C: I’m half French (my father) and half Cameroonian (my mother). I split my childhood between France and Africa (Guinea-Bissau & Mozambique), then I lived for a while in France and I’m now based in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. I’m a singer, my music is a fusion of various genres, let’s say it’s Soulful Afro-Brazilian Lounge music.
What I love about France is the diversity. You have access to many things, it’s like you have access to the whole world. I’ve always been surrounded by people from different countries, with different roots and cultures. It really helps to open your mind and see that we’re all linked in a certain way. As I say, when you know people from everywhere, you always feel concerned by what’s happening in the world.
In the Dominican Republic I like that you’re called “mi amor” (my love) by almost everybody. It makes everything sweeter. People are really positive and warm. Here, I’ve learn a lot about myself concerning my French and African identity. I’ve also witnessed again the strength of Africa’s cultural influence. What I like the most is the cinematography of the country. I swear, if you just go out with a camera you would never get enough. There’s something in every corner. A story to tell, a story to hear, a picture to shoot, a scene to capture. It’s amazing. Plus, it’s a beautiful island where you feel you can do so many things for the first time.
What is the natural hair scene like in France and the Dominican Republic?
C: In France, it’s now accepted. It’s been a while now, but it was not so common when I was younger. In high school, I was kind of the only one wearing my natural curly hair. I’m from the suburbs, I know that in Paris, in “hype places”, you could find girls wearing hair like mine but it was not common at all.
It’s pretty much accepted now, it’s trendy. People always go crazy over my hair, they “love those curls, they’re so tiny, can I touch it?”. I used to be a model and I remember that I couldn’t do nothing with my hair because my curls were my “trademark”. When I was going to a photo shoot, when the hair stylist asked what he was supposed to do with my hair, most of the time the answer was “Nothing, leave it like that, natural.” I always thought, “When I stop modeling, I’ll let go for dread locks.” I’m still seriously thinking about it… Time will tell.
Now that I’m based in Dominican Republic, it’s much different. Although there are a lot of mixed race people, it’s very uncommon to wear natural hair. I feel I’m accepted because I’m a foreigner, it’s part of my exotism, I’m a “morena” from Europe, I’m different anyway. I get compliments for my hair and that’s kind of weird because I’m always thinking that a lot of those women might have beautiful curly hair too if they were not relaxing it. But, there’s a nappy hair movement starting. I’ve discovered it through the blog Go Natural Caribe, created by Patricia Grassals, and I’m gladly supporting it. (www.gonaturalcaribe.com)
When did you go natural?
C: I’ve always worn my hair natural. My mother always made me feel good about my hair, although I did relax it a couple of times and I was crazy about having straight hair when I was a kid. But I never relaxed my hair as a habit. I found out very fast that it was better to keep it natural and then do a blow-dry if I wanted to change instead of relaxing and being unable to go back to my curls for months. The last time I relaxed my hair, I think it was around ‘95.
What’s your regimen?
C: MOISTURIZING! Moisturizing is the key to the healthiness of my hair. My daily routine is to spray with mineral water and oil (argan, olive, monoï or coconut). I also use a lot of leave-ins, I like the Herbal Esssence one for curly hair because it’s easy to find where I live. I use their conditioner too. I do a treatment almost every week. Because there aren’t many products for afro hair in DR, I use olive oil or coconut oil. I put it on my hair, do some braids, keep it in overnight and rinse in the morning before shampooing.
How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
C: I don’t cut my hair a lot. anymore. To moisturize, I like to use natural products like shea butter, argan oil, olive oil or leave-in conditioner.
Where do you buy your products?
C: Every time I travel I like to buy new products. I change and try new things a lot. I feel like my hair gets used to a product and then it stops working. So I change and then I go back. In France, we have a lot of exotic shops where you can find hundreds of products for afro hair. But the best place is the African neighbourhood in Paris: Château d’Eau & Château Rouge. I’ve also had a great time shopping for my hair in Rio, Brasil.
What would you like to see in the DR in terms of haircare?
C: Well, in DR, I would love to find more products for afro hair. I’m always so surprised at how hard they are to find. With all those products and food coming from United States and with all those other islands so close, I was really expecting to find much more products for my hair than in France. But I guess there aren’t enough customers yet to make this business worth it. I wish I could find Jamaican Mango & Lime products in Santo Domingo. I love it. They make my hair smell so good.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
C: Oh sure, you can find me on Facebook : www.facebook.com/clarissealbrecht, Twitter : www.twitter.com/clarisseonline and I also have my own website : www.clarissealbrecht.com.