Interview by: Dalida Moharram

You have been working as a natural hair stylist for a long time now. But how did you start your career in hair care?

I’ve been doing hair ever since I was a little girl. I was always experimenting with different styles and I loved working on other people’s hair. Since I was nine, I always did hair on the side, but I was older when I actually went to school for it. After I got my degree at Santa Monica Cosmetology school in Los Angeles, I started working at (the prestigious) Millennium. I was the only natural hair stylist there, so celebrities with natural hair would come to me to get their hair done. That’s when things took off.

The ‘natural hair movement’ is now in full effect. You were there from day one. How did you notice the start of this movement?      

Jill Scott - natural hair - styled by Felicia LeatherwoodIn the U.S. is began around 2000 and the funny thing is that it started with men! They were the ones wearing the cornrows, the twists, twist outs and the afros. Darryl Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer, pro ball players…. I was doing all these guys’ hair. When I started working with Jill Scott in 2003, people started looking at her and loving her natural hairstyles. People got inspired. And then Floetry came, people started looking at them… Then the other entertainers wanted to wear their hair natural, but they wanted to ease into it, start slow. So, they started with the braids first on vacation. From there, more and more people started to experiment with their natural texture. It’s great to see that about six/seven years ago it really became mainstream.

Actress Teyonah Parris is spotted with amazing natural hairstyles! Some of them you are responsible for. How did you start working with her?

I was really grateful when Teyona Parris asked me to do her hair. She found me on Twitter, and I’m hardly on Twitter. When we met, she said to me: I really want to do something natural that young girls would want to aspire to. And that’s how we came up with the red carpet hairstyle. I never had anyone come to me with that goal, and I was like: I want to be a part of that! So I was really grateful that she chose me to do that.

Teyonah Parris at SAG awards 

How do you come up with your natural hairstyles?                      

“I’m going to tell you something that may sound pretty strange, but when I create a hairstyle, I pray to my ancestors, because I feel that my creations are inspired by my African heritage. These hairstyles that we see now, are inspired by African styles, but we have embellished them to be more updated to what we have now. The way I do hair, is in my blood. It’s in my DNA to be creative with something from my heritage. So that’s why I pray and ask them to help me create something beautiful.” 


Felicia mentioned that Alice Walker, writer of the world famous book ‘The Color Purple’, had a big influence on her career…

“A friend invited me to meet Alice Walker. At an interview she finally introduced us to each other. Let me tell you, she was stunning! Just stunning! So Alice looked me in the eye and said to me: “Your ancestors are so proud of you. Continue with the work you do.” And this was when I was just starting out as a professional stylist. What she told me, gave me chills and brought me to tears. She embraced me and that was when I knew, asking my ancestors to help me was a good thing. She confirmed it. So, this is the work I was meant to be doing.” 


With social media, a lot of ladies with natural hair are ‘following’ other naturalistas. This type of inspiration has  pros, but it also has some cons, right?

“True… It is good to be inspired by other women, but what I always say is: “Follow someone with you hair texture”. If you are following Tracee Ellis Ross, but you have Whoopy Goldberg hair, that can be a problem. Because what she does with her hair, may not work for you. In your hair journey you have to be realistic. So find someone with your texture and see or ask what their hair regimen is.”

Besides the fact that caring for your hair is important, I know that empowering others is also something you are driven by. Tell us more….

“I think it’s really important to feel good about yourself, to be self-confident. Empowering yourself from within, but also educating yourself on how to do your own hair, results in being more confident as a whole. So, in my Loving Your Hair With Natural Care workshops, those are things I also talk about.”


What pointers do you have, when it comes to natural hair care?

“I look at hair care and styling from a holistic point of view. Mind, body and soul are all connected. This means that your diet and how you care for your hair also go hand in hand. I notice that people are so heavy handed with putting products on their hair. What people don’t know is that they are clogging their pores. And if someone is doing that and that person also has a high cholesterol diet, their skin will react. You’ll see that their skin gets tender and breaks out. What I want people to know is what you put in your mouth and what you put on your hair and skin, effects each other. So, that is something we definitely have to pay more attention to.”

And where does the mind come into play?

“The head, mind, is not detached from the body. We keep separating things. One client came to me and she expressed that she had so many negative thoughts about herself and that her hair wasn’t growing. I said to her: “The coming thirty days, take a look in the mirror and say to yourself: ‘I love myself, I love my hair, I love the way it feels.’ Do this every single day.” You know what… her hair grew! It might sound strange to some people, but I know that that is the power of positive affirmations.”

What do you love most about natural hair? 

“The versatility. You have so many different kinds of natural hair and you can do so much with it. So that means I can be very creative with the creating hairstyles. So definitely…the versatility!”

Can’t get enough of this natural hair talk with Felicia? The great tips she gave during her workshop at the Luv and Learn Your Beauty event will be online this Friday!