The Beatdown

A Curly Hair Expert Walked Us Through The Process Of Achieving Tessa Thompson’s Latest Unicorn Hair Look

For her upcoming summer film “Sorry To Bother You,” Afro-Panamanian and Mexican actress Tessa Thompson underwent one pretty big transformation. In her latest role, the curly-haired beauty rocks a funky multicolor dye job that has us eager to copy and paste. Still, for some, the process of transformation that it takes to achieve such a look can seem intimidating. After all, as Afro-Latinas, on the occasions in which we’re not being told to put relaxers and straighteners on our hair, we’re often being dissuaded from even applying color. For a better understanding of how Black women can achieve Thompson’s look, FIERCE spoke with a natural haircare expert from Orlando, Florida with more than 30 years in the business.

Arlene Webber is the Jamaican owner of one of the first multicultural salons in the Orlando area. She specializes in texture, hair color and hair shaping and says that for Black women, Thompson’s look is totally doable. The first step in achieving it is knowing that there are several components to consider before attempting to do it.

To start, Webber says it’s crucial that curly-haired clients understand that this type of hair color will be a real commitment.

“Fun colors cannot always be applied to every hair type,” Webber says before explaining that a look similar to Thompson’s in the movie is possible for Black women whose curls fall into the range of 3b (tight curls) to 4c (kinky wiry) hair. Still, she emphasizes that patience and coming to terms with the prep work is key. “I get clients coming in asking for fun colors all the time, but [they] don’t often realize that there’s prep work and the long process. If the stylist is not a color specialist, you can also run into problems, so do your research.”

When attempting to achieve Thompson’s multicolor look, know that the results won’t be instant.

“Her stylists had to have a well-mapped out plan prior to the color date,” Webber explains. “Thompson’s natural hair color is quite dark, between a level one to four. To apply the fun colors [that she has], her hair has to be lifted or lightened to a pale blonde, like the inside of a banana.” This is where Webber’s notice about commitment comes in because to actually make this transformation, and keep your hair healthy, you won’t be able to do all of the lightening at once. In fact, this type of alteration will require several visits to the salon, where your stylist will have to do multiple applications. Webber also highlights that the entire dye process should kick off months before you actually start applying color to your hair.

“Condition of the hair prior is super important,” Webber explains. According to her, at least four to six months prior to the dying process, you’ll definitely want to make sure that you’ve had your hair shaped. “Natural girls sometimes don’t shape for many months. That’s too long. [After all], the recommended haircuts are 10-12 weeks, even if it’s a trim,” Webber explains. She also emphasizes the importance of ensuring that hair is free of oil and build-up prior to the day of the actual service. “Co-washing of natural hair is very common but at some point, the hair has to be cleansed free of build-up from gels, oils, and creams. You always have to prepare the canvas prior to applying color.”

Webber also stresses that when it comes to naturally curly hair, knowing your hair culture is significant. “Natural Black hair is very delicate as the cultural layer is not as thick as Caucasian, Asian or Indian hair. Your culture matters,” Webber asserts. “So using a higher lift developer [anything with a volume higher than 20] is not recommended.”

When you’ve finally achieved your dye, Webber says don’t forget to condition and trim.

Of course, once the dye process is complete, it’s still business as usual when it comes to your routine practice of caring for your hair. Not too many of us love the idea of having to face scissors when we’re trying to achieve a certain look, but Webber recommends keeping an eye on your ends and considering a good trim. Mostly because once you’ve put your hair through this process, the tips of your hair will be at their weakest. Webber also recommends using colored shampoo or conditioner that has a coke pigment in order to keep your new fun colors fresh and bright. “Every time you shampoo [your dyed hair], the color pigment will fade,” Webber shares. “So using these types of conditioners will keep your color bright.”

Read: On Afro-Latina Hair Care: How My Dad Tossed Out My Understanding Of ‘Pelo Malo’ With The Stroke Of A Comb

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Safe Winter Hairstyles For Afro-Latinas To Keep Your Rizos Defined And Moisturized Even When You Want To Wear Them Straight

The Beatdown

Safe Winter Hairstyles For Afro-Latinas To Keep Your Rizos Defined And Moisturized Even When You Want To Wear Them Straight

Wintertime can be a rough season for black women. Not only do we have to remain hyper-vigilant about moisturizing (ashy skin is a big no-no), but we also have to go the extra mile to make sure our hair is properly hydrated. Seasonal elements like wind, dry air, and cold temperatures have been known to wreak havoc on already-fragile strands. And as most naturalistas know, lack of moisture = breakage. And ain’t nobody got time for that.

So to help out all of the Afro-Latinas who are struggling to keep their strands shiny and their rizos bouncy in the midst of the roughest season of the year, we’ve compiled a list of protective and low-heat hairstyles for black hair this winter. Check it out below!

1. Jumbo Flexi Rods

Flexi rods are the perfect tool to use if you want looser, bouncier curls without resorting to damaging your hair with heat styling. Jumbo Flexi Rods are one of the latest trends that have been sweeping Instagram’s natural hair community. Devotees love them because they’re low maintenance, low-damage, and long-lasting. Not to mention, they’re fun to put in!

2. Box Braids with Triangle Parts

Since box-braids made a huge comeback in the last few years, black women have been putting their own spin on the protective-style staple. The latest craze is parting your braids into triangular sections as opposed to the traditional “box” parts. That makes this style both protective and trendy.

3. Faux Locs

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Got a birthday reading from the amazing @readingsbyvida this past Friday and spent the weekend marinating on all the things she confirmed and enlightened me on. So good!! Check my stories for one of the invaluable things I received from my reading and comment below if you will be joining me for the #GoodVibesandChill challenge this month. ✨💜 P.S Still dying over these #fauxlocs! I felt so beautiful. My first protective style ever done by the beautiful @andranita_bita. Still so crazy to me how she even ended up doing my hair LOL Scroll back down on my feed to last summer for the story. Love her! I have a video on the process on my channel too if you want full details. Happy Monday Vecinas!

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Faux-loc extensions are a stylish and low-maintenance way for black women to keep their hair protected from cold, wind, and dry climates during the winter. So, not only do they protect your hair from breaking, but they are 100% Instagram-able.

4. Senegalese Twists

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Senegalese twists have been around for years, but they’ve recently gone through a renaissance. All you need to do is search Instagram or Youtube for your favorite natural hair beauty guru, and you’ll find a picture or video of her rocking this stylish ‘do. And like box braids and faux-locs above, this hairstyle is almost always extensions, so your natural hair will be protected from the harsh winter climate.

5. Roller Set/Tension Rollers

Tension Rollers are great for black women who want to occasionally wear their hair straight without worrying about compromising their natural curl pattern. The look is achieved by naturally stretching the hair follicle over a jumbo curler. The curl is then “set” under a hair dryer. Because this look is done with low heat, there is less damage, and therefore less breakage. It’s a perfect look for Holiday special occasions.

6. Clip-In Pony Tail

The clip-in ponytail is perfect for the woman who wants to look fierce but has a limited amount of time to do so (and let’s be honest–isn’t that all of us?). Many of us are in the thick of our natural hair journeys and our lengths might not be exactly where we want them to be just yet. Say what you want about clip-in extensions, but there’s no denying that they’re fast and they get the job done. If you’re worried about clip-in extensions looking too obviously artificial, invest a little more money in real hair.

7. Micro Braids

What little black girl didn’t pine after Brandy’s era-defining micro-braids in the 90s? Well we’re in luck, because the look is finally making a comeback! While not as low-maintenance as box braids and Senegalese twists (micro-braids are known to tangle), they’re still a protective style. Not to mention, the braids’ thin width makes them easy to style into other hairdos like twists and braids.

8. Braided Updo

If you’re tired of extensions, but you don’t quite have the time (or energy) to commit to brutal wash n’ go’s, then a braided updo might just be the middle-ground you’ve been searching for. A half-braided ‘do is the type of look that looks much more elegant and time-consuming than it actually is. Go to your trusty salon (or maybe your madre or tía, if they’re talented) and ask them to cornrow your hair only halfway through your crown. Not only will it be less time-consuming, it will be less expensive too.

9. The Whitney Bob

If you’re in the middle of your grow-out phase after the big chop, don’t despair! This phase can be one of the most rewarding when it comes to playing with edgy haircuts and experimenting with hairstyles. One vintage mid-length cut that’s going through a renaissance is “The Whitney” afro-bob. But before you get this cut, make sure your stylist knows exactly what you want, because shape is everything when it comes to this style. Once you’ve achieved the desired cut, stick to roller sets for a low-heat, loose-curl look.

10. Hat With High Pony

The ultimate Bad Hair Day style has been transformed into the look of Instagram queens everywhere. If you’re in between protective styles, or you’re not about that extension life, a baseball cap and a high pony are a surefire way to disguise the state of your fifth- (or sixth-) day curls. All you need to do is throw your hair up into a high pony, place the pony through the cap’s closure, and mist your hair with some curl-reviving spray to bring it back to life. Voila! Instant Insta-baddie.

11. Mini Bantu Knots

Have you ever spent what felt like hours on your hair only to realize that you have to do it all again on the other side of your part? Well you’re in luck, because the Trend Gods have spoken, and they have determined that one-sided hairstyles are so in this winter. Especially one-sided mini-bantu knots. So you can claim your throne as a trend-setter and a women who protects her ends!

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13 Magical Hair Masks For Black Hair This Fall Season

The Beatdown

13 Magical Hair Masks For Black Hair This Fall Season

During the fall months of the year, ghosts and goblins aren’t the only things we have to be afraid of. Dry ends, brittleness due to vitamin deficiency, and seasonal hair loss (yes, we said seasonal hair loss) can terrify even the bravest of us! Unfortunately, these issues can be especially problematic for Afro-Latinas and others of African descent, whose hair is naturally more prone to breakage. Not to mention, the thirst is real when it comes to our hair! Afro-Latinas often struggle with retaining moisture to dehydrated strands. Lucky for you, we’ve gathered traditional hair-mask recipes to bring the life back into our dry locks. We’re not necessarily saying these masks are magical, but if they can revive your strands back from the dead, then what else can you call it? Check out the recipes below!

Scalp-Calming Mask

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If you suffer from dandruff or itchiness during the fall months, it may be a sign of an unhealthy scalp. Take steps to calm inflammation by applying this wonderful scalp-calming mask that is sure to bring some relief to your roots!

Benefits: Full of ricinoleic acid and vitamin E, Castor Oil has antimicrobial properties that combat scalp infections and prevent hair loss. It’s also known for promoting blood flow to the scalp. Tea tree oil is a magical essential oil that has antiseptic, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties that work together to combat dandruff. Aloe Vera contains proteolytic enzymes which are known to help repair dead skin cells. Not to mention, aloe vera has a great cooling, anti-itching effect.


2 tbsp Castor Oil

2 drops of Tea Tree Oil

1 tbsp Aloe Vera gel

Directions: Mix all the ingredients in a bowl. Apply directly to your scalp for maximum benefits and smooth onto your strands for hydrating and strengthening benefits. Leave on for 1 hour and rinse off with a sulfate-free shampoo. For best results, repeat 2-3 times per week.

The Protein Pack

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If your bathroom counter is starting to look like a cemetery for your split ends, chances are your strands are too porous and need more protein.

Benefits: The protein in both the egg whites and the yogurt (the Greek variety is the best) work to fortify the hair follicle. This will help slow down breakage and prevent split ends.


2 Egg Whites

1-2 tbsp of plain, whole-fat yogurt

Directions: In a mixing bowl combine egg whites and yogurt. Mix until well-combined. Fully saturate sections of your hair with the hair mask. Cover your hair with a shower cap. Let sit for 20-30 minutes. Rinse it all out, and you’re done!

pH-Balancing Mask

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Benefits: Apple cider vinegar is renowned for restoring the “acid mantle” of the hair follicle’s shaft. The “acid mantle” is responsible for maintaining our hair’s shine and smooth texture. If your hair is looking dull lately, it might mean that your acid mantle has become too acidic. Along with the help of lemon juice (a famously acidic home remedy), your hair will be gleaming in no time!


2-4 tbsp raw apple cider

16 oz water

Lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon

Directions: Pour all ingredients into a spray bottle and shake well until they are well-combined. Be sure to keep mixture out of your eyes, as it will sting! Let mixture sit for 2-3 minutes. To keep the acid mantle intact, be sure to only rinse with a shampoo that has a pH level between 5 and 7.

Magic Mayan Clay Mask

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Benefits: This detoxifying mask will remove build-up and toxins. because it is negatively charged (when combined with water or apple cider vinegar). It draws out toxins from the hair, which is positively charged. Second, it contains many minerals that are essential for hair growth like sodium, potassium, and calcium.


½ cup bentonite clay

6 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp coconut oil

½ tbsp castor oil

½ tbsp almond oil

Directions: Mix clay, coconut oil, castor oil, and almond oil in a bowl until ingredients are well-combined. Next, add the apple cider vinegar (it should fizz up a bit). Stir vigorously until there are no lumps left. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes for the ingredients to activate. Apply to wet hair. If your hair begins to dry during application, be sure to re-wet your strands with a spray bottle full of water. If you let the mixture dry on your hair, it will be very difficult to get out. Cover head with a shower cap. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes. Rinse.

The Beer Wash

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Benefits: This mask is guaranteed to bring shine back into dull strands. Two of the main ingredients in beer–malt and hops–contain proteins that promote volume and repair of damaged hair. Beer also contains the mineral silica which studies have shown add volume to lifeless hair.


1 bottle or 1 can of flat beer

Directions: Pour your beer of choice (we recommend an organic one) into a bowl and let sit overnight. This releases the carbon dioxide in the carbonation which can actually counter-act the cleansing effect of your shampoo. Once your beer is flat, pour into a spray bottle. Saturate your hair with the beer. Massage into your hair for about 1 minute. Rinse.

Onion and Ginger Mask

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Before you discount this option completely due to its smell (we get it–no one wants to reek of onions!), trust us–this one works.

Benefits: Stimulates hair growth

Ingredients:  Medium onion 3 tbsp coconut oil Fresh Ginger Root

Directions:  Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel of the ginger. Then, use a vegetable grater to grate the ginger into a pulp, making sure to capture any ginger juice into the bowl. Next, peel the outer layer of the onion. Once peeled, grate the onion into the same bowl as the ginger substance. Use a sieve to strain the pulp from the mixture into a new, medium-sized bowl. Add coconut oil to the medium-sized bowl. Microwave for 10 seconds or until coconut oil is fully melted. Add a few drops of your preferred essential oil. Apply the mixture to your hair, focusing on the roots. Leave on your hair for 1 hour. Rinse out and shampoo and condition as normal.

The Banana Daiquiri Mask

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Benefits: Bananas are full of potassium–a mineral that helps strengthen and repair weak strands. Coconut milk contains powerful antioxidants and nourishing fatty acids that nourish and protect the hair from further damage. Honey acts as a natural humectant, smoothing the hair shaft and helping to retain moisture.


1 banana

1 tablespoon honey

2-4 tablespoons coconut milk

Directions: Add all ingredients into a blender and blend until it is yogurt-like consistency. Apply in sections to damp hair. Cover with a shower cap. Let sit for 1-2 hours. Rinse.

The Black Tea Mask

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Benefits: This mask can help those suffering from fall hair-loss. Black Tea contains large amounts of caffeine, a substance known to block the production of the hormone DHT which is responsible for hair-loss.


1/4 cup Black Tea

1 tbsp Aloe Vera Gel

1 tsp honey

Choice of Essential Oil

Directions: After brewing the black tea, seperate ¼ cup from your mixture and add to a spray bottle. Add remaining ingredients and shake well, making sure all ingredients are well-dissolved. Spray onto your hair and leave for 1-2 hours or overnight. Rinse.

Avocado & Banana Mask

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Yep, my mom loved to use all kinds of foods to condition my hair growing up and avocado was definitely one of them. In recent years I’ve amended this recipe by adding mashed up bananas and honey to increase shine and help with dandruff.

Benefits: Avocados are packed with protein and amino acids that have helped me improve my dry scalp and soften my hair when its dry. It’s a pretty great way to end breakage. Meanwhile, bananas come loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin C that can bring shine and glow to your hair.


1/2 avocado (eat the other half while you’re chilling)

1/2 banana

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1 tablespoon of honey

Directions:  Mix all of the ingredients in a blender (trust me*, that avocado can be hard to break down). Do it until the ingredients are creamy. Then, part your hair into sections, apply the ingredients and braid each section from root to end. Let sit for 30 minutes or stick it out and wear the mask overnight while you sleep.

Pro tip*: avocado pulp is no joke. Be sure to rinse the products out of your hair thoroughly or risk having people asking you what the heck is in your hair.

The Baking Soda Mask

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Benefits: If you start to see your hair go limp and feel as if it looks weighed down you might have too much product on it. The use of baking soda can be great for cleansing your hair of the hair sprays, and oils you use but can’t always seem to wash out.


2 tablespoons of baking soda

1 tablespoon of water

Directions: Mix both ingredients together until you get a paste. Then, coat all over your hair and wait 20 minutes before rinsing and following up with your regular hair wash routine.

Honey Mask

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Benefits: The reality of honey’s benefits are sweeter than anything I could imagine. Honey has hygroscopic properties which means that holding onto water molecules is a pretty darn easy thing for it do it. Meaning it does a ton of moisturizing. This mask will help soften your hair and nourish the cuticle layer which will make your hair appear shinier.


1/4 cup honey

1 Tbsp olive oil

How to work it: Start by shampooing your hair and then letting it dry a bit so that it is damp. Mix the honey and olive oil together so that it is blended well and a bit runny. Doing this will ensure that it will be easy to work into your hair. Massage the ingredients into your the scalp and then lightly use your fingers to cover the strands. Let this sit for 15 minutes and then wash out. Follow up with conditioner.

Papaya Mask

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Benefits: Papaya’s never been one of my favorite fruits, but after a bit of research I started adding it to my grocery list pretty regularly. As it turns out, the super fruit is filled with antioxidants, vitamins, and potassium that can help keep your hair in line during the summer months. The fruit can bring shine to your strands and a bit of bounce. Meanwhile, good ol’ trusty olive oil will bring on the moisture and help you to prevent breakage.


1 papaya

2 tablespoons of olive oil

How to work it:  Blend pieces of papaya and olive oil together until smooth. Once you’re done so, apply the mask to your hair doobie style then cover it all up with a shower cap. Let the concoction sit overnight and wash out in the morning.

The Hot Coconut Oil Mask

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When you have damaged hair, it might seem counter-intuitive to go for more heat, but trust me this recipe helps.

Benefits: Coconut oil doesn’t need to be fussed with when you’re applying it to your hair. That’s how powerful the ingredient which has lauric and fatty acids is.  The recipe will help with breakage, keep your hair shiny and get rid of dandruff.


1/4 cup of coconut oil

Directions: There are two ways to do this mask. It always starts with making sure your hair is cleansed. Once you’ve done this, you can heat up the oil in a microwave and apply it to your strands. Or, you can apply the oil to your hair, cover it with a  shower cap and use a dryer to warm up the outside of your hair cover. For both methods, leave the oil in your hair covered for 30 minutes or overnight. Once you’re done, proceed with washing the ingredients out and going about your normal shampoo routine.

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