Hairstory: In Search of Joan

Conventional wisdom has come a long way when it comes to weaves.

As Marvet Britto recalled in that awful documentary “Good Hair,” she used to have to sneak into the backdoor of Extensions Plus in L.A. back when there was shame in the weave game. Nowadays, between Tyra Banks’ obsession,

Beyonce’s blond rivlettes, and the sheer ubiquitousness of it, the weave has come out of the hair closet and into the bright lights!

But that’s not why I decided to get one. I decided it was just time. I wanted to try something new. In fact, when I walked into my house after my very first weave, my husband was like, that’s not a weave! I guess it has to be long and flowing (or he wanted me to look like Beyonce). It was a paradox of sorts — a weave that looked like “natural” hair.

And then there was Joan.

I am of course talking about Tracee Ellis Ross, also known as Joan from ‘Girlfriends.’ My god, I loved her hair. It was just big and beautiful and full and curly. OMG. So what was the best way to get it? The weave way.

I wanted that hair but also we were going to a wedding in Vegas…in August…and I had to be able to do the pool thing without having a hair crisis out there. No gambling, ahem, with your hair 3000 miles away from home I say!

My hair philosophy: If your hair is pulled together, you can have anything on and look — and feel — fabulous. Conversely, you can have on stictched diamonds, but if your hair is cracked, you might as well pack it in.

Not only am I very serious, I am very particular about my hair and so I wanted my first full weave to be with someone who knew what the hell they were doing. Enter Dana Gibbs — hairdresser extraordinaire.

She’s done everyone from Rihanna to Lauren Hill and has her very own NYC salon (and product line, but more on that later) in the uber-cool Chinatown/DeLancy Street area, where everything from raw fish to couture is sold on cobblestone streets.

This is what I learned: with the weave it’s all about the hair. Hair is the foundation. Janky hair, stanky weave. And so, I wanted this Joan look and I knew only a certain type of hair would be right.

For that, we went to another hairdresser extraordinaire: Tippi Shorter’s website I didn’t want the curl to be too tight for my tastes and so I got naturally curly which Dana said could be “manipulated.”

Dana was very patient and explained everything in Weaving 101: how human hair is the only way to go, the types of hair (yaki, remy) and how Indian hair is the most desirable (I have to admit the Indian part of ‘Good Hair’ was good); also that most times you buy good weave hair by the ounce, not inches.

The “weft”, the thread, the this, the that. Dana has a method to her weaviness. She also explained how weaves and the technology for them has evolved over the years. Dana is a hair godess.

First a little bit about me and my hair. By the time I reached my 30s, I’ve pretty much done it all except dreadlocs and blonde hair (though I did rock a platinum blonde wig after I had my daughter in 1996 –total quarter life crisis).

I’ve had a short cut like a boy (um, Solange, honey, there’s nothing is new under the sun), twists, an afro, the Salt n Pepa asymetric, the Halle Berry, bobs of all lengths, box braids, cornrows. Streaks of purple and blue. And a few tracks here and there (glued in).

It was a few years ago that I started to experiment with pieces. First it was those $10 clip on ponytails that were all the rage. Synthetic hair had caught up to human and you could just slick back your hair, pop that ponytail on and go, go, go.

For my August nuptials last year, I wanted some fullness so I had the hairdresser put in a “half” weave — that is braided a few tracks into my hair. What I loved most about my half weave was that it looked real. I wasn’t fronting like it was mine, but it still has to look laid.

I was NOT used to paying so much money for a hairstyle — don’t get me wrong, I grew up in DC — but putting mortgage payments into my hair (the hair itself was expensive as is the labor) was a new thing.

As soon as Dana finished, she gave me a tutorial on how to take care of my new friend. Between her tried and true products, and how I was supposed to do my hair, I felt pretty confident.

As you can see in the video, she wet it and told me how to wash and style it after I got out of the pool. It’s true I’ve never traveled with so much product for hair. I used her shampoo, conditioner, leave in conditioner, spray conditioner, mousse, and gloss.

That was in August. Since then, I’ve had the weave placed in one more time, and cut the weave hair (I left my “real” hair out for a week in between). I am growing out my perm, at least for a while, so my “real hair” is just getting thicker by the second.

In the summer, I wore it wet mostly, but since the temperature has dropped, sometimes I curl the “coverage” hair with a small curling iron. I kinda love my weave and I think it will definitely be something in my hair arsenal for years to come. Thank you Dana! And thank you Joan.

Pros of a Weave:
Your hair is DONE. You can get up and go and look fly!
The time. Again, pretty much fluffing it out or put in your product and rolling. 15 minutes tops!
The compliments I almost died when Raven Symone (one of the weaviest ladies around) told ME that she couldn’t tell that I had in a weave (me: screaming!!!!)

Cons of a Weave:
Sometimes it’s a pain “blending” your hair with the weave hair
The Expense. A good one ain’t cheap. With human hair, however, you can use and re-use.
It itches. Like Beyonce says, “Ladies, pat your weave!”

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