Dominique Ansari: Natural Hair and Fierce Fashion
Man oh man, do I have a treat for you. I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite up and coming designers, Dominique Ansari. She is part of our natural hair community and spoke to me very candidly about her return to natural hair, the difficulties she’s faced in her own community, and the things she’s learned on the way. Dominique even gave me some exciting news about her new collection.
First let me give you some background information on our designer. She started her company, Dominique Ansari, after relocating to San Francisco in 2009. This powerhouse mogul first began sketching at the tender age of 13. Taking a small break from sketching, she began modeling at age 16. However, this wasn’t enough for our future entrepreneur. By 2006, Dominique Ansari (age 19) and her husband had relocated from Mississippi to California where she then began to study Fashion Design at the Art Institute of California-Hollywood. She was afforded the unique opportunity to study abroad throughout Europe which enriched her creativity as a designer. Since obtaining her Bachelor’s degree with honors in 2008, Dominique Ansari has hit the ground running. Her designs have graced many a runway. Back in 2011, she was a featured headliner at Los Angeles Fashion Week for Project Ethos and this became a turning point in her brand. She most recently debuted her collection in March of this year at New Orleans Fashion Week. I’m so excited for you guys to read this interview, I will be sharing it in two parts. Enjoy!
How long have you been natural?
I’ve been Natural since October of 2013. -D.A.
Was it an easy transition for you (mentally/emotionally)? Did you big chop?
It took me a long time to make the decision at first. I started thinking about it when I was pregnant with my son, and had not used a relaxer while I was pregnant, and I was just going to slowly transition out until my hair grew out of the perm, but styling and maintaining my hair became difficult, so after I had my son, two months later, I went to the salon and just had them cut it really short; probably the shortest I’ve ever had my hair. -D.A.
What did your family / friends think or say about your change? What did your husband say?
My sister loved it and later also went natural and still is natural. My husband loved it! I think I had some issues with it at first because it was so short and I had no idea what to do with it, and I guess, I had a hard time feeling “beautiful” at first especially after just having a baby. My husband was really encouraging with me having the short hair and the decision to go natural, so it helped to adjust and finally feel like I wanted to feel about myself. -D.A.
Do you feel a connection to the natural hair community?
I guess I would say yes and no. I feel connected because I can find so many products, hair tutorials, and so many woman wear their hair natural these days, that it makes it easier to search for ways to wear it, and style in different ways. I don’t feel as connected because I do live in a new area, and I just don’t know a lot of people, but that’s pretty much because I don’t really go to any of the natural hair events or anything. I have a few friends that are natural and we talk about products, how maintain and wear our hair. I’ve found a really good stylist where I live, so that has been a blessing. -D.A.
Speaking of community, while growing up did you always feel a connection with your community?
I did and I didn’t. Growing up and having fairer skin in the south and growing up in a predominately black community, going to a predominately black school was difficult for me until I got to high school. I got picked on a lot, called names referring to my skin color and the texture of my hair. I often was asked, and I’m still asked, “What am I?” “What’s my background?” “Am I mixed”. It was very frustrating to me, because I was immediately placed in a category of how people perceived me based upon the color of my skin and my hair texture. I felt as though the Black community did not accept me when I younger because I did not appear to be Black enough. As I got older, things changed, the world changed; I became more confident in who I was, but I still get asked those questions from time to time. -D.A.
Did you identify with the Caucasian or African American race more?
I always identified with the African American community because I was not really exposed to the Caucasian community as much. -D.A.
Do you feel a bigger connection the community now that you are an adult? What about now that you are natural?
As an adult, I have a connection with people from all walks of life. I’ve the opportunity to travel a bit, so it has opened a perspective of the world that I have not had before. I think I can relate more with people of my own background because they understand our hair and what it takes to maintain it. As a natural curly girl, I think I am more accepted now than before by my community and fellow peers. -D.A.
Your hair is beautiful by the way, do you receive many compliments on it?
Thank you! I have received a few compliments here and there on it, especially when I am dressed up. I’m still learning about new ways to wear it and learning new techniques of styling it, but usually I just do a wash and go. -D.A.
I’m curious, did you maintain a relaxer throughout your entire childhood or was there a period when you wore your natural hair?
I pretty much had a relaxer from a very young age up until I decided to become natural, but I do have one photo where my hair was an afro, so I’m not sure it was natural then, or it was just styled that way. -D.A.
You have a Two year old son, do you think it’s important for you to talk to him about natural hair? Why/ why not?
I’m not sure it’s that important to talk to him about it now. He will grow up and see how I wear my hair, and he touches now, and maybe he will ask me in the future, why it looks like that and at that point I will explain it to him. If I have a girl in the future, I don’t plan to relax her hair, and would explain to her why, but if she should choose to do anything different, I would support her either way, same for my son. -D.A.
I’ve spoken to a few biracial women and they have some interesting things to say about their natural hair journey. They have said that some women in the natural hair community actually shun them because of their texture. They state that their curls have been accepted in society a lot easier than other naturals and for that reason, some women don’t like them. They are not considered “truly natural” because they have what society accepts as “good hair”.
Is this something you can relate to?
I guess I can relate to that in a way because some people will say, “Oh, you have “good hair, you can do that with yours”. Being raised in the south, the term “good hair” is thrown around a lot and you get used to hearing it, and I have even found myself using it before, because it was what I was taught, but hair is neither good or bad, it’s just hair! There are different textures, different lengths, and everyone has those days where your hair doesn’t want to do what you want it to. You can’t please everyone, so if someone is not accepting you because your hair texture is a bit finer than their hair texture, then I would say move on and look for a group that is accepting of everyone. -D.A.
Have you ever felt like even though, you are natural, that your curls or your fro isn’t enough for the natural hair community?
I think people judge me a bit more since I’ve been natural, but I don’t feel as though other naturals think that my fro needs to be more of a “fro”! I often have family members ask me if that is my real hair. I still feel that it is unaccepted by some people. My husband loves it, my son loves me how I am, and I love my hair, so that is pretty much all that matters to me. -D.A.
Do you, as an adult, still feel the need to prove who you are (race-wise)?
Yes, sometimes, because I still get asked the questions of “What am I?”, I feel like I have to explain my background to people at lot. It’s not just from the Black community, but from other races as well; they want to know what category to place me in and I’m sure my son will get the same treatment. -D.A.
What would you say to those women who are shunned and who do feel the need to prove themselves to the natural hair community?
When I became natural, I did not do it to fit into a group or community. I did it for me, because I wanted to see what my hair would be like without the chemicals. I didn’t do it to be pro-black, or make a political statement; I did it because I wanted my hair to be healthier. To those that feel the need to be a part of the natural hair community; if you are not being accepted as a natural in a community that is supposed to support naturals and all that they stand for, then maybe that community is not for you. Start your own community; don’t let anyone segregate you from being you. The natural communities are supposed to unite people with natural hair from all walks of life, so how is it a community when some naturals are excluded because their hair texture is different? Hair in its natural state is different; it takes on different shapes and forms. Some curls are tighter, some looser. To say that one is more natural than the other to be a part of a community is kind of hypocritical and therefore degrades the term “Community”. -D.A.
Wow, just wow. I will be posting part two of Dominique Ansari’s interview tomorrow. I did say she gave me some exciting news about her new collection didn’t I? I won’t wait until tomorrow to spill this tea, please click the link and see what our new favorite designer is up to!
Please comment or share. If you have any questions for Dominique Ansari or myself, please post them below.