When you're on vacation, the last thing you want to do is worry about your hair. You leave your hot tools at home, grab a brimmed hat, and let the beach elements do all the work. That stands true for most vacation goers — including former first lady Michelle Obama. Only when she does it, it breaks the Internet thanks to her glorious natural hair texture.
"That picture is recent!" Johnny Wright, Mrs. Obama's trusted hairstylist, exclusively confirms to Refinery29. "She just got back from vacation, I think, on Friday. I'm not sure if it was her going to the airport or coming back. But that is her, and it is recent."
And Mrs. Obama's (well-deserved) break means that Wright got one, too. "We aren't on vacation with her anymore," he explains. "She was actually blown straight before she left for vacation. I guess she got in the water or something, and she didn't feel like straightening it herself! People want a more sexy answer, but that's really what it is. I'm not with her."
Though the picture took many by surprise, Wright, who began working with Mrs. Obama in 2007, is used to seeing her hair in its natural state. In fact, she's been natural for the past seven years."I stopped doing her relaxer the first year of the administration," he says. "Very shortly after that, her hair grew out completely. She has no relaxer anywhere on her hair, not even on the tips."
Instead of performing the big chop, Wright took special care of the first lady's crowning glory so that she could keep her length. "I'm very particular about the health of her hair. I've always called myself a texture specialist, and I work well with keeping hair on the head," he notes. "When your natural hair is growing out, that line of demarcation between the natural hair and your relaxer tends to break and pop. I made sure I kept it very soft and moisturized so she could keep her length as much as she could when she was going through that transition. I trimmed every four to six weeks, as I normally do, and that was it."
And what about that high wattage shine, and her signature straight blowouts? Wright credits his technique first and foremost, saying that the health of the hair should always come first. "I did a lot of steam treatments with her, too," he says. "They're important because they help build that resistance against humidity, and they keep the hair really strong."
Other go-tos include treatment products from Jonathan, including the Dirt range and Hydracurls. As for styling, Wright loves Oribe. He says that Mrs. Obama (whose hair falls a little past her shoulders) has a mix of 4a, 4b, and 4c textures in her hair, like many people. Another #justlikeus observation to note? She typically throws her hair in a ponytail between appointments.
Though some critics pointed out that Mrs. Obama is only wearing her natural hair once she left office, Wright insists that she's always loved her curls. "She's always embraced her natural hair," he says. "For the looks she was going for and the stories she wanted to tell, I styled her hair straight. There wasn't any lack of embracing her curls. It's just what she wanted to do."
The duo never had a conversation about wearing her curls in office, either, but it wasn't because of the trolls. "You have people who are going to love them, hate them, or be indifferent," says Wright. "You can't dictate the way you want to tell your story through your aesthetic by what the backlash would or wouldn't be. I don't think that's a conversation we would've had. We don't think that way."
She's always embraced her natural hair. For the looks she was going for and the stories she wanted to tell, I styled her hair straight. There wasn't any lack of embracing her curls. It's just what she wanted to do."
Still, Wright understands why women around the nation are so excited to see Mrs. Obama finally rock her hair as is. It's an important moment for representation, especially during a time when Black women STILL aren't free to wear their dreadlocks in the workplace, or when their appearances are mercilessly mocked.
"I do think that a woman of her complexion, with her figure and her hair texture, has given a whole lot of other women a chance to look in the mirror and say 'I am beautiful, too' because I have somebody representing me," says Wright. "Her husband was the leader of the free world. She represented this country very well, and her platform was pure and from the heart. Having this conversation about her hair texture is totally justifiable."
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