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Teyonah Parris Opens Up About Her 4-Year Journey to Love Her Natural Hair

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Marcus Ingram/WireImage

Often when a celebrity is tapped to front a beauty campaign, it feels disingenuous at best. But for actress Teyonah Parris, partnering with hair care brand Dark and Lovely is deeply personal. To celebrate her “surreal” new role, the 29-year-old (known for her roles in Mad Men, Chi-Raq and most recently Survivor’s Remorse) looked back with PeopleStyle on her 15 year-long relationship with the brand, and how she learned to embrace her natural beauty. 

Tell us about your decision to become a Dark and Lovely Brand Ambassador?

“I grew up using their relaxers, and when I transitioned to natural, they were one of the few brands that was making an effort to also accommodate that woman. What I love about [the brand] is they’ve really grown with their consumer and say, ‘However you choose to wear your hair, we have products that enhance that.'”

What is your earliest hair memory?

“It would definitely be sitting in a hot salon all day on Saturday, getting my relaxer then coming out with some super-stiff style. I did that every four weeks. In elementary and middle school I went through a phase where I looked at Caucasian and mixed-race girls and said, “Why don’t I look like they look? I want that kind of hair!”

Is that when you decided to go natural?

“It was later, around college, when I realized I didn’t have a clue what my natural hair looks like because I had been getting relaxers for so long. It was a matter of, ‘What does my natural hair look like if don’t manipulate it, or chemically alter it at all? I don’t know! Who am I?’ And that was followed by a four or five-year journey of me learning to truly understand and appreciate who I am and what I look like without any affectations. Not just stopping putting the chemicals in my hair, but going out bare-faced and embracing my own natural beauty.”

RELATED PHOTOS: NAACP Image Awards 2016: Teyonah Parris’ Photo Diary

When most women transition from relaxed to natural hair, they do a “big chop” to cut the chemically straightened hair off. Did you?

“I didn’t do the ‘big chop’ — I actually grew my relaxer out underneath a sew-in. So I had very straight extensions, but underneath I was growing it out.”

What’s the biggest revelation you’ve had about notions of beauty since going natural?

“I had a very skewed, narrow idea of what was considered beautiful, and I had to let a lot of that go and be reconditioned on what I thought beauty was.”

What’s your routine these days?

“I try not to overdo it. I would say I wash it maybe every four days with the Knot-Out Conditioner. And about once a month I use the Clumping Curl Clay Cleanser for a very deep clean. That’s my washing routine, but for styling, I try to keep it in a protective style for a few days, wear it out for a few days, and then start again. When I twist my hair, my favorite product to use is the Coil Moisturizing Soufflé. I’ll leave those in for a couple of days, then I’ll untwist it and have a cute twist out, at which point I’ll use the Twice as Nice Curl Refresher to keep it all moisturized and have my afro poppin!”

This interview has been condensed and edited.