By Kay of

Baf­ta win­ning actress Thandie New­ton and I first met on a Vogue shoot about 6 years ago. It didn’t take long before I felt that I’d always known her.  She is one of the most inspir­ing women I’ve ever met and I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to make-up, wax lyri­cal and trav­el with her ever since. I have made her up more than any­one else in my whole career, in an entire­ly dif­fer­ent way each time.

We often dis­cuss what it is like to be mixed race, our expe­ri­ences, what it means to us, what we con­tin­ue to dis­cov­er and most impor­tant­ly per­haps, find ways of cel­e­brat­ing it. Our hair is not easy hair. It frizzes, it tan­gles and it knots and takes a lot to under­stand. There is still much stig­ma with a large ‘hair cul­ture’ sur­round­ing it, plus a mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lar indus­try sup­ply­ing women with ways of tam­ing it. 

Thandie has been grow­ing out her hair relax­er for the last year and she’s now 100% Lye-free, (the con­tro­ver­sial chem­i­cal in black hair straight­en­ing prod­ucts) and is find­ing that wear­ing it big and nat­ur­al is extreme­ly lib­er­at­ing.

Your hair looks so dif­fer­ent, what made you decide to go nat­ur­al?
Its tak­en about 2 years to ful­ly grow out my relax­er. I always thought I would go back to curly, because I didn’t want my daugh­ters to judge their beau­ti­ful curls. I assumed they’d want to be like their Mum, and they’ve only ever known me with straight hair. How­ev­er, it turns out they’re so secure in who they are as indi­vid­u­als that I don’t think it occurs to them to be like any­one else, and that includes me.

What inspired you to allow your hair return to its nat­ur­al state?
So, the ulti­mate per­son­al wake up call was when I saw Chris Rock’s doc­u­men­tary Good Hair, and saw how the active ingre­di­ent–Lye (that’s in all black hair relax­ing prod­ucts)- can melt a Coke can. Also the fact that the FDA takes no respon­si­bil­i­ty with harm­ful chem­i­cals when it comes to beau­ty prod­ucts. Scary.

Thandie in Alexan­der McQueen at one of the many Bafta’s we’ve done togeth­er

How does hav­ing wilder look­ing, big­ger hair make you feel as opposed to the ele­gant­ly-on-trend hair­styles we’re used to see­ing you with on the red car­pet?
I have to feel com­fort­able with hav­ing ‘all eyes on me‘, which I do when I work, less so in life. Iron­i­cal­ly I don’t want to draw atten­tion to myself because of celeb spot­ting, but my big hair, for a time will work as a dis­guise! Straight hair has been ‘on trend’ for years and years, so hav­ing big-ass curly hair means “I’m step­ping out­side the mould, out­side what’s accept­ed and applaud­ed”. It takes a lit­tle courage to do that.
Main­ly, I want to wear it nat­ur­al because it looks amaz­ing!

Do you think cul­tur­al  atti­tudes with­in the black com­mu­ni­ty are chang­ing with regards their hair?
The kinky-haired Afro has been prac­ti­cal­ly ironed out (pun intend­ed!) with­in the main­stream black com­mu­ni­ty. Now, black women have silki­er, smoother longer hair than any oth­er women. And there’s no stig­ma attached to black women and false hair (weaves, exten­sion, wigs) where­as if a white woman wore false hair they’d seem more of a pho­ny and inad­e­quate. That’s chang­ing a lot, but men cer­tain­ly don’t expect white women to have false hair, where­as black boys know that there’s  ‘No touch­ing above the neck!’ And there’s no embar­rass­ment about it.

Read the rest at

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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26 Comments on "Actress Thandie Newton Talks About her Transition to Natural Hair"

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I’m just not buy­ing it that her her is all nat­ur­al now. If you read the full inter­view she said her Mum used home perm kits to loosen her curls from the age of 14 so her in her ear­ly films her hair looked prac­ti­cal­ly like it does now because the curl pat­tern had been chem­i­cal­ly altered. Her daugh­ters’ hair looks tighter than hers is now and their Dad is white. My 3 chil­dren have a white father( I am mixed black/white)none of them have hair that is tighter than mine!

Torie Amza

Genes are a fun­ny thing… Ya nev­er know how they will work. My sis is like two shades lighter than both of our par­ents. Oth­er than her col­or, she’s the spit­ting image of our dad’s, so I know she’s his, lol! Genes do their own thing.

I don’t like the arti­cle. The inter­view­er sound­ed neg­a­tive. She says stuff that relaxed folks who real­ly don’t like your hair say, “oh, your hair looks so dif­fer­ent” & “How does hav­ing wilder look­ing, big­ger hair make you feel as opposed to the ele­gant­ly-on-trend hair­styles we’re used to see­ing you with on the red car­pet?” (author described straight hair as ele­gant and on trend as opposed to Thandie’s hair which was “wild”)& “What inspired you to ‘allow” your nat­ur­al hair to go to its nat­ur­al state” Per­son used “allow” as if Thandie’s hair doesn’t grow out of her head like… Read more »

If she was straight­en­ing it, she wasn’t allow­ing to be in it’s nat­ur­al state at all. I don’t see what’s wrong with the word­ing at all.


This is a great arti­cle! I always loved her hair and to know she is nat­ur­al now is a beau­ti­ful thing! I read this arti­cle this morn­ing on CN and it’s good to know BGLH has a arti­cle too!!!!


I love this inter­view. I am not sur­prised to hear her moth­er is from Zim­bab­we because she has very south­ern African fea­tures.


NEVER have I seen her with her hair in its nat­ur­al state, Thandie is a very beau­ti­ful woman so it was very refresh­ing to see this.


Her hair is gor­geous! I think the day is approach­ing where fake hair AND relax­ers will be a stig­ma in the black com­mu­ni­ty. We have a long way to go, but I think it is going to hap­pen. I am see­ing more and more nat­u­rals of all hair types who are proud­ly wear­ing their hair with­out fake hair attached.


New­found respect for this won­der­ful actress!!

Kay Montano

Thrilled that the piece was received so well, women of colour are so under rep­re­sent­ed in the main­stream beau­ty press, get heard ladies, shout loud­er, love what makes you spe­cial.
Kay X


Thank you Kay! =)


OMG! Her rea­sons for going nat­ur­al were the SAME as mine. When I saw Chris Rock’s “Good Hair” movie, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Coke can melt­ing in the lye, I decid­ed to stop get­ting a relax­er, because I nev­er want­ed my daugh­ter to feel she need­ed to relax her beau­ti­ful curls.


She looked great with straight hair, but it’s amaz­ing how nat­ur­al hair frames her face beau­ti­ful­ly!! Nature is so wise!


But I’d like to add that she looks quite love­ly with
her hair, curly, nat­u­ral­ly.


I must say I’m sur­prised that she used a relax­er because
with her type of hair — all she needs to do is blow dry it.
And the curls turn straight.


I think that i it is a bit of a mis­con­cep­tion that hair that is loose­ly curly/wavy is can just be blow dried and it will be straight. I have hair like this 2c-3a and sooo many peo­ple have said this to me, but it is sim­ply not true. A flat iron or relax­er is def­i­nite­ly need­ed if you want that silky straight (pin straight) look. Maybe one of those super­heat­ed crazy Domini­can blow dry­ers that fry the scalp but a reg­u­lar one will just yield semi-straight light­ly wavy hair.


I think that is a braid/twist out.….…


Exact­ly @ Cia, my moth­er was a 2c and it was so coarse, thick, and frizzy the only way to get it pin straight and silky was to relax it. She start­ed doing it as an adult.


Thanks for the inter­view! Its fun to hear about nat­ur­al hair expe­ri­ences from celebri­ties.


Very enjoy­able inter­view! I enjoyed read­ing her per­spec­tive.


She looks so much like Zoe Sal­dana!

Chocolate Mom

She is such a beau­ti­ful per­son, and I love her com­ments on her daugh­ters.


I love her. Thanks for the arti­cle!


I love this arti­cle. Thank you Kay and BGLH! It was fas­ci­nat­ing on so many lev­els espe­cial­ly how we per­ceive the hair of oth­ers. I would have nev­er thought that Thandie “need­ed” a relax­er (of course no one needs a relax­er) but the lye runs deep.

Thank you ladies!