Afro Alice has interviewed Stephanie S. Antoine a.k.a Tifane, a Haitian naturalista and singer.
1- Tell us about you.
I’m a very outgoing young woman. As everyone already knows, I’m passionate about my music, and it’s also my bread and butter. I’m the coolest and hottest wife according to my hubby. I’m a big sister to my siblings and other people. I’m a neatness freak with my house, especially with my kitchen and my bedroom. I travel a lot, I read, I love salads, chocolate, cremas and Lambi. I adopted a gorgeous dog, her name is Bailey. Last year, I discovered that I love boxing. I was brought up to be a Lady with class and I’m as down to earth as I can. I’m gaga over kids, I hope to have two. I cannot keep one hairdo for a year or two unless I wear it extra short. Last but not least, I speak my mind, with consideration, of course. I’m a sensitive person with a smart mouth.
2- When and why did you return natural?
I have always remained close to my roots. I turned back natural in 2002. I was about 21 or 22 and since I was on a college-student budget in Naperville, Illinois, the odds of me going to the beauty salon in such rich suburbs were close to none. One day, I decided to do my own perm touch up because my nappy hair growth started to show. As I was about to do it, something like a switch went on in my head with the questions “What the heck am I doing and why am I even doing this?” I set back and since I hadn’t put the activator in the perm yet, I gave it to my next door friend. That day, I decided to let my roots grow because I started to grow tired of the ritual (touch up, curlers, hair dryer). How bad could I look with my real hair? I already had an Afro centric style in how I dress myself; plus as the only Haitian of the College, I didn’t want to look like the typical suburban African American girl, I’m an island girl at heart. It was a real challenge, especially the part where I found out where the perm made my hair ten times nappier than how it was originally. Overall, it was a decision to look as I feel, confident and at peace with myself as a person, and with what God gave me.
3- How did people surrounding you react to the change?
Well ! I realized that having your hair natural will not please everybody. One aunt of mine asked me who influenced me to do that and if I felt more “black”. My parents didn’t disagree but I knew that my dad didn’t welcome this change. Often, he would tell me “Go comb/style your hair Stephanie” lol. I also think it’s a generation thing. Some of the American girls at my school would ask me to teach them how to wrap their hair like mine while I would get dry looks and awkward stares from Haitian women I know when I would come on vacation in Haiti and go out. It is like they were wondering if I felt beautiful with my huge afro hair do or twisted locks. Every now and then, though, I would get compliments.
4- Who were your supporters? Your hairspirations?
My first supporter was my cousin, Yves André, who, at the time, was growing his natural hair out too. He congratulated me on my new look. He probably doesn’t even remember that but once, while I was visiting him in Boston, he showed so much support. We were both in college and we were both finding that new pretty and empowering pride.
My first hairspiration was Lauryn Hill, in the Fugees era. After discovering the unlimited hair styles I could rock, I went crazy like a kid in a candy store. I saw all that perm was keeping me away from. Lauryn’s hair was never like anybody else no matter the length and it always looked hot. I thought of having dread locks but because I respect its meaning, I didn’t want to grow them for a fashion statement. I recently started to grow one and it’s attached to a part of my life I stepped in. It’s personal and confidential. Going natural also inspired me to change how I eat and treat my body.
5- What is your hair regimen?
My hair is very healthy ! And that makes very happy to be nappy. My best product comes directly from Togo, Africa. Angela is my link to the motherland. I buy my black soap and my pure shea butter from her. I use it on my skin and my hair. Aside from that, the products of ‘ As I am ” are also great. I wash my hair twice a week with the sunflower and coconut detangling shampoo. I leave the citrus conditioner on for about 3 minutes. I rarely detangle them when they’re dry because I have kinky and thin hair. From time to time, I do a hot olive oil treatment.
6- What do you like most about being natural?
The good news is that my hair is well taken care of and I do not spend over 200 bucks per year to maintain them. I am not a product junkie but I have several products, as a woman, I like to have multiple options. I love the fact that my hair is an expression of pride and of anti-conformism. The black woman with kinky hair has not always been considered a beauty icon. We have not always been admired and recognized in TV, magazines and ads in Haiti. I oppose to this trend linking blackness to ugliness. My hair is nice; I wet it when I want. Like me, it has a strong character. It can break a comb, I can overcome trials. We are a sexy duo (laughs)
7- Are you working on any project related to natural hair?
Of course, yes! Along with two very good friends, we will start a movement. Enough of those youngsters and women from Haiti with damaged hair by the creamy crack! Some of them do not have the means to care for their hair or go to the beauty salon. Some others believe they will never be beautiful with their natural hair. And it’s not just about hair. Some women make major changes to their appearance (skin color, eyes, hair) because they do not love themselves as is. They are convinced that they need to change to be welcomed in certain fields. Guilt charges go to our society.
8- A message to the existing, upcoming and potential natural hair community?
Welcome to the natural newbies and cheers to those naturalistas, like me, who have kept up in this path. It’s an ongoing celebration that is turning into something bigger than us. It’s not about the Haitian Pastor saying perm is the work on the devil. This is about finally calling a brainwash ideology, pure bull crap! We were the Rosa Parks on the Beauty bus, all the way in the back. It’s like we cracked a code and now we are sitting way up in the front. Women with all kinds of natural hair (wavy, curly, kinky, nappy, and spongy) are no longer looked at the same way. We are more present in advertisements and that is pretty impressive but we are not done yet. So to you, I say : Rock it, Be proud of it. Take good care of your hair, yourself and your personality.
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