When Leona Lewis stepped on the scene after winning the UK’s The X Factor in 2006, her hair was naturally curly. But as she garnered fame, she felt the pressure to straighten her hair. It was what everyone was doing, and she felt that straight hair made her look more “polished.”
“Gradually I started wearing my hair straight too, especially on photo shoots, where a lot of stylists didn’t know what to do with curly hair,” Lewis shared with Glamour.com. “And because I was new to that world, I went along with it. Plus I also felt different when my hair was straightened: I felt polished. And so I continued to straighten it for years.”
But Lewis said that about a year and a half ago she saw a drastic change in her health. Chronic fatigue and pain in her neck and throat pushed her to see a doctor who diagnosed her with the autoimmune condition Hashimoto’s disease. It’s where the immune system turns on the thyroid. It was at that point that Lewis said she was given a wake-up call about the things she was subjecting her body to, including putting chemicals in her hair to help straighten it.
“I began taking medication but also turned to Ayurveda (my mum is a master herbalist) to help heal my body naturally,” she said. “I just got to a point where I wanted to start over physically and emotionally. I started eating better and I stopped straightening my hair.”
“From there I began to shift my entire beauty routine. Having an autoimmune disease really made me take a long, hard look at how I can reduce the toxins I come into contact with daily,” Lewis added. “I started using natural skin care and hair products (this inspired me to create a safe beauty brand for women, which I’m working on now), but I still had hesitations about wearing my hair curly at first. I had kind of forgotten what it looked like—or what to do with it. I spent some time finding ways to style it differently, ways that felt really polished to me. Sometimes I like to tie it back in a superclean low bun. It was a rediscovery for me that curly hair is actually so versatile. If someone said, ‘I want to blow-dry your hair straight now,’ I would be like, ‘No way!’ I’d look like an alien. It just wouldn’t be me.”
Lewis also realized that by embracing her curls in their natural state, she was inspiring other young women and girls to do the same.
“Recently my best friend told me that her daughter (my goddaughter), who also has curly hair, had started wanting straight hair. That really upset me and made me think of how insecure I used to feel,” Lewis said. “I sent over a picture of myself with curly hair, and my friend told me that her daughter was so happy to see my curls and had gradually stopped asking for straight hair. She is so beautiful, but she doesn’t see that, and it reminded me of myself when I was younger. I didn’t see the beauty in my natural state, but now I do.”
Image via WENN