My Interview with Lisa Arrindell Anderson on Her Natural Hair

Flexi Rods were used to achieve this look (Photo courtesy of & Anna Ritch)
Lisa Arrindell Anderson has acted in several movies including " Livin' Large","A Lesson Before Dying", "Disappearing Acts", and "Madea's Family Reunion". She has also played in many television shows and plays. This week I was blessed with the privilege of interviewing her about her lovely tresses. 

1BN: On your blog, I know you said that you went natural in 2001. What made you make that decision?
LAA: The last perm that I got, I was watching the Twin Towers go down in flames. I left my house from watching it at home, on the news. So, I turned off the TV and got in the car and drove to the salon like I used to on Tuesdays. I just did what I normally would do on a day that was so abnormal. It just felt like I wasn’t really experiencing what was happening in the real world. At the same time, there she [the stylist] is putting this stuff in my hair to kill the new growth as I’m watching people jump from buildings. I’m watching this on tv. I don’t know what happened to me, but I never got a perm again.  Something happened that day where I was just like, “Something is different about the world."The world has completely changed from that day. But something happened inside of me where I said I don’t feel like hiding anymore. 

I’m not down on the perm thing unless it’s something that stops you from seeing yourself. That’s the only time that I feel like it’s a problem. If you don’t see yourself… If  you’re not even paying attention to who you really are, because I do feel like our relationship to our hair is so similar to our relationship to how we take care of our souls. It’s a lot of work taking care of our souls, asking questions, and paying attention to ourselves. Paying attention to what hurts… We get these perms and it’s burning… and it’s causing scabs… and it’s making our hair fall out and we’re acting like that’s not happening. That’s what we do too, emotionally sometimes. We don’t even remember why we’re enjoying it anymore; we just remember that this is how it’s always been. He’s always talked to me that way, or my mother’s always done this to me, or my father’s always done that to me, or I always do that to my brother. This is how it is… We never stop to say, "That really doesn’t feel right and I don’t know what’s going to feel better, but I know I want to pay attention that it doesn’t feel right. I want to respect myself that something is not right and I should take the time to look at it." I feel like we do that with our hair when we put the chemicals in our hair. We’re not paying attention to ourselves. We kind of just accept it.  

Lisa Arrindell Anderson with two-stand twists (Photo courtesy of & )

1BN: What is your current hair regimen?
LAA:I use  products by Jamilah Shakir and she makes products called "Saniyyah Naturally”. She makes all natural products. I use her Lemon Grass pomade. I use her leave-in conditioner. The leave-in conditioner is peppermint and tea tree and I use her shampoo. I was introduced to them when I was doing “Madea’s Family Reunion.” When I got the movie, I just told them flat out... I do my own hair, but I will not be doing my own for a film because I am not camera-ready every single day.
I do my own hair probably once every single month. I go four weeks at minimum, without doing my hair unless some special occasion is happening. So, I can do the maintenance in the middle by spraying leave-in conditioner and putting Lemon Grass pomade on it , and then covering it with the head rag. It smooths it [hair] out and makes it look neat.  But as far as close up camera angles, you would need to hire someone that is available on set to take care of my hair because I am going to keep it natural and we wanted it to look right. They [film crew] really liked the natural thing because they felt like it was in opposition to my sister’s character who was more about conforming to what her mother wanted. Whereas, my character was not conforming to her mother.  So they hired somebody to take care of my hair, and that was Jamilah [ owner of Saniyyah Naturally]. That was a blessing because she is such a great friend and an educator about hair in my life. 

1BN: What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about going natural?
LAA:I would want them to understand that it’s difficult. But, that all good things… all excellent things are difficult. There isn’t anything excellent that you can engage in or produce that is not going to be a lot of work. Period. I think one of the essential things is to decide that you are worthy of that difficult work. We do it for other things… We do it for our children. We do it for education.We do it for our children’s education. We do it for a better job. We do all these other kinds of things but we will give up with the hair because it’s so hard. I just think you must persevere. Start the journey understanding that it’s difficult at the beginning, but everything beautiful is worth while if you will produce and create it.

 Having a friend is a very strategic position to take. You should set yourself up to have someone who is in your corner. Somebody who is saying, “Yes, keep going!" If you can, you should engage someone to encourage you… and of course it would help if they are natural. Really. It helps. I had my close friend who went natural a few years before I did. So, I had that in the back of my mind… she was successful. Although I didn’t say to her, “I need you to help me," just knowing that she was there and was successful [as a natural] encouraged me very much. But I’m one of those people ...I’m always looking for who did it already. I’m one of those people who is like, “Just show me what it looks like. Show me what success looks like." I don’t have any desire to reinvent the wheel. I will do the successful amazing thing that the other person did. It’s not going to look like the other person’s, because it’s mine. But if you could tell me what you did to be successful, why should I spend valuable time that is irreplaceable by trying to figure out steps that you’ve already figured out?

Another two-strand twist photo (Photo courtesy of

Lisa also stressed that it's important to not tangle your hair when you are shampooing it...
You need to comb through your hair. It needs to be completely detangled, dried, and then you need to part it in two... down the middle. Separate those two sides. You need to braid the two sections into two plaits.  When you get in the shower, you unbraid one side and wash it. You don’t tangle it. You put the hair between your hands like you’re praying and you’re going to wash and rub your hands back and forth like you’re praying. After your hair is washed and you’ve used your finger tips to get to your scalp [clean] without tangling your hair, braid it back up. Then do the other side. So you’re not allowing your hair to get tangled again while your shampooing it. For me, when I untwist it takes me about an hour to clear my hair out [of tangles]. I was a grown woman before I understood, do not tangle your hair before you wash it. You’ve already taken the tangles out that took an hour. Do not mess it up again lol. I had not idea (until I was in my 30s) that I could wash my hair without tangling it. 

Lisa and her kids on flat ironing ....
I just flat ironed my hair because I was doing some auditions.  I felt like the character I was reading was so clean cut, so conservative, so in the mix of mainstream that she would have straight hair. My hair is now straight. They flat ironed it, and it is now down to the middle of my back. To me it’s like, “Oh it’s so cute! I haven’t seen this in 12 years.” My daughter looked at me when she got off the bus and she said, “What’s with your hair?” She said it just like that. “What’s with your hair?” I said, “Well, I flat ironed it for a part”.  She was like, “Ohhh. I don’t like it.” She’s 10 [years old]. Then, my son… It took him about 3 days and he said, “Your hair’s been straight.” And I said, “Well, I flat ironed it." He said  "Oh, I don’t really like it. When is it going back?” I love that because my kids appreciate what is real…what is original.

My own daughter gets her hair done every few weeks. I don’t do it every day like my mother used  to do it every single day. I just don’t have the time. I don’t understand how people do their hair every day. She will tell me in a minute when I try to put something on the front [of her hair] to smooth out her edges and put the head rag on to make it smooth. She will tell me, “Mommy, I like fuzzy.I like it fuzzy. Why are you doing that?” She thinks it’s beautiful, and I’m so excited about that. 

You see, my daughter was born in 2002. She was born just over a year after my last perm. So, in her mind, it's normal that her mother… the preeminent woman in her life would have her hair natural and that I see myself as beautiful. So, she sees herself as beautiful with her natural hair…even when it looks crazy right? I say crazy because sometimes I say, "You need your hair done girl! We need to comb that!" But she does not care. She is in school with predominately people who have straight hair. She doesn’t have this thing of ,“I want my hair to be like their hair." Which is of course, what I grew up with.  I wanted my hair to be like their [straight haired people] hair.  Both of my kids have an appreciation for our hair, what God did. When I see someone with natural hair I just want to listen, because I look at them and understand that most probably if they’re my age (or in that realm) they had to go through a serious journey to release what the world says is pretty. So, I want to hear what they have to say.

1BN:In terms of flat ironing, did you do anything special to prepare your hair? 
LAA: No, I colored my hair, washed my hair, and conditioned as I normally would if I was going to twist it. Then the stylist blow dried it with the combing attachment. Then she flat ironed it. She did a good a great job. For a character, I’m cool with that. I love to become whatever I need to become to tell the story that I’m telling as an actor.  For my life, it [straight hair] doesn’t work.

"Madea's Family Reunion" (Photo courtesy of (Photo courtesy of"

More about Lisa on flat ironing and the gym...
LAA: I think it’s so worthy (the natural thing). As I hear [the word] 'flat iron" now, I love that for me, it’s a style. It has nothing to do with who I am. I’m not hiding anything. Quite frankly, it’s completely inconvenient in my life. It (straight hair) gets caught in everything. I grew up wanting really long hair, and here I have hair down my back and I’m like, “Uhhh, this is such a problem” lol. It’s getting caught in everything. I normally workout 5 days a week. I stayed out of the gym because of my hair. I know a lot of sisters stay out of the gym because of their hair. That is just unacceptable! Completely! How are you going to do that to your body? How are you going to look cute with your hair, cute with your nails, and your body is jacked up? We do that all the time. Sisters have their hair laid and nails done, but don’t take your clothes off lol. Don’t do that! Don’t take your clothes off! lol And you’re wondering why you’re feeling less than beautiful. It’s because you’re not taking care of your body. You’re not taking care of the temple that God has given you.  You’re just giving it a paint job on the outside. You’re not taking care of your physical self. 

Look out for Lisa in the upcoming movie "First Impression" which is expected to be released the end of the summer!

Lisa is uplifted by all of the positive comments from you all, on her blog. You can visit her blog at


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