Dr. Phoenyx is the author of If You Love It, It Will Grow: A Guide to Healthy, Beautiful Natural Hair which is the April book of the month for the Think & Grow Chick Bookclub. To find out how this interview came about and how you can sign up to be a part of the bookclub, check out my introduction here.
Courtney: Your book, “If You Love It, It Will Grow” is part hair memoir, part advice guide on how to grow beautiful, Afro textured hair. What inspired you to write this book and what do you hope the book will accomplish in the Black hair care space?
Dr. Phoenyx: I was inspired to write If You Love It, It Will Grow in the summer of 2011 after being approached to guest blog on CurlyNikki’s site in the spring of 2011. I sent in a few hair care articles for her and a reader (or several readers) got a hold of my headshot that would run at the bottom of all my guest posts. That very same headshot started circulating all over the internet and in no time I was being dubbed as a “hair crush” on so many other natural hair blogs, Tumblr pages and Facebook pages. After that, I was approached by other natural hair bloggers for interviews and that’s when things blew up even more. I was actually in the Cayman Islands in June 2011 shooting segments for a TV show when the book idea really hit me. My inbox was constantly being flooded with hair care questions from women, and it didn’t take too long before I was like, “Hey, why not write a book?” And that’s what I did. I got back home and wrote If You Love It, It Will Grow that fall. Then I published it the following year in February 2012. Funny thing is, I was working on another book when I was approached by CurlyNikki. And when I look at it now, the whole sequence of events, I really believe it was the universe at work. Something was making a special path for me when I got introduced to the natural hair blogging community. It was an aha moment for me and I took the initiative to put something out there that doesn’t just teach women how to care for their hair. It also teaches the importance of loving your hair and yourself in general. And it’s that overall message of self-love that I hope my book will bring to the Black hair care space.
In your book, you talk about how feeling enslaved by the need to manage your then relaxed hair was your initial motivation for going natural. Now that you have been natural for many years, what is your current approach to hair care and how does it fit in with your lifestyle?
Well, let me first start off by saying that I’m a bit of a nonconformist. OK actually I am a total nonconformist. I don’t believe in doing things just because everyone else is doing it. I’ve always been that way. I just like to go against the crowd and convention- sometimes even for my own personal amusement. On top of that, I’m a lifelong fitness enthusiast and I love being active. Hitting the gym, swimming, biking, camping, fishing, whatever- I just love being active. And for me, having relaxed hair totally went against who I am and how I like to live my life. Fact is, I didn’t choose to relax my hair. That decision was made for me at a very young age by my mother because, according to her, “it made my hair more manageable.” And maybe that was true for her, but relaxing my hair certainly didn’t make life easier for me. Basically, I actually hated the whole process- from the constant primping to the occasional scalp burns. I also felt enslaved by my hair because it had such a great effect on how I lived. I didn’t want to exercise as much because I didn’t want to sweat my perm out. I didn’t want to get caught in the rain because it would ruin my hairstyle. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do that. It was nuts! And since going natural, I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart that I don’t miss one single thing about having relaxed hair. Now as far as my current approach to hair care, I’d have to say that I’m pretty low maintenance. I take care of my hair, but I don’t do a lot of fussing with my hair because I’ve never been that girl. But don’t get me wrong, I like to look good and I like my hair to look nice, but my regimen is mostly about keeping my hair healthy and styled in a way that easily fits my active lifestyle.
You also are the owner of the “Dr. Phoenyx” line of natural hair products. When and why did you decide to start a hair care line in addition to writing your book? What makes your product line unique in the ever-popular hair care product industry?
I’ve always planned to release my own line of women’s products because I like creating products for women- whether it’s a hair product, a t-shirt, or a book. So with the release of my hair care book, it was just a natural progression to releasing a line of hair care products. That said, what makes my hair care product line unique from others is that these are products that are specifically designed to promote healthy hair growth. I like having a full head of healthy growing hair, and through the years I’ve been very particular about the vitamins I take and the hair products I use. I approach hair care from a holistic standpoint- which means I get the proper nutrition, I use products that infuse the scalp with follicle stimulating botanicals, and I also use products that prevent breakage and strengthen the hair shaft. Ultimately, I’ve been able to maximize my hair growth potential and maintain a healthy head of hair because I approach hair care from the inside out. And from my hair vitamins to my hair conditioners, these are products I use, that I stand behind 100%, and that I would absolutely recommend to any woman who wants to maximize her hair growth potential too.
Besides being a hair care guru, you are also a medical doctor. What is it like managing your medical career with your other interest and how has your medical background influenced your approach to hair, fitness, and well-being?
Managing my medical career with my other interests has been challenging. But by being determined to carve out my own path in the health arena, I have created a career for myself that is really awesome. As far as my professional background, I would definitely say that being a medical doctor has totally influenced my approach to hair, fitness, and well-being. I have a substantial knowledge base about these types of topics, and I’ve made it a personal mission to bring my own unique spin to things by approaching hair, fitness, and well-being in a way that’s fun and engaging.
In addition to providing helpful hair care advice and hair products, you also have a great blog for women “who are passionate about working out, looking good, and living great.” What was your journey to fitness like and what advice can you offer women who are looking to get started in becoming healthier? What does your fitness routine look like these days?
I’ve always been an active and health conscious person, but I’ve definitely experienced challenges in my fitness journey and I do mention how I fell off my fitness game while I was in medical school. Basically the grueling schedule, the long hours, and my poor lifestyle choices all played a big role in me stepping away from the gym and gaining weight. So when other women complain about not having time to exercise, I can definitely identify with the struggle. But one major thing I came to learn through my fitness journey is that there’s always time- whether it’s a random 15 minutes or a scheduled 60 minute workout. And this is what I constantly tell women. There is always time to get in a workout. You just need to start prioritizing your health, manage your time better, and get your head 100% in the game. Because honestly, what I think really holds women back in terms of getting fit is a) a lack of 100% commitment and b) a lack of information. And on my blog I help women tackle these two key issues head on by sharing motivational advice, as well as specific workout plans and tips for healthier eating. Now as far as my fitness routine, I work out everyday for atleast 60 minutes, and I do a mix of cardio and strength training. Sometimes I’ll even go to the gym twice a day because I just love being there. I love the high I get after a good sweat. I love taking classes and meeting new people. And I also love learning about different ways to exercise and all things fitness related.
On your blog, you feature some great smoothies and other healthy recipes. What advice can you offer about nutrition and in what ways can women eat healthier without breaking the bank?
Nutrition is a pretty extensive topic but the most basic (and important) nutritional advice I can give is to eat more whole foods. You can never go wrong with a diet that’s crammed with veggies, fruit and grass fed meats. Also, you want to limit the processed foods you eat because this is where you’ll find lots of refined carbs, sugars, and excess salt- all the things that get folks in trouble when it comes to their health. Two other nutritional tips I can give is to drink more water and to start reading food labels. There’s a lot of junk out there and you need to start paying attention to what’s in your food. Now as far as how to eat healthier without breaking the bank, I’m going to be frank, I don’t believe in putting a price tag on my health. Yes, I am a sensible grocery shopper in the sense that I follow these 3 rules: One, I don’t fill my grocery cart with junk food. Two, I buy food that’s going to nourish and fuel my body. And three, I don’t waste food. But other than those 3 tips, I’m honestly not the best person to consult about bargain grocery shopping. Because in my observation, I find that when you focus too much on cutting grocery cost, oftentimes you end up getting exactly what you pay for.
I once heard the term “multi-passionate” entrepreneur and I believe that is a fantastic term to describe you and all that you do. What advice can you give to women looking to create a career and/or business that encompasses all of their interests? Also, what advice can you give for managing it all?
OK, here’s the thing- and this is a great piece of advice that someone very successful shared with me: You can’t do everything at once, and you can’t do everything on your own. Having a successful business totally hinges on building relationships and you don’t want to do everything at once or by yourself because you will end up burning yourself out. Furthermore, you don’t want to be totally self-reliant because without the help and advice of others who are wiser than you, you’ll just end up making unnecessary mistakes that could’ve been easily avoided. So if you’re someone who has multiple passions that you want to translate into multiple businesses or brands, I would strongly advise you to take your time, plan things out strategically, constantly network to build relationships, build a strong team around yourself, and do your best in one thing before moving onto the next thing. This really is the best piece of advice that I can give to any multi-passionate entrepreneur who wants to be successful in the long term.
Bonus Question: It is apparent from your book that you have great personal style and possess a wealth of confidence. What advice can you give to women in getting that extra “oomph”?
Well thank you for those compliments! As far as advice I would give other women, I would first say that you need to be confident in your own skin before you’ll be able to radiate a genuine sense of style and confidence. We all have insecurities and life is made up of a wealth of lessons that can teach us how to become more self-assured. Trust me, I didn’t come out of the womb with the confidence I have now. It took time, willingness to learn from my mistakes, and a strong desire to be the best person I can be. Another bit of advice I would give is to always do something because it makes you happy, and not because you want to be praised by others. In my opinion, this really is the only way to gain unshakeable self-confidence, that extra bit of “oomph” in your personality, and lifelong happiness. Because while I do admit that it always flattering to be looked at as someone who has great personal style and who possesses a wealth of confidence, I have to be honest, I don’t live my life for the approval of others. What I mean is, I don’t do things so people will pat me on the back. Whatever I do, I do it because it makes me feel good and because it’s what I want to do. And as a doctor and entrepreneur, I just want to share information about things that I’m passionate about- like fitness. I also want to have fun with my career, enjoy life and leave a mark on the world that I will be proud of till my last breath.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this interview–a recorded video chat where Dr. Phoenyx provides even more in-depth advice and…information about a giveaway!
What has your natural hair journey been like? What questions would you ask Dr. Phoenyx? Share in the comments below.