Stacie Smith, 25, ad sales finance manager
Tell us a bit about your hair.
"I consider it natural because I don’t have a relaxer. When it's straight, a lot of people assume it's a weave. I actually appreciate the people who just outright ask instead of staring and trying to figure it out, because it's awkward and then I feel like I have to do something so that the question can be answered and they'll stop looking at me."
What's your usual hair care routine?
"For the most part. I wear it straight but in the summer, I wear it natural. When I wear it straight, I wash it once a week, I blow dry it, and use a flat iron — Hair Art Infrared TI450 flat iron.
In terms of products, I swear by Matrix Biolage shampoo and conditioner. The reason I really like it is that their detangler works wonders. My hair gets really matted in the back section and when I put that in, I can detangle it really easily. I use Hair Art MorocVita oil to try to provide some nutrients to my hair. It smells good and it makes my hair feel moisturized and not greasy. I also use the Matrix Biolage Fortifying Heat Styler before I flat iron."
Have you ever worn fake hair before?
I have, once. It's funny because no one really noticed at first. Everyone thought it was my hair even though I purposely gotten something like a 20-inch weave. I actually got it because I was thinking about cutting my hair shoulder length and I wanted to see what it would be like. I had it for about 2 months and progressively cut it shorter and shorter until it was like a bob. It was fun being able to play with the hair and straighten it every day without worrying about heat damage, but I actually thought it was more difficult to keep up than just doing my own hair. I found it hard to wash my hair and actually get to my scalp clean, and it was challenging to manage and style the two hair textures (mine and the weave)."
What's your stance on women who wear fake hair?
"I think it's a personal decision. The one thing I do like about it is that it gives women options. With hair extensions, women are no longer confined to one particular hairstyle and can try different things without (or before) making a permanent change.
I do believe that women should love themselves as they are, but I don't have a problem with a weave. Hair extensions can be viewed as an enhancement similar to fake eyelashes or other beauty enhancers. I'm not a fan of unkempt extensions! But besides that, the only thing I don't particularly care for is that due to their popularity, some people automatically assume that everyone is wearing extensions."
Why do you think there is such a huge divide between women who wear fake hair and those who choose to go natural? Why is it such a sensitive topic?
"Honestly, I see more of a divide between those who are natural (without a relaxer) and those are not. I also see a divide between those who choose to wear their hair in its natural state without straightening and those who do not.
The sensitivity comes because for some reason, in some situations, it's taboo to wear a weave. It really shouldn't be an issue or a sensitive topic. You will have the slightly awkward, 'oh is that your real hair?' questions, but if they're not asked rudely, this just encourages dialogue on the topic, sometimes even between different races. I really appreciate when women just ask outright, 'is that your hair?' And I do the same. I'm from what I consider to be the black hair capital of the U.S. (Detroit) and I love talking about hair. And who knows, the woman may be asking because she likes your hair and wants to follow up with a 'where did you get it done? or 'what products do you use?' or simply 'it looks really nice, I like it.'"
Photographed by Erin Yamagata