Natural Beauty Expert Rachel O Dishes on Healthy Hair, More

By// Mariah Craddick

Chicago-based natural beauty expert Rachel O. wants women to not only look their best, but also feel their best on the inside. That’s why she used her Chicago Natural Beauty Meetup’s 2nd annual Holiday Beauty Bazaar to draw awareness to the African-American female AIDS epidemic. Hosted on World AIDS Day, the natural hair extravaganza raised money for the cause while experts educated the masses on the latest trends in natural haircare. spoke with Rachel O. to get her insight on the natural beauty movement, tips for winter haircare, and more. What is the Holiday Beauty Bazaar?

Rachel O.: The Holiday Beauty Bazaar is an event where we focus on giving back to the community because it takes place on World AIDS Day. We partnered with Chicago Women’s AIDS Project and donated 40 gifts to the women they service in their charity. We also had a fashion show, a haircare panel with different experts, and demonstrations for women who have locks, wear afros, and wear their hair natural but want to be able to straighten it. Why was it important for you to host this event in conjuction with World AIDS Day and raise money for that particular cause?

RO: The AIDS epidemic is something that has affected and continues to affect the African-American female community. Doing everything we can to prevent sexually transmitted diseases should be a part of a wellness lifestyle and wellness is something that’s important to my brand and our organization. We raised about $500 for the charity.

courtesy of Rachel O. Why do you advocate going natural? Or do you advocate going natural?

RO: Every person should do what’s right for them. I’m definitely not the person in the room that’s going to try to convert everyone in there to going natural. I advocate women being able to look in the mirror with their natural hair and seeing themselves as beautiful. That’s a wonderful journey to go through. It’s interesting how Black women oftentimes put themselves into these defined categories, similar to the whole light-skinned versus dark-skinned debacle. Now it’s like natural girls versus processed girls. 

RO: I definitely can relate to what you’re saying. I call those people “natural Nazis.” If you choose to go natural, great. You might really enjoy it. But there are some who find that it’s not conducive to their lifestyle and that’s their personal choice. Do you see natural hair as a trend or do you think it’ll stick around?

RO: It’s definitely here to stay. I started my meet-up group Chicago Natural Beauty Meetup in February 2010 and the growth has been amazing. Our first meet-up was about 30 women. Now, we’ve had up to 700. As long as there are examples and women are asking themselves, ‘Why am I getting my hair permed? I have other options,’ I think it’s here to stay. Why is it such a hot trend now?

RO: Blogging is something that has made it more widespread. I think that segment of media in particular–blogging and YouTube–are the main resources people go to. People are able to see more of the options that are available.

courtesy of Rachel O. Do you have any tips for naturals or transitioners for wintertime protective styles to avoid hiding under hats?

RO: One of my favorite hairstyles is a twist-out. I take my double-strand twists, which can also be worn as a twist-out, and instead of me taking the twists down, I’ll pin them up with bobby pins. A lot of people like to wear braids in the wintertime, also. Bantu knots is another one. All of these hairstyles are really great because you can wear the protective style one week and the next you can take it out and have a whole different look. Any specific products you can use during the winter months for dry scalp issues?

RO: There’s a curl sealer by Nothing But natural hair care specifically made to help moisturize and seal your ends. Hot oil treatments are great and deep-conditioning. If someone is contemplating going natural, what advice would you give them?

RO: Really figure out why you want to do it. If you’re really going to do it and go through the whole journey, just educate yourself on what the process is going to be like. What’s your hair going to look like while you’re going through the transition? Or do you want to do a big chop? You also need to think about what kind of products you want to use depending on what your hair texture is like. Visit blogs, but don’t get too overwhelmed because at the end of the day, it’s your hair. Get to know your hair and figure out what it’s going to look like as a lifestyle for you.

Learn more about Chicago Natural Beauty Meetup here or by visiting Rachel O.’s official website here

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