She has her own YouTube channel and gorgeous natural tresses. Meet Ife SmenkhKaRa from Trinidad & Tobago!
We caught up with her last year and believe it or not, this interview got lost in the email pile. I’m sooooo sorry because it was so good.
But don’t take my word for it. Read and see.
Special Kinks (SK): Tell me about yourself
Ife: I am a Trinidadian mechanical engineer, married to a Bahamian and I am currently living and working in China.
Even though I have a YouTube Channel (ife360TV) it will be surprising to most that I am actually a very private person.
I created a YouTube channel because many friends and family members were constantly asking me for tips and techniques on how to maintain and grow their hair when they saw that my hair had tripled almost quadrupled in length after being short for many years prior.
Ife is one of the natural unicorns. She has been natural all her life.
Before and after setting out to grow her hair
SK: Would you ever big chop? It seems to be trending this summer. Yes or no, why?
Ife: I have always been natural, I have never had to do a big chop. Would I return to a shorter length? No!
SK: What are some of the most memorable responses you have gotten to your natural hair?
People are always shocked when I go from a bun to a braid out and ask me “Where did all that hair come from?!?”, I tend to disguise how much hair I really have in a cheeky way when I meet people for the first time. When I unleash the curls at later meet-ups it is always a shocker! LOL
SK: Are responses different in the Far East?
Ife: In the Western part of the world, most people ask if it is all mine or if it is real. But in China older Chinese women ask me in Mandarin, “How do you get it like that?” Ironically, older Chinese women consider it a fashion statement to have their hair curled and textured in the salon as they age. When I explain that it is just how my grows, they really don’t understand. They think I went to a salon to get my hair textured.
At the time of the interview, Ife was 31, but she may be 32 now.
SK: So why did you remain natural when you got old enough to choose a relaxer or texturizer?
Ife: I remained natural as a child because our parents never believed in chemically treating our hair, thanks to the Black Power movement in the 1970’s. I continued with my natural hair into adulthood because I love my curls.
SK: You mentioned that you drastically grew in more recent years. Explain.
Ife: I never big chopped but my hair remained at 3 to 5 inches until about 25.
SK: So what did you do?
Ife: My hair was 3 to 5 inches for most of my life because of how poorly I treated my hair. I used to use wide toothed combs trying to detangle every knot essentially ripping through my hair causing breakage. I used shampoos that dried my hair out, I wasn’t retaining length for years – here is a video that I did that outlined my bad habits that prevented growth – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zkrqrp3w48g (SK: WOW! Readers, how are you treating your hair?)
SK: What is your hair regimen?
Ife: My hair regimen is very simple. I co-wash every 2 to 3 weeks, during the week I spritz to maintain moisture balance and deep condition once a month.
SK: What is your favourite oil?
Ife: Coconut oil. Ever since I learned how to make it at home, I use it for everything. It is such a nourishing oil, to consume, use in our hair and on our bodies
SK: Name your favourite products
Ife: Giovanni Direct Leave In Conditioner, Shea butter, coconut oil and homemade flaxseed
SK: How easy or difficult is it sourcing products that you love to use on your hair where you live or reside?
Ife: Currently in China there is a very big natural hair community comprising of people from the Caribbean, America and many African countries. They sell many products here in China. We have access to shea butter from countries in Africa readily available. Also there are quite a few natural hair start-up companiess within the community.
SK: Favourite style?
Ife: Braid out
SK: Do you do protective styles?
Ife: Box braids, it is so easy to do and doesn’t take much work.
SK: Tell me about a great hair day or a bad hair day in short, or about a liked or frustrating feature about your hair.
Ife: A great hair day for me is big, voluminous hair that stays moisturized and doesn’t dry out. A bad hair day would be dry, thirsty frizzy hair that was caused by dryness.
SK: After her pointing the detangling and combing every knot, we had to ask, how do you detangle now?
Ife: Finger detangle because I lose very little hair that way.
SK: Do you have any hair crushes?
Ife: Diana Ross – I always wanted hair as big as hers.
SK: What would you say to employers and teachers out there who think that natural hair is not for the office or the classroom, respectively?
Ife: It is a shame that our hair naturally grows this way but it may not be accepted in the workplace or at school but as an engineer I never had to deal with that. As long as you are capable of doing a great job, why does it matter if my hair is natural? I had natural hair all throughout primary and secondary school and I was always asked by schoolmates with their turned up noses, “When are you going to straighten your hair??”. Thankfully I never bent to their criticisms and jokes! Hopefully natural is hair to stay and that schools and companies conform to our lifestyle instead of the other way around. (SK: Amen!)
SK: Describe your hair in one word, and why?
Ife: Bold – It is as fearless as I am, it expresses my innermost thoughts without saying a word.
SK: Name something outrageous or edgy or just different you would love to try with your hair but have not had the guts to try YET!
Ife: Do a frohawk or faux locs
Thank you so much for sharing. Guys go check out her YouTube channel for more details.