Marsha Ambrosius has been a natural hair icon since before movements or hashtags that celebrated our kinks, curls, and coils. Hitting the scene as one-half of the R&B/poetry duo Floetry in 2003, she wowed us with a ‘fro as fierce and strong as her vocals.
Nearly two decades later, she’s still serving vocal magic and hair goals. The English singer/songwriter dropped her first studio album, NYLA, in four years in fall 2018. The album captures her celebration of life along with her growth and transition to marriage and motherhood — it even shares the same name as her now 2-year-old daughter.
We caught up with the songstress, days before she kicked off a 29-city tour, to get intel on her journey. Here, we chat it up with her about the joy of Black hair, identity and the one hair lesson she hopes to teach her daughter.
— Stephenetta (isis) Harmon
Hype Hair: You’ve enjoyed such an amazing career, working with legendary figures across all genres, including Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre, Queen Latifah and Kendrick Lamar. What do you attribute to your longevity
HH. Yes, congratulations! You became a mom in 2016 and then birthed this new project.
HH: What made you name it after her?
MA: Nyla, [my daughter] got her name from two places — from the state, New York, where my husband was raised, and she was born in LA. But, also she’s here because I traveled everywhere, from NY to LA. And, the whole album felt like a journey. So, it’s her for sure, but it’s the journey that it took to get here, also.
HH: What does that journey sound like?
MA: I feel like this entire album, per song, has a signature Marsha thing and that’s lovely to be able to have so many years in this industry now and have [that].
HH: Now that you’re headlining your own tour. What will this experience be like?
MA: Opening up for Maxwell (50 Intimate Nights tour), I wanted to do something up close and personal, so it was really just me on the keys and really engaging with the crowd. And I want to bring that element with this tour, as well. I’ll have a full band, but it still has to feel like we’re talking to each other, being honest.
HH: Now you know we have to talk about hair. What’s your relationship with hair been like?
MA: I’ve never been attached to hair where I needed that length or I needed that style. I’ve been like, “I’m bored, let’s do this.” I’ve had everything from an entire rainbow to just blonde to it falling out because I stripped it down too much and then chopped it all off again and started over. But, I think what remained consistent was a giant fro and my natural curls.
HH: How did pregnancy affect your hair?
MA: Getting pregnant, my hair grew so much. It was so thick, I wanted to cut it off! I understand why a lot of women after giving birth either chop off their hair or will braid it up or there’ll be a protective style for a very long time. You just don’t have the time.
HH: Did you suffer any post-pregnancy issues?
MA: I had this crazy breakage like all the way around my hairline — my edges gone, my front gone. I was like, why is it like a circle? Who does this? And then I went to my hairdresser, and she was like, “Oh, baby, that’s what happened.” Why didn’t you tell me this?! Thank Jesus my edges are all the way back!
HH: What’s your regimen like on the road?
MA: For the Maxwell tour, I did a sew-in. It was like a rustic-orangy brown thing and similar texture to mine. Every night, I would Bantu knot it up and satin cap and then the next day I’d just have to bank on whatever that was going to be when I took it out.
HH: You’ve tried just about everything in your hair journey — curly, straight color, big chops. When did you fall in love with your hair?
MA: From the beginning! This little girl from Liverpool (England) with light skin, green eyes, had the most 4C textured, thick, Black afro you’ve ever seen, and I took pride in that. [And], when I realized that if I put my hair in an updo if I took it out the ponytail holder, it would stay like that. I thought that was amazing! I told this White girl to her face, “Your hair can’t do this… I am magic!” and I want Nyla to feel exactly how I felt, or how that made me feel, to tell her that. To anyone else, that’s jokes, but for me that was pride.
HH: Now you’re learning your daughter’s hair?
MA: She has the thickest hair of all time. Her curls are beautiful, like to die for! They are the tightest curls I’ve ever seen on any human being ever in life.
HH: What products are you using?
MA: Someone put me on to Blueberry Bliss by Curls. So, I’ve got the leave-in conditioner… and a bit of argan oil and a sulfur-free oil spray because my scalp, it hates anything [and] then just leave it overnight. There’s a product called Liv by Summit that I need because I live in Vegas now and it’s so dry out here. And I thought it would be too thick for my hair, but it literally drinks all of it. Old school!
And, I went even older school, but a newer version of it, for my edges. I use the Shine ‘n Jam. A lot of gels make my hair crispy and flaky, but the Shine with the honey is perfect! I know how thick my hair is, and it looks like you relaxed your hair. That’s how slick your edges will be — and because it’s natural, it’s gonna make it frizz up a little bit, but in a good way.
HH: Do you use the same in your daughter’s hair?
MA: The Liv, I’ll use once a week after I’ve washed it because she doesn’t need too much of that. But, pretty much Cantu Care For Kids is good for her — the Curling Cream. She even uses the same one as I do, sometimes — the Moisturizing Curl Activator Cream.
HH: What lessons do you want to teach your daughter about hair?
MA: Just instilling pride…I’ve got this little vanity case, and I’ll sit her down so she can see herself. I’m like, “Look how beautiful this is” and she will just smile. I hope to God that she just knows how beautiful she is and how beautiful these curls are and to be proud of that. I also want her to know how powerful, this is such a crown that people are going to either be threatened or intrigued by it and just want to pick it apart.
And, I want her to understand that it doesn’t make or break you [if] you don’t want to have this long truss. You want to cut it off; you do it for you.
HH: How would you define your style today?
MA: Naturally me. I know that these products, you know all the natural hair products that are laying on our vanity right now right now, that’s naturally us. That’s me and my daughter.