­ed to cut my hair off. I want­ed to just braid it and wrap it down so I wasn’t able to touch it.

I think I had the weave in for maybe about 5 months. It grew out to where it was long enough that I was com­fort­able cut­ting the rest of the perm off. And once I did that it was pret­ty long. It was down below my neck­line where I could get a short bob. But I was just so used to hav­ing short hair that I was dan­ger­ous­ly close to just tak­ing a pair of clip­pers and rock­ing skin (laughs). Just buzzing it all off. I sat down and thought bet­ter of it and I just said, ‘You know what, let me just cut off the rest of this relax­er and then cut it down to where I can rock a short lit­tle afro.’

I just got real­ly com­fort­able with it, I start­ed real­ly lov­ing it. Our hair is so ver­sa­tile; we can rock an afro, we can rock a weave, we can rock short or long or curly or straight. And I just hap­pen to be one of those peo­ple who’s just not afraid to try any­thing. I love doing hair! And par­tic­u­lar­ly doing my own hair, it relax­es me. One of my hob­bies is doing hair. When I’m bored I’ll say, ‘Let me go in here and do some­thing with my hair.’ That’s kind of how it came about.

So if your read­ers are say­ing I’ve been nat­ur­al. Yes, I’ve been nat­ur­al back and forth. Every now and then I’ll put a relax­er although at this stage I don’t think I’m going to go back to a relax­er. I think if I need to I’ll just blow my hair out and either press it or flat iron it. But of course, that is until I get bored again (laughs).

And when did you cut out the relax­er?
It was last Octo­ber when I did this film with Chris Rock called 2 Days in New York. I knew I didn’t want to wear the weave in the film so just pri­or to start­ing pro­duc­tion is when I took it out and cut the hair down. And I actu­al­ly went into a fit­ting with the direc­tor of the film and she loved my nat­ur­al hair and she said, “Could you wear that in the movie?” and I’m like, “Of course!”

How would you describe the tex­ture of your hair? In pho­tos it looks like it has a soft curl to it.
You know it’s fun­ny, I have about 4 dif­fer­ent tex­tures in my hair (laughs). I describe it by dif­fer­ent fam­i­ly mem­bers; I got my grand­fa­ther at the nape of the neck, I got my grand­moth­er on one side, I got my mama in the cen­ter. You know what I mean? I use gel and Moroc­can oil to manip­u­late the dif­fer­ent tex­tures. So, yes, it’s soft and curly. But it’s not so soft and curly that it’s like a wave. It’s more of a curl than a wave. I would say that down at the nape of my neck is where it’s wavy and the rest of the hair is curly.

Malin­da rock­ing her curls at a Show­time Style event in 2006. Pho­to Source: Zim­bio

You said that you love doing hair. Do you do oth­er women’s hair too? Like, do you do your sis­ters’ hair? Or just yours?
It’s fun­ny. I will do my sis­ters’ hair just because I can’t say no. So if they ask me, “Malin­da, do my hair!” yes I will. I enjoy it and I give them good results. Right out of high school I was in cos­me­tol­ogy school and I worked in a salon for 5 years.

Wow! I didn’t know that. How did you go from cos­me­tol­ogy school to act­ing?
My par­ents always nur­tured my gifts and one of my gifts was play­ing char­ac­ters and imi­tat­ing peo­ple, so they put me into mod­el­ing and act­ing when I was very young. But I wasn’t sure I want­ed to pur­sue it as a career because it’s sort of one of those extracur­ric­u­lar things that you do as a child, like bal­let class or vio­lin.

What I real­ly loved was make­up and hair and beau­ty and prod­ucts. And I also had a very strict father who didn’t let us go that far from home. I was one of those girls who def­i­nite­ly had to be home before the street lights came on, no hang­ing out with boys. So one of the ways I found to occu­py my time was to do my hair. And I became known through­out my school years as the girl who wore a dif­fer­ent hair style every day. Because I had lots and lots of time to just prac­tice.

So I fig­ured that I would go into cos­me­tol­ogy and go on to own my own beau­ty salon. That was my real dream. My aunt owned a salon at the time and I worked in her salon doing nails while I was in cos­me­tol­ogy school. Then I got this show called Lau­rel Avenue, and [exec­u­tive pro­duc­er] Charles Sut­ton, he encour­aged me to come out to LA. I thought I would take a break, stop work­ing at the salon, go to LA and try my hand at the Hol­ly­wood scene. What I real­ly had in the back of my mind was, ‘Oh, I’ll go to LA and I’ll start my beau­ty career and on the side I’ll do the act­ing thing.’ Well, it kind of turned out to be the oth­er way around because I kept book­ing these tele­vi­sion gigs and it was like, “Wow”.

Final­ly, when I booked Soul Food I was on set one day and I real­ized — and it had nev­er occurred to me — that I was play­ing the woman of my dreams; the entre­pre­neur­ial salon own­er. It was so bizarre. I was like, ‘Oh my God! I’m com­plete­ly liv­ing my dreams — both my dreams.’

I’ve heard women say that they cut their hair to look like you, or they’re rock­ing the “Malin­da Williams look”. Do you ever have women com­ing up to you and say­ing you inspired their style?
I expe­ri­ence it all the time and espe­cial­ly with social media. I have peo­ple send me mes­sages on Face­book or tweets to men­tion how they love my hair and I’m the inspi­ra­tion for them cut­ting their hair. It’s very flat­ter­ing, it real­ly is, and I think that whole trend of cut­ting your hair is great because — not that I have any­thing against weaves — but weaves are very expen­sive, time con­sum­ing and I think it takes away from the free­dom of being the real you.

Malin­da shows off her sig­na­ture pix­ie cut at the 33rd Annu­al People’s choice Awards. Pho­to Source: Zim­bio

And how did you come up with the idea for that style?
I worked with a styl­ist years ago, his name is Niko. I remem­ber sit­ting in his chair and telling him I want­ed my hair cut. And togeth­er he and I came up with the style. He styled it and then he would play with it, and then I would say, “Wait, wait, wait, let me look.” Because you know in the salon there’s glass mir­rors all around so you can see the back and the front.

I’m a shape girl. I’m a cut and shape girl, so I know what shape works well on my face. I have a very small face, I have a very small head. And so, we were just play­ing with it, and there were four hands in my head, mine and his. And we kind of sculpt­ed this style.

I styled it accord­ing to how I felt about myself; it felt real­ly classy and sleek, but it had a lit­tle edge to it, but it wasn’t so far left that it was punk-y, it still felt like it could go in the cor­po­rate world, but it had that lit­tle rebel­lious feel to it. I view my hair almost like art. You inject what you’re feel­ing into how you style your hair.

When peo­ple talk about the ide­al black woman, phys­i­cal­ly, your name often pops up. How does it feel to rep­re­sent ide­al black beau­ty for so many peo­ple?
I don’t real­ly think about it but I’m very flat­tered to hear that. Peo­ple, espe­cial­ly women, are so much more than skin deep, so much more than what we see on the sur­face. I think the beau­ty that peo­ple read in me is not nec­es­sar­i­ly the exte­ri­or beau­ty. I think what they’re read­ing is; this girl is hon­est and she’s her­self. And I think — and I can only spec­u­late — that’s what shines through more than any­thing. I’m not try­ing hard to look like any­body or be like some­body or even fit into molds of what peo­ple think celebri­ties should be.

I think I’m beau­ti­ful but I don’t even know exter­nal­ly what that means for oth­er peo­ple. I know what it means for me; it means I accept who I am. I accept every­thing that my par­ents gave me. I accept my hair, I accept my skin, I accept my eyes. So I’m very secure about being Malin­da.

Attain­able beau­ty is all any woman real­ly wants. And attain­able beau­ty comes from accept­ing your­self first, before you even plop any­thing on your face or in your hair.

And also, I often get; you look like my cousin. I get that all the time; I look like a friend, a fam­i­ly mem­ber, a co-work­er. I have so many twins out there. And one day I thought to myself, ‘Maybe that’s what the appeal is. Maybe I have such a famil­iar feel to them that every­one feels that I’m their girl­friend or their cousin.’

Malin­da Williams will appear in the film 2 Days in New York, along­side Chris Rock, lat­er this year. This sum­mer she start­ed pro­duc­tion on anoth­er upcom­ing film. Fol­low Malin­da on twit­ter @MalinsWorld, and tell her BGLH sent you ;)

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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19 Comments on "Actress Malinda Williams Talks Natural Hair and What it Means to be Beautiful"

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Great inter­view! She is hum­ble and thought­ful. This inter­view makes me like Malin­da even more :)

Hair I Am

I loved this inter­view. I’ve always been a fan of Malin­da and her quote about attain­able beau­ty sums up my thoughts about beau­ty as well. Great job Leila!


She’s gor­geous and that print dress is hot!


Love Malin­da, she’s a beau­ti­ful per­son inside and out.


Wow, what a down to earth beau­ti­ful sista. I need a Soul Food Reunion any chances of that hap­pen­ing?

nappy headed black girl

Her hair is always on point. Love it.


Great inter­view! She sounds so cool. Thanks for shar­ing!


Great inter­view, I always thought Malin­da was gor­geous and short hair looks amaz­ing on her.

Patricia Kayden

She is absolute­ly gor­geous — short nat­ur­al hair real­ly suits her face.


have no idea how i just found this, but you can see close­up shots of malinda’s hair on this video:

just beau­ti­ful.


“attain­able beau­ty comes from accept­ing your­self first, before you even plop any­thing on your face or in your hair.” <—-yesssss

Malin­da, you are an inspi­ra­tion.

fab­u­lous inter­view.

Would love to hear more about her hair reg­i­men. Can there be a part 2?? :) *pray­ing and hop­ing* lol


i like her even more now! great inter­view!! thank you!


WOW! I thought this was home­girl from Fam­i­ly Mat­ters (Kel­lie Williams aka Lau­ra Winslow)!


I LOVED this inter­view. She comes off as very real. She’s OUR ver­sion of “the girl next door”. I love it. She just earned her­self a new fan! Thanks for post­ing :-)


Great inter­view! I real­ly enjoyed her answers. Love her.


Great inter­view! She seems very down-to-earth. And who knew she want­ed to do hair and wound up act­ing??!! That’s the first time I’ve heard that!