- Tell us about your curly hair journey. Have you always worn your hair curly? If not, how did you come to accept and embrace your curls?
As a kid my mom put tons of gel in my hair to slick it down after washing. After combing thru it once dried, there was not a curl or wave to be found. I was left with “white hair”. This made my mother very happy. With my light eyes and skin while growing up in Spanish Harlem, I would now “pass” as white – which at the time was important. I was pale like my mom but my other siblings had our father’s gorgeous dark skin. I found it interesting that my mom would think I was the chosen one because I looked less ethnic. I was exposed to racism within the same race at a very young age. I went as far as chemically straightening my hair as a teenager. It was incredibly damaging and something I would never do again. On occasion (when I audition for the Latina lawyer / doctor) I will blow dry my hair straight. It gives me a completely different look, which I enjoy. It is, after all, a woman’s prerogative to exercise change. It wasn’t until RENT that I completely embraced my curly locks. To look and be ethnic was now in and accepted on Broadway. These days I try to do as little as possible to my hair. We just celebrated our 1 year anniversary at ON YOUR FEET and as a result I have experienced massive amounts of breakage due to the quick wig changes that occur in the show. Because curly hair looks thicker than it actually is, it is difficult for others to see my new found patches. But it is especially noticeable when I wear my hair straight or pulled back. I now take Biotin and Folic Acid supplements everyday.
- What does wash day look like for you? What are your favorite brands/products for hair care and styling?
I have to wet my hair everyday. Because of the pin curling that goes on 6 days a week, if I don’t comb thru my curls I will end up with dreads. While in the shower, I use a wide tooth comb and conditioner by Marc Anthony called Kinky Girls with Wild Curls. I don’t shampoo more than twice a week so I focus the use of a daily conditioner mainly on my ends. Hair is even more prone to breakage when wet so I GENTLY work the comb thru my hair from the bottom up. Once a week, I will use a hair mask by “It’s a 10”, which I leave on for hours.
I then put my hair towel on my head. I find that my hair is able to dry evenly when I wear this right out of the shower. Otherwise, if I let it air dry, my scalp is still soaking wet and my ends are dry.
I then apply a leave in conditioner by Kinky Curly called Knot Today. I’m kind of loving this product. I make sure my entire head is saturated in it – especially my ends.
I learned a cool trick when I first went to the OUIDAD, a hair salon in New York City that specializes in managing curly hair. I grab the ends of my hair and gently shake to let the curl “do its natural thing”. As in life, we must go with the flow and work with what is. I only scrunch the front of my hair because I lost some of my natural curl in those spots. Otherwise, I relinquish control of the curl.
Once I have my hair parted where I want and curls in the right spot, I’m ready to let it air dry for as long as I can. This is a good time to catch up on phone calls and emails.
When its air dry, I then take to a blow dryer with diffuser to it while my head is upside down. I used to just use the blow dryer without a diffuser (out of pure laziness) and would end up with curls that looked pulled and strained. I now avoid direct heat and frizz when using one. Lesson learned. I finish off my look with a hair shine spray by CHI
The end result …
- Tell us about your journey to Broadway.
I got my Equity card when I went to a union audition for an off-Broadway show. Best day ever. I got my first Broadway show RENT, just a few months after coming home from the European Premiere of The Who’s TOMMY, where I was a super swing (I would often go on for several tracks in one show). I was seen by Jonathan Larson for RENT the year before he passed and was called in when they moved to Broadway and needed more members. I was the dance captain and first Mimi cover. I then went on to do Paul Simon’s The CAPEMAN on Broadway, went on the road as Mimi with the national tour of RENT, went back to the show on Broadway, then went into The ROCKY HORROR SHOW. I moved to Cali and did The 10 COMMANDMENTS” with Adam Lambert. I did a handful of plays, readings, TV, moved back to NY then booked ON YOUR FEET alongside my sister, Karmine.