Model Diane Hall spent her teens and twenties attempting to get to grips with her unruly Afro hair. She tried extensions, chemical straightening and tight braids. Then one day she decided to help nature along instead of trying to tame it. The result was long, healthy hair and a long-awaited book to help others with Afro-textured hair. HILARIE STELFOX reports
THE FACT that the first print run of model Diane Hall’s self-published guide to caring for Afro hair sold out in two days speaks volumes about the difficulties faced by those blessed with tightly-curled, frizz-prone locks.
The 31-year-old from Lepton in Huddersfield is now fielding calls from France, South Africa and the USA from people wanting her book How I Grew It Long... Naturally.
She took 200 copies of the step-by-step guide to the Afro Hair and Beauty Show in London in early June and was astonished when they were immediately snapped up.
Diane said: “I was afraid to have any more copies printed because I wasn’t sure how it would do and it was a big outlay, but now I’ve sold hundreds more and there’s been a real interest in it.”
Diane, who has a degree in fashion design with marketing from the University of Huddersfield, has been a model since she was 13 and is still with the Huddersfield-based Morton Gledhill Fashion Team. Originally from Bradford, she moved to London after graduating and worked with many designers and stylists, including Zandra Rhodes and Nicky Hambleton-Jones. She has appeared in Paris Fashion Week, on television and in graduate shows and is a past winner of the Miss Congeniality Award in the Top Model of the World contest.
Throughout her early years as a model, Diane, who is now a mum-of-two and works as a financial support officer at Kirklees College, faced a continual challenge from her tightly-curled Afro hair.
“When I was 15 I had it chemically relaxed and it actually broke off so I began wearing braids and extensions and weaves. I wanted long, straight, black hair,” she explained.
And yet, as Diane discovered, the techniques commonly used to control Afro hair are damaging to both the health of the scalp and hair. She points to supermodel Naomi Campbell and her well-publicised hair loss following extensions as evidence of this.
“Chemical straightening,” she says, “is a very harsh treatment and leaves hair very dry and brittle. Extensions and tight braids are also bad for the hair and can lead to hair falling out.
“By the time I was 27 I’d had enough and went on a journey of acceptance, becoming more content with the way I looked. I said to my boyfriend at the time that I was going to grow my hair and take the extensions out. I had realised that what I was doing wasn’t benefiting my hair.”
Diane began the long, slow process of acquiring healthy, natural Afro-textured hair and had the foresight to chart her progress with a series of photographs, which she has used in her book.
It took three years to achieve the length she wanted and she noticed that her new hairstyle was attracting attention. She often leaves her hair naturally curly, but when she wants it straight she simply blow drys it.