When we mention women who continue to show appreciation for the beauty of natural hair, Lilian Okibe is one of the foremost names. Having embraced every kink of her mane, along with its signature intense shrinkage rate, she’s an inspiration to many naturals to appreciate the coils, kinks, and curls of their own crowns. Through this exclusive interview with her, we want you to meet Lilian Okibe, one of our Natural Hair Queens.
- First off, you have an absolutely beautiful crown of natural hair. Have you always been natural?
Thank you so much. No, I had relaxed hair for most of my childhood. I only went natural in May/June 2015. I say May/June because I do not remember the exact date but I know that it was around that time.
- Why did you decide to return natural?
Like I mentioned previously, I do not remember the exact date that I went natural and that is because I did not plan to remain natural. My relaxed hair was breaking badly at the time so the plan was to cut my hair, grow it natural for about a year and relax it again. It was a perfect time for me because I had just graduated from the university and was awaiting NYSC posting. I really did not have anywhere to go so I thought that it would be the perfect time to go bald since nobody would see me until October when I was to start NYSC. I was not totally bald though but I had less than an inch of hair left after cutting it.
- Is the natural hair experience anything like you anticipated? If no, what helped you adjust?
I did not have expectations when I went natural because of the points I mentioned earlier. However, I started watching natural hair videos on Youtube one year into my natural hair journey and that was when I began to have expectations. I thought my hair would grow out to be curly. I was so wrong. Putting my hair care in my hands and getting to know my hair instead of following rules have helped me to adjust and truly fall in love with my hair.
- Has it always been rosy or have you, at any time, longed for a perm?
No, I have never longed for a perm. The funny thing is; despite the fact that I did not plan to stay natural, I fell in love with my natural hair as soon as we met. For me, perm is no longer an option. That said, I have had so many challenges in my journey. There were times when I felt that caring for my hair was too much work. This feeling was at its peak in 2019 but through trial and error, I have come to see that caring for 4c hair is just as easy as caring for any other hair type as long as you stop fighting your hair’s properties and let it be what it is. I have never been happier since I discovered this truth.
- If you have ever felt tempted to go back to relaxers, how did you combat the urge?
Like I said, relaxer is out of it for me. To be honest, I do not see the beauty in it anymore.
- Do/did you ever feel less confident in your natural hair? Why / why not?
I have always been confident in my natural hair. I think natural hair is so beautiful, I find it very strange that so many people do not see it. No wig, no matter how expensive can match the hair that grows out of one’s scalp.
- Is there anything you regret not knowing earlier in your natural hair journey?
I do not regret anything, I enjoy learning along the way.
- Many times, we see women who have been natural for a while feel like they need to chop it all off to take a break or start all over. Do you relate? Is it something you might do?
There is nothing wrong with chopping one’s hair and starting over. I think everyone should have the freedom to wear their hair long or short without judgments. I also understand why some people may want to cut all their hair off because they think that their hair care is overwhelming; I experienced this in 2019. I even cut a good chunk of hair but it was more like a big trim than a big chop.
There are so many rules in the natural hair community that can make taking care of one’s hair very stressful. I have come to see that most of these rules are unnecessary. Understanding this made caring for my hair so much easier. At this point, I am having so much fun with my hair that I do not think that I will cut it anytime soon but never say never.
- Let’s talk about being a natural hair influencer and content creator. You make it look easy with consistent content. Your YouTube channel, @Lilian Okibe is packed with practical hair care tips, easy-to-follow tutorials, and videos that highlight how nature’s gifts can be used to promote growing long healthy hair. Also, exciting quizzes in your Instagram posts are a unique feature of your content. Is it really as easy as it seems? And how do you stay creative and motivated?
I would be telling a lie if I said that being a natural hair influencer/content creator were easy. It is one of the most difficult things I have done in my life. I believe one of the things that make it so difficult is the fact that many people do not understand how much work goes into it. This affects how people treat influencers; brands and people in general. Especially if you do it full-time, getting help is usually very difficult because family and friends think that it is easy.
People do not understand how you can stay at home all day “pressing phone and laptop” and say that you are working. You will get comments like, “Is it not just to post picture?” Brands also come asking for free content because they think that it is easy. As basic as an Instagram picture may look, a lot of thought and work goes into creating the pictures, editing them, creating a caption, and interacting with people in the comments. This can take hours to complete. Youtube is even more difficult and time-consuming.
One of the secrets to growing in this business is consistency. Consistently making any form of content is difficult, making hair content is even more difficult because you still need to be consistent but at the same time, you have to always put the health of your hair in mind as the main reason why people follow is that your hair looks good. Too much manipulation can affect the health of your hair so you need to find a balance. Putting yourself out there can also take a toll on one’s mental health. These are just some of the challenges, there are many more.
That said, doing my hair, talking about hair and interacting with my audience are things that I really enjoy so despite all the hard work, my followers and subscribers motivate me to keep going. Every time I get a message from one of my followers/subscribers telling me that they tried something I recommended and it worked for them, I get very excited. That is really why I do what I do.
- Still on content creation, what do you want your followers to think about or leave with every time they visit your page or channel?
My content both on Youtube and Instagram revolves around motivating people to truly love their hair while providing them with information to make their hair care easier. My Instagram is more like a daily reminder to love your hair and wear it proudly. That is why I try to post every day on there and we basically just have fun answering questions and joking around. I do not post hair tips as much on Instagram, I do that more on Youtube. Youtube is where I get to share tips and show the easy way out when it comes to caring for natural hair. I also sprinkle motivational videos on there from time to time. If someone comes in contact with any of my posts and leaves motivated and/or informed, I am a happy woman.
- And then there’s the #lilianokibetemporarylocs that continues to gain popularity in the natural hair community. One can find many naturals with different lengths of hair sporting theirs across social media and this has created a mini-movement that has fostered embracing natural hair. Is this result what you had in mind when you created this signature style? Why did you create it in the first place?
I had no idea that it would gain so much popularity. I basically stumbled on the hairstyle one day when I was doing my hair. It was one of those styles I did unconsciously without the intention of posting online (so many styles do not make it to the internet). I remember coming out of my room after doing my hair that day and my mum said, “This your style looks like dreadlocks.” I was surprised because that was not my intention when I did it. I did not take her comment too seriously until a few weeks later when I did the style on my sister. She came back home telling me that most people thought she had dreadlocks. That was when I knew that I was on to something. She wore the style for two weeks and experienced very little hair loss and I noticed that her hair looked more and more like locs as it got older. The takedown process was also very easy. After studying her experience and perfecting the hairstyle on my hair, I decided to share the style on my Youtube channel and Instagram. That was when the hashtag #lilianokibetemporarylocs was born. Since then, I have mastered the style even more. I eventually started my mum’s dreadlocks with the style afterwards.
- Would you attribute the fullness and length of your hair to genetics or would you say how you take care of your hair plays a larger part?
I would say that the density of my hair is partly genetics and partly how I care for my hair. I say this because my hair has always been dense to an extent but it has never been this dense. The length on the other hand is 100% how I care for my hair because my relaxed hair never grew long.
- Do you mind sharing your top tips for growing healthy natural hair?
’Water is your friend’, gentle detangling and letting your hair be itself; not always forcing it to look different from what it truly is.
- Did you or do you still have any natural hair inspiration – someone whose natural hair journey motivates you through yours?
At this point, I do not but I get hair tips from almost anybody. It does not matter whether their hair looks like mine or not. I like to watch videos on how people easily care for their hair; I listen to their tips, try to figure out if they make sense for me then if they do, I apply them to see if they work for me. On a second thought, I have never really had hair inspirations per se but I am always open to learning new things. That said, I have several people who I enjoy watching.
- Any message for naturalistas who are just starting out their journey or are finding it hard to embrace their hair?
Try to get to know your hair and take it easy on yourself, everything will get better with time. Rules are there to guide you but do not be afraid to break them. You will never really know your hair if you only follow rules.
There’s so much to benefit from embracing and loving your crown. And you can tell that Lilian is passionate about using her social media platforms to help as many as possible to fall in love with their hair and be happier with their journey, just as she is.