Friday, November 3, 2017

NaturallyCurly Founder Michelle Breyer Talks Curly Hair Sisterhood in 'The Curl Revolution'

Michelle Breyer, co-founder of NaturallyCurly.com, has been on the frontlines of the curly hair revolution since 1998. The former business journalist was inspired to start the website after “a lifetime of fighting my curly hair and feeling like I didn't fit the accepted standard of beauty.” Now curly hair sisters of all races and ethnic backgrounds can learn Breyer’s tips of the trade in her first book, The Curl Revolution: Inspiring Stories andPractical Advice from the NaturallyCurly Community.  We caught up with the busy entrepreneur, via email.

Photo courtesy of NaturallyCurly

Everything She Wants: How did the idea for NaturallyCurly.com come about?

Michelle Breyer: [After] a few mimosas at a party. I was working as a reporter at a newspaper with some fellow curly friends and we were complaining about our hair on a humid Austin day. Someone overheard us and thought it was crazy that people could spend so much time talking about their hair. He suggested we start a newspaper or a website. We literally got on a computer at the party and created the URL. We wanted to create a place for people like us.

ESW: Did working as a business reporter lay the foundation for you to become an entrepreneur?

Breyer: It helped that I had covered a wide range of entrepreneurs who all had an idea that they turned into a business - from John Mackey of Whole Foods to Herb Kelleher of Southwest Airlines - they saw a need and created something to fill that need. But I realize now how little I knew of what it actually took to start a business.

ESW: Since you are Caucasian and have a looser texture of curly hair, in the beginning of NaturallyCurly.com did any women of color with different hair textures voice concern that you wouldn't be able to relate to their hair issues?

Breyer: Because we always talked in terms of texture and not ethnicity, it wasn't really an issue. We found that people were all looking for solutions, and because we attracted such a wide range of people, they found support from women with texture like their own, but they also bonded with people who might look nothing like them. The common bond was that we all felt ignored, and we were all looking for inspiration, education and empowerment. I knew what I had gone through - years of being called names, trying to straighten my hair, the frustration - and I didn't pretend to know exactly what other people had gone through with their hair journey. I think people knew that I came from an authentic place, and our goal was to help people. And we brought a lot of voices to the site; top texture experts and some community members from a wide range of backgrounds.

ESW: What can readers expect from your book, “The Curl Revolution: Inspiring Stories and Practical Advice from the NaturallyCurly Community"? 


Breyer: Readers have told me they found it very powerful to see so many people - both well known and not - who shared their stories. They also liked seeing so many philosophies and perspectives in one place. We don't promote just one technique or one brand. The book takes readers through every step of the curl experience.

ESW: How did your Fashion Week show, Texture on the Runway, come about?

Breyer: When I began covering New York Fashion Week for NaturallyCurly a decade ago, I had a full appreciation of the power of fashion. But with each show, I was increasingly aware of the lack of diversity of the models. Whether the hair was parted down the middle or pulled back in a ponytail, there was barely a curl or kink in sight. And the models were, almost exclusively, white. Never one to accept the status quo, I was back in Austin complaining about the runway looks with our global editor at the time, Cassidy Blackwell, after returning from Fashion Week in 2011. She shared my frustration. We thought, "Why don’t we create a runway show all about curls. Why don’t we celebrate the diversity of texture on the runway!”  If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it big. People told us we'd never be able to get people to a "hair" fashion show during Fashion Week. The venue was packed. Our 2016 show was even bigger and better. And this year's event at Gotham Hall took it to a whole different level!

Photo courtesy of Everything She Wants

ESW: How did you get all of the hair brands/sponsors on board for Texture on the Runway?

Breyer: With brands and retailers looking for unique opportunities to showcase their products for curly and coily hair, Texture on the Runway offers a unique opportunity. Many actually approached us about participating. In fact Sally Beauty attended [a previous] event and asked us to reserve it for them this year. For many brands participating in Fashion Week, it has been frustrating not to have control over the vision for the hair. It's usually up to the fashion designers. So they love the idea of having free rein over the hairstyles they create.
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