You looked amazing in the Jamaican Bounce 26”! How did this hairstyle make you feel?
Thank you so much! I felt like a Goddess, a Queen, defo felt like I deserved an instant 10k to be dropped into my account lol! I live by the mantra that I wear my hair, it doesn't wear me. I own my hairstyles even if I feel a bit shaky because sometimes when it's a new look there might be a small doubt, but before it even gets to the next level I remember that I am the boss so honestly who is really going to check me! Yes, I hype myself up all the time. Once I set pace the energy always follows.
You created the look with stylist @tresses.bytesha - how long have you both worked together?
Tesha is much more than my stylist. That is my sister, my confidant, my babes, my hunny bun, honestly I can go on.. We’ve been working together over four years now and let me tell you this - before she entered my life, I was truly lost. Tesha is an expert in her field. She has studied all hair types, she genuinely loves hair, she's taught me how to speak love into my hair, and also to respect, own it and be kinder to myself and my hair! For so long I felt that my hair type is not desirable so I would do anything to hide it from the world but she helped me to turn that all around and now at any given chance I'll be finding ways to show off my natural hair. What I absolutely love and adore about Tesha is that she makes my natural hair a priority all the TIME. There's times I will be head over heels about a certain hairstyle and if Tesha knows it's going to be a strain on my edges or if it's going to do more damage she’ll be honest and transparent about it! As clients, sometimes we think we know best or think the outcome outweighs the damage, but having someone that has your best interest at heart is a winner and hairstylist to keep! I always do what Tesha recommends is best, because I TRUST it's more about the hair than anything else, plus she has years of experience, lol. I'm a newbie in the game and I own that.
How much does your hair play a part in your self-expression?
It plays a part in every single thing. My hair is a symbol; it represents a plethora of things, but most importantly it is a reflection of my individuality, mood, life journey, the beginning, the end and that my hair doesn't define me - it is an extension of me.
You know what's insane? For so long I didn't make the connection between hair and self expression. Throughout the early stages of my career in retail and presenting I was questioned or vilified for my chosen styles, and that's when I realised, wow, these people think my hair is a hindrance to my performance. So you know what? Let me show them who run tings and who's the boss, cus this is the hill I'm ready to prove everyone wrong on. That’s when it became a statement.
There were many times in my retail job I was threatened to be sent home because my hair was ‘inappropriate’ but every other week I'll turn up with a different colour and would challenge it every time. When it came to presenting, I was told that, in order to be successful and break into the industry, I have to have a ‘look’ and remain consistent with it. So if it's green hair, always wear green; if it's curly then do the same! Or the directors will make statements saying, 'if Monikah is coming with all that colour, then don't ask her to do it' (referring to a job).
I wasn’t here for it and was determined to prove them wrong. There were many times comments on YouTube totally rattled me and the names I was called were very disheartening, but I am so happy I stood up for what I believed in and did it MY WAY!
Hair with Monikah Lee is such a popular series on your ‘Gram. Have you always been one to dish out hair advice to others?
No, nope at all. I was defo the ONE to push hair boundaries from early, because at the time I was doing my rainbow colour wigs, it was only the Americans I was able to seek inspo from. I am not saying there weren't any women in the UK doing coloured style hair wigs. But one thing I was sure of is that black women were disproportionately represented in the hair and beauty industry and I wanted to present a series that shows black women are not homogenous and yes we can switch it up at any given time. We are not restricted to hairstyles and therefore we deserve to express ourselves without it being a topic of discussion or met with ignorant responses. What is even more shocking is that black women spend six times more than their white counterparts in the haircare market yet are still underrepresented.
I created Hair with Monikah Lee to celebrate my hairstyles, my blackness. If for any reason other women were hesitant to experiment with hairstyles, the aim of my series is to boost their confidence, give them that extra nudge that they are deserving and will look absolutely gorgeous in these lewkksss - or if not, live through me hunny. Hair is scary and if it goes wrong it ruins everything and it can affect the way you see yourself! My hair with Monikah Lee series is an ongoing journey. I don't have all the answers but let's figure it out together because regardless even if our texture looks the same our hair is uniquely designed to us.
What’s the key to making a wig look effortlessly natural?
First and foremost, make sure the style fits your head shape. I have a small head, lol, and I own it. I absolutely love it, so I need to make sure the style I am doing is in proportion to the size of my head. So if that means less hair, then we are going to use less hair. When it comes to colour, I also have to be sensible and realistic when replicating a hairstyle I love online. I have to assess whether that colour complements my skin tone - maybe go a bit brighter or darker. I am not that woman in the picture so I can't be mad at my hairdresser if it isn't EXACTLY the same. I might have to compromise with different colour roots, but at the end of the day I have to be willing to be flexible and trust the process, because having a wig that looks effortless is the end goal.
Motivation is a big part of your ethos. When and why did you start motivating others?
I started Monikah Lee’s Monday Motivations a good six years ago, but I went through multiple stages where I wasn't feeling motivated. I couldn't be that person who isn't living in their truth, so that had an effect on my consistency.
What I realised is that, in this life, we all need pick me ups. Not everyone has a supportive family, friends or acquaintances, and I wanted to be that voice of reason, worthiness, honesty and transparency. I am human and regardless of what you see I put out on social media, a lot of us are walking similar paths when it comes to feeling demotivated and I just wanted to show that they are not alone and through my Monday Motivation they can understand that we are all figuring out this thing we call life.
What are your tips for getting motivated again after lockdown?
PLAN AND HAVE A STRATEGY!!
Lately I have been making weekly targets. Life is so unpredictable now and I will be doing myself a disservice if I try to set up three to six-monthly or yearly goals. I really don't want to set myself up for any disappointments, so for now I am making plans that are realistic and attainable.
KEEP SUPPORTIVE PEOPLE AROUND YOU ONLY. Say NO to 'yes' people.
Sometimes we need to be reminded of our greatness and what we stand for. There was one moment I was head over heels for an opportunity that I was so close to making a premature decision. I woke to a text from a friend that read me for filth (it was all love btw) and after that day I was reminded that I AM DESERVING.
BE SELF RELIANT TO A CERTAIN EXTENT (you cannot do everything).
Right now, the streets are limited and that can be causing you to feel as if you should wait, or it limits how much work you can get done… my advice is JUST DO IT. I stay ready to do the work myself. I will roam the streets and do my own content, take pics, vids, etc. I look on social media for inspo and find ways to do it MY way. We are moving into a time where perfection is desired less and less. People want to feel connected, see that it is doable and that you're human just like them. So worry less about perfection and more about getting it out there.
You’re also an advocate for female empowerment. What are your thoughts on the phrase ‘not all men’?
THAT PHRASE NEEDS TO BE THROWN INTO A HOT BURNING FURNACE! I am really tired of men using that phrase to other themselves, or at times I see men play into the victimisation of it 'I am not the bad one', 'that's not me', 'I am not apart of the problem'. The reality is you're a man, so by default you are the problem, it's part of you too. When men try and separate themselves because they're not the ‘individual’ is absolutely barbaric to me. What they need to do is hold their gender accountable. We live in a patriarchal society - we cannot deny that - and once men start understanding their privilege and using it to protect women then maybe, just maybe, we can be one step closer to protecting our women - especially BLACK.
IT'S NOT A 'THEM' PROBLEM, IT IS A 'WE', SO WE NEED THAT NARRATIVE ‘not all men’ to be dash weh.
Any advice for women who want to boost their confidence?
BE IT. THEN YOU WILL SEE LIFE JUST DO A 360 IN YOUR FAVOUR.
But remember to do the work and be kind.
Follow @monikahlee on Instagram.