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Curly Commentary: Goapele's Natural Hair Journey

The star reflects on her styles over the years and the hair hurdles she faced as a biracial child.
Curly Commentary: Goapele’s Natural Hair Journey
Michael Rowe

Many of us are fans of Goapele’s rich vocal and soothing sound, but there’s something to be said about the singer’s intricate hairstyles, too.  Over the years she’s worn nearly every hairstyle in the book, from bone-straight strands to intricate cornrows.  Nowadays, Goapele is rocking a one-of-a-kind asymetric look as she transitions back to natural.

We sat down with the star to gain insight on her hair switcheroos and chat about how she came to embrace her hair.

ESSENCE: How are you wearing your hair now?
GOAPELE: I’m going back to natural now. Now I’ve tried locs and then, I was flat-ironing my hair and trying all different kinds of styles and it was fun doing up-dos and ponytails and trying different kinds of styles that I couldn’t do before. Then, I just felt like I was ready for a change again. That happens to me every now and then after I feel like I’ve done everything I can. Also, my hair wasn’t as healthy when I flat-ironed it all the time. I wanted it to be back to a state where it felt like it was thriving. I think that my hair’s happiest natural so I just cut it off recently.

ESSENCE: What would you say is a part of your hair story or a turning point in your hair?
GOAPELE: My hair story has been unique because my mom’s a German Jew so her hair is way different than my hair. She was always learning on my hair growing up, but I would sit there for hours and she did learn how to braid hair. Early on it was a lot of tears while my mom was braiding my hair. It was a lot of arguing and tears but I always love that I can look back at those pictures and my hair was tight. I can also look back at photos where my hair was wild because I was a mixed chick and mixed chicks can relate too if their hair was different than their mom’s. Some days it might have been looking a little out of control. Until I started doing my hair or finding those consistent people who were doing my hair as a kid, it was a little rocky. There are some parents who always have their daughter’s hair whipped. Mine wasn’t always like that but I appreciate that both my parents were into me having natural hair so they did find Anota Scott, who I was going to for my cornrows and wrapping last year and a couple years before that. She used to do my hair when I was 10 years old in those wild, beautiful, traditional African styles.

ESSENCE: In all your different hair phases, was there an emotional connection to your hair?
GOAPELE: I definitely feel an emotional connection to my hair just in terms of when I’m feeling good about my hair I’m feeling good about myself. When I feel better looking in the mirror it makes me feel more uplifted. I feel like what that image has been has shifted in different ways and that’s probably why I’m always changing because I start getting bored and I don’t like feeling locked into anything. I like to feel like people are growing with me. It’s always liberating to feel like I’m changing my hair and know that my fans are supporting that. I like to feel like I’m really expressing myself and when people embrace it, it feels like an authentic connection.

ESSENCE: Was there ever a connection between your hair and your music?
GOAPELE: When I first stopped braiding my hair a little over a year ago and was wearing it straight, it was to do a “Tears on My Pillow” video. It was a song that had an old school feel and I wanted a retro look in the video so I couldn’t picture any braided style that would look like that and that was my original motivation. I thought, I’m just going to have to go with it for this video. Preceding that, I was in Sparkle and they had all us wear these beehive up-dos and so I looked in the mirror shocked and I said ‘Why not? I could go for that, too.’ So I think that’s what originally inspired me to wear my hair straight and was just going to be temporary and then I ended up rocking the style for longer than I expected to.

ESSENCE: What would you say your hair mantra would be today?
GOAPELE: My hair mantra is do you and liberation. Liberation is always my hair mantra because it’s always scary to try something new and then I always feel free when I do.