She’s walked the run­way for Vivi­enne West­wood, Marc Jacobs, Diane Von Fursten­berg and Tra­cy Reese, done cam­paigns for Bloom­ing­dales, Nord­strom, Moschi­no and Tar­get, and appeared as nat­ur­al inspi­ra­tion on the Tum­blrs, Insta­grams and blogs of count­less nat­u­rals. We got a chance to talk with inter­na­tion­al mod­el Wakeema Hol­lis (who goes by ‘Hol­lis’) about her nat­ur­al hair jour­ney and what it’s like to be a nat­ur­al in the mod­el­ing indus­try.

We know you’ve trav­eled all over the world whilst mod­el­ing but where are you from, orig­i­nal­ly and where do you call home now?
I was born and raised in Jack­son, TN. I now live in NYC, although I am cur­rent­ly spend­ing time in South Africa.

You’ve been in the fash­ion indus­try for years. How and when did you start mod­el­ing? Were you dis­cov­ered Tyra Banks style?
I was the kid in school that always had my hand raised with some­thing to say. While most teach­ers quick­ly tired of it, my high school the­ater teacher saw some­thing she thought was spe­cial. She intro­duced me to her tal­ent agent in Mem­phis, TN and when they asked if I would con­sid­er mod­el­ing I jumped at the chance. I mod­eled dur­ing school breaks until I grad­u­at­ed high school. Then I moved to New York to fol­low my dream.

You’ve shared most of your hair sto­ry on your blog. Why did you feel it was impor­tant to doc­u­ment your change?
I’ve nev­er felt more beau­ti­ful and con­fi­dent than I do with nat­ur­al hair. Even my career took off when I went nat­ur­al. Yet, black women are still made to feel as if there is some­thing wrong, ugly or unac­cept­able about embrac­ing our nat­ur­al hair tex­ture. As a mod­el I’m aware that the fash­ion indus­try often sets the stan­dard for how beau­ty is defined. Women and young girls look at fash­ion mag­a­zines and try to imi­tate what they see. If only rail thin mod­els with long straight hair are shown, women inter­nal­ize that and believe that their own nat­ur­al beau­ty isn’t good enough. I start­ed Hollistics.com as a way to fight against those stereo­types and give nat­u­rals an out­let to share, learn and be encour­aged.

What inspired you to go nat­ur­al?
I was nev­er good at keep­ing healthy relaxed hair. Mod­el­ing made it even worse. Con­stant­ly try­ing to blend my hair­line with long wavy exten­sions was detri­men­tal to my hair, but I kept it up because I thought that’s what beau­ty was. It wasn’t until I want­ed to take my career to an inter­na­tion­al lev­el that I fig­ured out how sil­ly that was. The direc­tor of a top mod­el­ing agency in Paris told me point-blank that I need­ed to lose the weave and accept my nat­ur­al beau­ty or else I would nev­er make it as an inter­na­tion­al mod­el. It seemed harsh then, but now I see how right he was.


How did you mas­ter your tran­si­tion­ing phase?
This was chal­leng­ing for me. Tran­si­tion­ing is the most awk­ward phase of going nat­ur­al. It’s hard for any woman to look great every­day while work­ing with two total­ly dif­fer­ent hair tex­tures, but It is espe­cial­ly hard when you are being paid to look great! I tran­si­tioned with the help of an afro tex­tured sew-in. It was the only way I could pro­tect my nat­ur­al hair from heat dam­age and keep my clients hap­py at the same time.

Is there any­thing that you have learned from the process?
I learned that not all good things come easy. I didn’t know any­thing about tak­ing care of my nat­ur­al hair when I began tran­si­tion­ing. I had nev­er even seen my nat­ur­al hair tex­ture before. So I was in for a sur­prise when I didn’t grow the corkscrew curls I prayed for but instead sprout­ed an Afro rem­i­nis­cent of the pic­tures I’ve seen from the 1970’s. Still, I was deter­mined to find my true beau­ty and take my career to a new lev­el which gave me the dri­ve to keep going even when I would wake up with hel­met hair that made me feel tem­porar­i­ly defeat­ed.

Did you find oth­er areas of your lifestyle chang­ing as you went nat­ur­al?
Yes and no. I didn’t become a veg­an or a polit­i­cal activist or any­thing. How­ev­er, I did learn to accept myself for who and what I am. I became more com­fort­able in the body God has giv­en me. I think that was the best les­son of all because as a woman with nat­ur­al hair you run into a lot of rejec­tion and neg­a­tiv­i­ty. As a fash­ion mod­el with nat­u­ral­ly kinky hair I run into ten times as much rejec­tion and neg­a­tiv­i­ty. All that mat­ters at the end of the day is that I’m hap­py with myself and my deci­sions.


Do you fol­low any par­tic­u­lar hair care reg­i­men?
My reg­i­men is pret­ty sim­ple. I co-wash my hair one or two times a week, tak­ing time to care­ful­ly detan­gle while my hair is soaked with con­di­tion­er. After rins­ing I seal with leave-in con­di­tion­er, coconut oil and some­times cas­tor oil. Then I do two-strand twist which keep my hair from re-tan­gling. It also elon­gates and helps my hair dry faster since air dry­ing is my pre­ferred method. I wash with no-suds sham­poo once or twice per month and I do an ACV rinse once month­ly to remove prod­uct buildup. My go-to hair style is twist outs.

Right now you’re in South Africa! What brings you there?
What I love most about my job is that it has tak­en me all over the world. I didn’t under­stand how beau­ti­ful­ly and won­drous­ly made our earth is until I began to trav­el and see it for myself. Cape Town, South Africa is a busy fash­ion hub that mod­els, clients, and pho­tog­ra­phers flock to when the win­ter gets unbear­ably cold in NY and Europe. I’ve always want­ed to come to Africa. Why not start with South Africa? Although I’m shoot­ing most of the time, I try to take the week­ends to expe­ri­ence all the cool things I can: Horse­back rid­ing on the beach, swim­ming with pen­guins, moun­tain climb­ing, etc. It’s beau­ti­ful here and I’m lov­ing it.

Are there any prod­ucts that you can’t leave home with­out?
I’m addict­ed to the Hair Rules line of prod­ucts. I made sure to pack the Quench Con­di­tion­er, Mois­tur­iz­ing no-suds sham­poo, Leave-in con­di­tion­er, and Curly Whip styling cream. At first I was reluc­tant to pay more mon­ey for hair prod­ucts. Then I real­ized that as a mod­el I have to show my hair every­day whether it looks good or not. So I might as well invest in prod­ucts that keep it healthy, mois­tur­ized and look­ing great. After all, no one will pay much atten­tion to the clothes I’m mod­el­ing if my hair looks all crazy and dried out.

What’s next on the hori­zon for you?
I’ve been shoot­ing almost non-stop here so I’m look­ing for­ward to see­ing all of the mag­a­zine edi­to­ri­als get pub­lished. It’s reward­ing for mod­els to see our hard work put into print. Also, just before leav­ing the states I was hon­ored to be cho­sen for a con­tract to launch the Au Nat­u­rale line of hair prod­ucts by Dark and Love­ly. Dark and Love­ly is a his­toric brand that is known world wide and this is their first line of prod­ucts for nat­ur­al hair. I can’t wait to see the com­mer­cial hit TV because the fash­ion styling and hair styling were amaz­ing! I hope you all love it and think as high­ly of it as I do. In addi­tion, I enjoy my blog, Hollistics.com, and the oppor­tu­ni­ty it gives me to be in touch with so many nat­u­rals and hear their opin­ions.  I guess I’m just liv­ing and lov­ing life!

Do you have any words of advice for those who are con­tem­plat­ing going nat­ur­al?
Go for it! Find a way to go nat­ur­al that works for you. Some women do the Big Chop and buzz off all the relax­er right away while oth­ers tran­si­tion under wigs or weaves. There is no right or wrong way to rock your nat­ur­al hair. Only you know what makes you feel most the com­fort­able and the most beau­ti­ful. While I’ve met plen­ty of women that regret­ted get­ting relax­ers, I have nev­er met a woman who regret­ted going nat­ur­al. Even if they didn’t stay nat­ur­al or decid­ed to lat­er go strait with­out the use of chem­i­cals, they nev­er regret embrac­ing their nat­ur­al tex­ture. You will learn a big les­son in self-accep­tance and how to keep healthy hair. That’s a win-win sit­u­a­tion!

You can find Hol­lis on her per­son­al blog, Hollistics.com and on Twit­ter @MissHollistics.


Tex­an by birth, Los Ange­leno by sit­u­a­tion. Lover of Tame Impala and Shoegaze music. Come­di­an by trade. Mac­a­roni and Cheese con­nois­seur by appetite.

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30 Comments on "International Model Wakeema Hollis Talks Being Natural in the Industry and Her Transitioning Journey"

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thanks for this. but does she do her hair her­self or she has a hair­styl­ist who does her hair. still im sure she is deal­ing with the frus­tra­tion we are. i’d love to have some­one tend to my tress­es. dark & love­ly isnt dark. they arent BO any­more. soft­sheen (dark lovely’s par­ent) was bought by PARIS FRANCE COMPANY Lore­al back in 98. Lore­al merged it with Car­son, hence the name Soft­Sheen Car­son. SIGH. AfrAm nev­er keep wealth in our com­mu­ni­ties. I cant do Carol’s Daugh­ter bc her prod­ucts are small ounces but big prices. No doubt bc she has share­hold­er jada… Read more »
Sharon J

I just saw this beau­ti­ful lady on the cov­er of an Avon cat­a­log. She’s a knock out. Con­grat­u­la­tions on your suc­cess mod­el­ing career. Thanks for shar­ing info on your nat­ur­al hair jour­ney and on your trav­els to South Africa. I hope to go there some day.


Wow, the direc­tor of a mod­el­ing agency in Paris told her to lose the weave and embrace her nat­ur­al tex­ture or she wouldn’t make it as an inter­na­tion­al mod­el. I was expect­ing to read that a bunch of pho­tog­ra­phers, agen­cies, styl­ists told her that she need­ed to relax her hair and to always cov­er her nat­ur­al hair. I won­der if an Amer­i­can direc­tor of a mod­el­ing agency would have told her the same thing the direc­tor from Paris told her.


Thanks for this arti­cle! Hol­lis has always been one of my mod­el faves, even though she doesn’t get the props that the weaved up won­ders get (Jour­dan, Joan, etc…) She has her own unique look & I’ve always loved it. Her hair, her lips, they make her stand out.

Best of luck to her!


FYI, Mizani was black owned and sold to either Red­ken or L’oreal for dis­tri­b­u­tion. The orig­i­na­tors still have cre­ative con­trol.

great inter­view and beau­ti­ful mod­el. How­ev­er i’m a lit­tle annoyed that now even dark and love­ly is look­ing to cap­i­tal­ize off of nat­ur­al hair. Dr. Mir­a­cles, Kera Care, Mezani, pan­tene, motions and a ton of oth­er non black hair com­pa­nies are clos­ing in. I’d hate to make it a race issue but i find it rather dis­taste­ful that the black hair care mar­ket was 97% non black owned. I know that we should be mov­ing on to oth­er sub­jects that don’t relate to skin col­or and only judge a prod­uct-not by the race of it’s cre­ator- by how well it… Read more »
There are a num­ber of peo­ple that com­plain about the prices of prod­ucts from Black-owned com­pa­nies. I was just watch­ing a YouTube video where some­one was rant­i­ng about it. I under­stand that every­body can’t afford to spend $10 to $30 for a bot­tle or jar of some­thing, but I don’t begrudge the sis­tas sell­ing them for so much. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Those sis­tas don’t move as much prod­uct as non-Black com­pa­nies. Also, their prod­ucts are often nat­ur­al or organ­ic which is more expen­sive to pro­duce. I can’t spend $10-$30 reg­u­lar­ly on one item so I… Read more »

i do under­stand where you’re com­ing from. i also think that we should start think­ing about empow­er­ing our com­mu­ni­ty now and empow­er­ment will only come if we start sup­port­ing our busi­ness­es and don’t let them die “eat­en” by big­ger com­pa­nies. in this world you can only have your voice heard if you have mon­ey and eco­nom­i­cal pow­er. unfor­tu­nate­ly where i live i don’t have many black owned nat­ur­al hair busi­ness­es to sup­port but that’s def­i­nite­ly what i would do if i lived in the US. you have the choice now.


I make it a point to sup­port black owned nat­ur­al hair prod­ucts like Kinky­Curly, Qhemet Biologics,Curls & Carol’s Daugh­ter


@nubianprize do you think i can order those brands from abroad? and do you know oth­er black owned nat­ur­al hair com­pa­nies?


One of my favorite mod­els!


I’m so hap­py for her,she is beautiful,confident and an amaz­ing natural!She’s rock­ing nat­ur­al and rock­ing it beau­ti­ful­ly!


What a LOVELY inter­view. It’s true, once we embrace our­selves we feel so much more com­fort­able with our­selves :D

Black and Olive

Great arti­cle! She is def­i­nite­ly an inspi­ra­tion to young black girls out there who think they can not make it in the fash­ion indus­try because of their hair… look at this stun­ning young lady!

The Kinky Apothecary

Loved her before. Love her even more now I’ve read the inter­view!


My coun­try is indeed beau­ti­ful, don’t believe all the bad press! We pride our­selves in our cul­ture, her­itage and diver­si­ty!! *Proud­ly South African*


Won­der­ful inter­view! She seems so smart & down to earth.


Gor­geous woman and great inter­view!!


What a beau­ti­ful girl she is with what seems to be a good head on her shoulders…AND she rep­pin’ TN!! ;0)


Hey Hol­lis!!!

Great inter­view! Your pho­tos are GORGEOUS and I’m glad to hear you’re liv­ing it up in South Africa and book­ing lots of work!!! Good for you!

You’re such an inspi­ra­tion for oth­er mod­els and also, con­grat­u­la­tions on Dark and Love­ly!

The Thor­burns are SO proud of you!!! God bless!

Paul, Aja and LG


beau­ti­ful. i love the way your hair­line shapes your face in the pic­ture with the puff. the shape of your face makes your eyes and lips stand out. beau­ti­ful.

Amma Mama

Aww she seems so sweet.
It’s nice to hear from mod­els.
Some­times I see all these images of gor­geous mod­els on Tum­blr and I for­get they’re peo­ple. I know that sounds dumb but it’s true. I am glad to hear her sto­ry and per­spec­tive.
I didn’t know she had a web­site, I will check it out :-)


What a great inter­view!!! She has start­ed the process and hope­ful­ly we will start to see even more mod­els going down the run­way with nat­ur­al hair. :-)


I love Wakeema as a mod­el; she’s so pret­ty. And in inter­views that I’ve seen with her, and on her web­site, she also comes across as a real­ly sweet per­son. Hap­py to see that her career is going well!


Great inter­view! Beau­ti­ful woman and love her out­look on things!


wow great inter­view! i’m glad to see a suc­cess­ful young woman who rep­re­sents nat­ur­al beau­ty. it real­ly is pos­si­ble


i real­ly liked this inter­view. she’s beau­ti­ful.

i won­der though why the agent in france told her to go nat­ur­al. i thought that was inter­est­ing advice.

glad to know she is a nat­ur­al and glad she finds strength in being nat­ur­al.


Yeah!!Really enjoyed this piece. She is beau­ti­ful + I didn’t know she had a blog :)


She’s beau­ti­ful and so is her hair! Great inter­view.


Great arti­cle and what a beau­ti­ful woman with great hair. Love it!