We've always been huge fans of R&B singer Leela James' gritty, rich voice and her beyond-soulful albums, "A Change is Gonna Come" and "Let's Do it Again." Being hair-obsessed, though, we're also endlessly enamored by James' glorious, outrageously sexy afro. We recently chatted with the California native about everything from her favorite hair products to her thoughts on "old-school Jamaican dookie braids." Check out our interview with the fabulously coiffed soul singer. ESSENCE.COM: We're obsessed with your hair, Leela. What's your daily hair regimen? LEELA JAMES: I
'm actually very lazy when it comes to my hair. If I'm not performing, I'm usually in braids. I do old school Jamaican dookie braids and sometimes cornrows...or, I'll add in some twisty, locked hair so I can get a dreadlocked look. The texture makes the braids last longer. I don't know, my hair does it's own thing! ESSENCE.COM: It certainly does, and we love it! What are your favorite hair products? JAMES:
I love Carol's Daughter.
.especially the shampoos, conditioners, and the Mimosa Hair Honey.
It makes my hair smell so sweet. I also love Dr. Miracle Healing Leave-in Treatment and Conditioner
and the Dr. Miracle Feel It Formula Temple & Nape Balm
...it's great for thinning hair along the hairline. Plus, I always take women's multi-vitamins, which keeps my hair strong and healthy. ESSENCE.COM: Your 'fro is such a part of your image. Have you ever had a relaxer? JAMES:
Never. Growing up, I had a press and curl situation, but my mom didn't believe in perming. But she would press my hair hard
, though, right there in the kitchen, my hair just frying! ESSENCE.COM: Did you ever feel any pressure to straighten your hair, as an artist? JAMES:
No, but you know, I'm not against straightening hair. I just march to my own beat. I feel like whatever you want to do with your hair is fine, as long as you're not offending anyone. I wouldn't get "I hate you if you don't like soul music" shaved in my head. It's all about freedom of expression. ESSENCE.COM: So you don't get involved in the whole natural vs. relaxed hair politics thing... JAMES:
Hair politics are so stupid. I wish somebody would say that if I straighten my hair, I'm not as "Black" as someone with a natural. A hairstyle doesn't have anything to do with how conscious you are. India Arie said it best with her song "I'm Not My Hair." And listen, some people wear afros and loc their hair, but they're just as Uncle Tom as they can be. Everybody knows somebody that's like, "I burn my incense, I'm so righteous, I'm so spiritual..." Give me a break! ESSENCE.COM: Preach! Leela James' new album, "My Soul," drops in June 2010. Read More: