Anyone with naturally curly or coily hair will know that it takes tender loving care to maintain and look after it. Imagine however, that you have straight or wavy hair and your child has a completely different hair texture to yours. Nothing you do to your hair works on your child’s hair, it behaves in a completely different way, but you are responsible for maintaining it and making it look presentable. This is the challenge faced by many parents or guardians of mixed heritage children.
What are you to do? Well, you can contact A Crown of Curls and arrange a private one to one consultation or attend a workshop both run by Keisha Omilana. I’ve interviewed Keisha and had the privilege of attending one of her workshops so allow me to let you in on the story.
Who is Keisha Omilana?
Keisha Omilana, is a New York model, actress and philanthropist. Keisha has always had natural hair (unprocessed afro hair) and her look was very unusual and distinctive when she first entered the modelling world. Keisha stood out because she could go from curly to straight and back again and quickly became known as having ’the best head of hair in the business’. Keisha worked for major brands and is known as the ‘Pantene girl’ for their Relaxed and Natural campaign. Keisha also starred in US reality show Runway Moms and is a celebrity red carpet host. If this isn’t enough Keisha is married to Prince Kunle Omilana from the Arigbabuowo ruling house, so is a bona fide Princess!
What made you decide to do natural hair consultations and workshops?
Both Keisha and her 4 year old daughter sport luscious natural hair. Being accompanied by a young child often means that people feel comfortable to strike up a conversation with you or your child. Keisha found that she was always being approached by people – particularly mums with mixed race children – saying ‘I love your hair! I love your daughter’s hair! How do you get curls like that? My daughter’s hair is the same texture but I can’t get it to look like that. ‘ Keisha never thought – Oh my gosh that lady doesn’t know how to do her child’s hair! Instead, she would respond with encouragement by saying ‘Your daughters hair is beautiful! Have you heard of this technique … ? Have you used this …?’ She would give them informal tips and they were very grateful for her advice and her approach.
A mum at Keisha’s daughters play group wanted advice and asked if she could have a one to one consultation at her home. Keisha obliged as their children were friends and the mother was so grateful to have an in depth consultation. Everyone noticed the difference in her child’s hair. She tried to explain to her peers what Keisha had taught her but couldn’t and thought to herself, this is Keisha’s field, Keisha needs to do this. So the seed was planted, Keisha loved the idea as she is passionate about hair and helping people. She had established herself as a curly hair educator, the private consultations and workshops began and evolved and A Crown of Curls was born.
Why do the workshops appeal to mothers of mixed race children?
Keisha’s first one to one client felt comfortable enough to explain to her that mothers of mixed race children want their child’s hair to look great and be well managed but they don’t know how to do it, they have never had to style and maintain a hair texture they are not familiar with. There is often no one to ask, no salon that specialises in mixed race hair, not even YouTube caters to them. ‘It’s embarrassing as a white mum with a mixed race child, not knowing how to manage or style your child’s hair. It’s not something you shout about because you feel you are failing your child. What mum doesn’t know how to make their child’s hair look nice? You want to ask for help but feel ashamed that you have to ask. Who would you ask anyway? What would their response be? Some people offer unsolicited help that is meant well but the approach can make you feel like a failure and that your child’s hair doesn’t look good. A couple of well meaning instructions of just do this or that are actually not helpful. You need in depth, hands on advice or better still, someone to show you. It’s a strange situation to be in.’
So the parent does the best they can, using the same techniques and products they do on their own hair. They know the results are very different on their child’s hair but they don’t know what to do differently. Hair combing and wash days can become a traumatic event for both the parent and the child but because they don’t know what the solution is, the vicious circle continues.
In the news
The A Crown of Curls workshops and consultations gained such good feedback and recognition that they were featured in both the Telegraph and the Metro. The articles resonated with mums of mixed race children in particular who didn’t realise other mums were going through the same problems. Keisha’s client list grew from there and continues to grow through recommendation.
The workshops are currently held at Hari’s Hairdressers in diverse and trendy Notting Hill, London. The workshop has a relaxed, non judgemental environment as everyone is in the same boat. There is a downstairs area for the children with a childminder – where the children can play at having their own hair salon. The adults remain upstairs (with their child/ren – if they don’t want to leave)
Keisha runs her workshops with a holistic approach. She first explains that self love includes loving your hair and the children loving their hair. She explains that all hair is beautiful, you just need to know the techniques to unlock its beauty. Keisha encourages a positive attitude and language relating to hair and letting children know that all textures are equally beautiful. ‘Never make children feel any less than loved or beautiful because they have hair that is a different texture to you or their siblings – speak and act with love when doing or talking about their hair. Explain why they don’t look like mummy – you, as their mum, are their first idea of beauty so explain to them that they are a beautiful mixture of mummy and daddy. Encourage them to embrace their hair and their identity. Self esteem starts at home and so it’s important to plant positive seeds’
Keisha then starts with a demonstration on her daughter’s hair and encourages the mums to do their own child’s hair. She also invites a child to come and get their hair done for demonstration purposes. The hands on approach really helps parents understand the nature of curly hair. When I was there Keisha demonstrated detangling a child’s curly hair, stress free. I can honestly say I don’t believe the child, who was about 3 years old and had never met Keisha before, was even aware that her hair was being detangled – she was 100% relaxed and comfortable.
Common challenges and misconceptions about curly hair
Keisha will ask the group what their challenges are and gear the workshop to the group. Common challenges and misconception are:
- Curly hair is strong and can handle anything – actually the opposite is true.
- Different textures on the same head or between siblings.
- Dryness, lack of moisture, adding moisture to hair, bed head.
- How often to shampoo curly hair.
- How to detangle, manipulate and style curly hair.
- What tools to use – what not to use.
- What types of products should you use – what ingredients should you avoid.
- Different products needed for different children
- Hair ‘not growing’ – shrinkage and breakage explained.
All these concerns and more are answered in the workshops and consultations.
How do people go away feeling?
Not only do people go away with a goody bag full of really good treats, the parents and the children leave feeling empowered and confident. The child often picks up a comb or a brush and starts preening their hair or looking at their new reflection in the mirror. They go away embracing and loving their hair and not feeling scared of it – they finally recognise that their hair is beautiful. The parent(s) feel happy and excited that their child’s hair looks good and they can now maintain it. Sometimes they have never seen their child’s hair look this way. They can look forward to stress free hair days which can strengthen the bond between parent and child over time. Keisha often gets pictures sent to her a few weeks later by a parent who has maintained and styled their child’s hair perfectly.
Having attended a workshop I can attest that Keisha’s approach is warm and inclusive. She is very approachable and friendly to the parents and the children. As the mother of a young daughter Keisha has natural ability to make the children feel comfortable, important and special and is very gentle when doing their hair. She believes that hair care means no tears and no fear. The children love her – which little girl with curls wouldn’t want their hair styled by a real life curly haired princess!
Who are the workshops aimed at?
The workshops and the one to one consultations are open to all people with curly, coily or textured hair. However there does seem to be a niche for mums with mixed race children, girls and boys, who just aren’t being catered to. It is open to all age groups but tends to be most needed as the child’s hair starts to gain some length with can be from 18 months-2 years and up to any age including teens and adults.
Keisha does more private consultations than workshops as many parents prefer to be in their own surroundings and have one to one hands on support.
Plans for the future?
It seems the A Crown of Curls workshops will be international as Keisha, currently based in London, has already been approached to hold her workshop abroad. Who knows where the next stop will be? A Crown of Curls workshops may evolve into events in future so watch this space.
Click the link below see a sneak peak of the A Crown of Curls workshops:
Keisha can be found on:
FB: Princess Keisha Omilana
YouTube: A crown of curls – (link) https://youtu.be/CrmJoxxGLUY
Cinnamon & Brown