Thirteen years ago, my brother died. I was living in Los Angeles at the time. I shot 14 episodes of a TV series. I have been an actor most of my life and don’t get caught up in the highs and lows of it all. I always maintain a simple life — no matter what. But I had amassed a bit of money — enough for me to live for the next two years if there was no work. But that was unlikely. After my brother died, I was in pretty severe grief. I have always been a doer, a very hard worker (Perhaps it is my Taurean nature. I am a triple Taurus –sun, moon and rising.) I remember putting one foot in front of the other — things needed to get done, tasks needed to be completed — but feeling terribly empty inside. Four years later and I had still not gotten a job. My savings had run out. I lost my home and handed in my car to the dealer.
In 2010, I began to think about rebuilding my life. The world seemed new, different. I wanted to start fresh. I was out walking my pooch, Macarena, whom I had gotten a year after my brother’s death and had the overwhelming feeling that if I could get control over my hair, I could get control over my life. The answer to it all was in my hair.
“The answer to it all was in my hair.”
See, my hair has been the bane of my existence for most of my life. It is massive, curly and has a life all its own. I’ve had countless hair stories that could easily be horror stories! There was the time when my young mother took my sister and I to get our hair done at a beauty school (because that was all we could afford) and the student stylist proceeded to give me a cut resembling a mohawk (I had asked for a trim!)
Then, there was that time we had a candle burning in the bathroom over the sink. I was brushing my teeth and bent over to rinse my mouth out — just then, a curly lock of hair kissed the flame of the candle and… Well, you know the rest. I remember hearing something crackle and then the vague scent of something burning, but I couldn’t figure out quite what it was. It was only when I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror and saw my grandmother running towards me, swooping her bare hands over my head before the flame reached my scalp, that I knew my hair was on fire!
“My hair has been the bane of my existence for most of my life.”
Now, you can see why mastering my hair was so important to me. It was something that seemed to have a life all its own. I immersed myself in the world of all things hair: I watched countless YouTube videos and delighted in a community of women who shared hairstyle and best ingredients for hair. Theirs was a do-it-yourself community I was super inspired by. I felt I had a unique voice to add, one that hadn’t been seen or heard online. As I started to cultivate a more loving relationship with my hair, I realized those curly coils atop my head were teaching me a lot about patience. Elasticity. That shedding (which is natural, we shed skin and hair daily) is an integral part of the “letting go” process to make a way for the new. Our hair is the only part we can cut off, grow back, tease, color, curl and straighten. The one thing we can manipulate at will to tell the world who we are.
“Those curly coils atop my head were teaching me a lot about patience.”
Ironically, with a busy career as an actress playing Crystal Burset — the wife of transgender inmate Sophia Burset played by Laverne Cox — on “Orange Is the New Black” my life sometimes feels more out of control than ever. At the same time, I know that the opposite is also true: That I am the captain of my ship; I am the master of my fate. Life is a healthy balance between these two ideas. And I would never have known that if it were not for my hair.