Dr Adrienne Carthon, fondly referred to as Dr. A - a highly educated professor and scholar with the gift for natural hair care, is the Founder and CEO of her new line: Naturally Nadine. This southern feminist not only advocates for women's rights in the black community but the acceptance and respect of the curls, coils, and kinks. As a lover of Jesus Christ, she is compelled to spread that same love to her students and clientele through her service, classroom, and natural product line.
"Natually Nadine is committed to providing the best hair health education and access to resources to help people grow the healthiest heads of hair possible."
Q:Your new baby, "Naturally Nadine", was named after your late grandmother, correct? In what way has her legacy affected and influenced you as a person and entrepreneur?
A: Yes, I named my company after my maternal grandma because she meant the world to me. I spent a great deal of time during my formative years with her and my grandfather, Willie Shinhoster. My grandmother was known for her ministry in the community as a praying woman. With a grade school education, she raised six children whom all went to college. I only ever knew her once to work outside of the home, and cosmetology allowed her to share her love of Christ from her home while doing hair.
Her legacy for me is her faith. She shared it with me while I was very young, and it really does anchor much of what I do and how I approach business. Integrity is important to me even while I acknowledge my many imperfections. Also, I think of who and what my grandmother and mother would have been had they had the choices that are now available to me, and I aim high. My grandmother also wasn’t lazy, and neither am I.
Q: I read about your grandmother, Nadine Pullin Shinhoster, on your "About Me" section of your website www.Naturally-Nadine.com. Like her, I too see cosmetology as a ministry (particularly to women) which gives me great joy when I see lives are being changed by the service I provide. I found it quite a coincidence that just as she was leaving this earth in 1991, I had just been born in 1990. Do you believe that God passes the torch onto others? That when one person's part of His big plan is done, He has someone to pick up right where the previous left off?
A: I believe that each of us is put on earth to do something that only we as individuals can do. Some of us are here to begin things, some to continue things, and others to end things. I believe my grandmother’s life was a beginning for all she touched. She really was an amazing woman, and I see the evidence of that in others. Her daughters and their daughters become more like her every day as well as extended family and friends who knew her. The one memory they all hold is being prayed for by her when life was particularly rough. Like yourself, I know my clients’ lives are changed by my services and products, but more importantly, they are affected by the interaction, the conversation, the community, and the healing that takes place in the atmosphere of the salon, classes, seminars, and events. The spaces I inhabit reflect me with purples, blues, and soft soul music, and that reflection is often filled with peace as I, like my grandmother, frequently spend quiet time in prayer during styling sessions.
Q: What was your grandmother's torch to you?
A: Faith and love. Yeah, I’d have say those two with the greatest being love.
Q: Cosmetology - catering to natural hair - is just one of the MANY things that you do. What else is on your list of achievements?
A: Yikes! That makes me laugh. I’m somewhat of a Renaissance woman. I go by Dr. A~ and sometimes get some funny looks, but I really do have an earned doctorate in American Literature with specialties in African American Literature, Women’s Literature, and Women’s Studies. I’m well read. The work I do in natural hair parallels nicely with my academic interests and allows me to move freely in multiple spaces as a true public intellectual. Although I’ve left academia, I still do research independently with a self-funded sabbatical. So I actually style on the salon floor by day, work on developing new products for the line by night, and do research on my days off. I sleep to rejuvenate, but extended sleep is for the dead.
I also write and am preparing to share that part of myself on a new blog where I’ll feature information and opinions on more than just hair. I love writing essays, poetry, and short fiction. I’ve written and produced plays working with about every age group you can imagine. I also produced a public access show with my Journalism students back when I taught high school. Broadcast News was my actual undergrad major. I’ve done a lot in my few years, but life’s an adventure and I want to experience every part of it.
Q: As an advocate for black natural hair, what are some of the stereotypes and negative connotations that you have encountered in society (even among people of color), and what changes are you currently seeing today?
A: Stereotypes. Hmm…that black isn’t beautiful and that Black women aren’t or can’t be sexy, including our hair—that we’re somehow outsiders to mainstream beauty, but I contend that we ARE mainstream beauty. When I say Black, I don’t mean just American but all of us in the African Diaspora with a hint of color. We’re still exortist – portrayed through a distorted lens that our value lies only our physicality and not our intellect --, butI feel to a degree that our beauty is becoming a bit more normalized as well. Let’s face it, our features are well admired on those who don’t look like us, underlying a real desire to some extent be us—or at least the part of us that’s fetishized, but that’s another topic for another kind of Q&A. ☺
Q:What has been one of the biggest issues multi-cultural/black women have had/have with their natural hair?
A: Honestly, one of the biggest issues currently isn’t products or self-love, where hair is concerned, but very literally knowing what to do with it. Some women struggle with their natural hair, and some still have relaxers because they just don’t know what to do or how to care for their hair because their mothers didn’t know how and couldn’t teach them. For many, the relaxer was their mothers’ quick fix go-to, so the challenge now is adequate education, which, despite YouTube, is still hard to come by as natural hair care as a field is still growing.
Q:Do you believe that natural hair care for curly, coily, and kinky textures should be recognized in cosmetology (this includes braid stylists and Locs) or should it stay within the culture of our communities ( seeing that braiding and natural hair care is usually passed down and not learned in school)?
A: That’s a good question, and I’m actually divided in my answer to that. While I recognize the need for standardization, sanitation, and training, especially if the care is going to take place in a salon setting, I’m not sure the current cosmetology board structure is the right vehicle to do that. Natural hair is really its own field of study, it really is, and not just a unit or two one can master or cover in a cosmetology class. Thankfully, there are some of us at work developing curricula that cater just to the study of textured natural hair.
On the other hand, while there are some fierce stylists in the community, what hasn’t been passed down or taught in many cosmetology classes is how to care for our hair. So I think a distinction has to be made between natural hair stylists and natural hair care specialists. They aren’t always one and the same.
Q:You launched the Entwine Couture hair line with a partner; was it difficult for you to leave one company you began to open the Twists, Locks, Love Salon?
A: Actually, no. Starting Naturally Nadine was the right thing to do. Leaving Entwine was the right thing to do both personally and professionally. That was a family business, and I wish it the best. It provided a platform where I learned a lot from successes as well as failures and got the unique benefit of building from there where I left off instead of from an untested beginning. Naturally Nadine is a values-driven company with a mission to educate our community while providing quality natural solutions for hair care, encouraging women to love themselves.
The salon was already in existence as the Entwine Salon owned by a partnership other than the one that owned the product line. What the salon partnership decided to do upon my departure from Entwine was simultaneously change the name and identity of the salon while launching the beginnings of Naturally Nadine. In the two or so years since I’ve left, I’ve been steadily building Naturally Nadine and preparing it for a national launch campaign because I believe in my heart that it is the answer to many naturalistas’ hair care concerns and problems. I believe in this line wholeheartedly more than I ever have any other. It’s my baby. Naturally Nadine is personal, and my knowledge of natural hair care and product development are my best secret weapons. I’m my own best thing.
Q:What would you say you've done differently with Naturally Nadine vs Entwine Couture?
A: Entwine was a partnership where I didn’t have autonomy, but this time around, the choices and decisions regarding the company are all me, so what I’ve done differently is make a commitment to ingredients that put health before beauty while yet delivering awesome functionality. Naturally Nadine has products that work well with ingredients that are significantly more natural and organic. In fact, I only work with suppliers and manufacturers that share that same commitment, and the company has a greater capacity to cater to the needs of multiple hair types and concerns. By design, the products can be customized in a variety of packages to meet each client’s unique needs. For example, one package for someone with an irritable scalp would benefit from our “soother” - the Mojito line which includes a shampoo bar, Mojito oil, Verbena Coil Conditioner, Whipped Crème Moisturizer hair dress, and our exclusive butter formula for styling. Within days, you’d see an immediate reversal of symptoms like itchiness, dryness, and extreme irritation. But my products don’t just cater to scalp issues… we’re for everyone! Naturally Nadine meets you wherever you are in your natural hair health and wellness journey through life.
Q:Do you have a favorite product in your new line?
A: Hmm..I sure do, but I’m not sure I should tell! LOL. Nah, I’m really partial to our exclusive butter right now that is for hair and body use. I also favor our conditioners. As a stylist, they make my life heavenly because of the way they work together. The conditioner detangles like satin and the butter—well, it’s all butta, baby. Hahaha! Yeah, I think the smells and the functionality just change the mood from “hair drama” to, as one of my toddler clients said, “can you do my hair again?” ☺
Q: In memory of your grandmother's legacy which will now add your legacy, as well, who would you want to pass on/pick up the torch in your honor and why?
A: To honor my grandmother and mother, I want to take their gifts to me and simply look life and business in the face and blow the roof off!! With that same energy, I want my students and, one day, my future daughters to do the same thing, so I choose my mentees carefully. I want my students to be greater than their teacher, but I plan to give them a lot to exceed. One of my tasks now is trying to identify the right someone through whom I can duplicate myself. I know the right one(s) will cross my path.
Q: What has been the challenge you have had to face with formulating natural hair products to fit the needs of clients with medical ailments?
A: Well, to be clear, while some of the ingredients may have medicinal qualities, the line isn’t medicinal by any means, but we try to create the best combination of ingredients that can naturally help decrease the irritation from ailments like eczema and psoriasis and help slow thinning and balding as well as help stimulate growth. One of the challenges is that there’s a need for as many products as there are ailments, and that will require almost a lifetime of development. But that’s the beauty and origins of Naturally Nadine…I created these products one at a time, based on the needs of my clients. As long as they keep talking and trusting me with the health and care of their hair, I’ll keep developing products that meet their needs.
Q: Could you give those who do not have the honor of being able to take your class a snid bit of information on what you teach?
A: Practically, I teach basic care for natural hair as well as basic styling techniques. For example, many who complain of dry hair will often say, “I don’t know why my hair is so dry. I put oil on it every day.” In Natural Hair 101, participants learn that oil seals moisture but isn’t a moisturizer. We discuss the proper base to look for in a product marketed to provide moisture. On a more intermediate level, I teach about ingredients and product selection as well as background on the industry from an insider perspective. For instance, many want shiny hair, so I discuss how shine comes from reflected light which is difficult for coily hair; the products that claim shine derive it from the use of silicones that sit on the hair and can cause buildup over time. We also have courses on twisting, braiding, and lock styling with and without extensions as well as starting and running a natural hair care salon.
In terms of natural hair culture, I lecture at hair shows on topics from courses I developed for the university: The Politics of Black Hair; and The Black Female Body: Sara Baartman in the Cultural Imagination. Those talks range from a historic overview of Black hair to what some call the natural hair movement to self acceptance and standards of beauty and body image for women of color. The latter topic is part of a written work in progress.
Q: How does your hair represent you?
A: My hair represents my personality because it’s wild and fun and free! Sometimes orderly but most times not. Like me, it does what it wants to do.
Q: How do you think natural hair represents the black community?
A: I think within the community it reflects a growing trend towards acceptance of our kinks and curls and a willingness to embrace healthier choices all around.
Q: What mentality would you like the black culture to change, if any?
A: I would love for us to embrace ourselves and spend more of our money in our own community and with institutions that support our greater good. Also, I’d love to see the objectification of Black women by ourselves and the men in our community become less acceptable with more emphasis on our well-roundedness and the beauty of our bodies AND intellect.
Finish the phrases: Beauty is...outwardly ephemeral and inwardly eternal.
Black is.... beautifully complex.
Natural hair is...ultimately, just hair.
Life is.... a gift.
Q: Well Dr. A, we certainly want to thank you for taking time to share your words of wisdom; any last remarks?
A: Yes! Thank you so much for this wonderful experience to connect with you and your Au Natural Love readers! Your questions were on point! And I have a TON of great information about natural hair care and Naturally Nadine to also share with you, so follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@NNadineBeauty; @DrCarthon) and YouTube(Naturally Nadine TV)! And about that new blog I mentioned before….also coming soon….so keep an eye out on my social networks for the latest on that!
Lastly, we absolutely LOVED connecting with LA naturalistas this year and we’ll be back on the West Coast again soon! But if you’re ever in Baltimore….you know where to find us.