Photo Credit: Samuel Whitworth; courtesy of Goapele    

Following the release of her latest EP Dreamseeker, Goapele has received a world of attention for her bold new haircut.

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However, this type of representation isn’t new for Goapele, as she has been fully ensconced in celebrating the embracing of self-beauty whether it’s through her own songs or through other pieces of art. Last year, she starred in the short film Where Is Beauty, which tackled young women’s pressures surrounding social beauty and unrealistic beauty standards.

Recently, CurlyNikki.com got to sit down and have a phone chat with the gorgeous Goapele (her cheekbones are on point, y’all!) about the feelings behind her big chop, her peers/industry’s reactions to it, and her advice to young women who look up to her and are navigating this beauty-restricted world.

Curly Nikki: As someone who has also done the big chop, I am always intrigued at what brings a woman to make the decision. Can you share with us your thought process that led to your decision?

Goapele: I’ve done the big chop a few times. Honestly dating back to when I was a child, my mom cut my hair super short a few times so I’ve gotten used to it… coming full circle over the last few years. As for this time, I always do it when I’m really ready for a change. I tried a bunch of different styles and was feeling stagnant. I was ready to come back to myself because I always feel most like myself in my natural hair [state].

Photo courtesy of Goapele
CN: Did you have any "omg what did I do?" feelings right after your big chop, especially the first one that you decided to do?

G: It’s always scary, honestly, even though I’ve done it a few times. It feels vulnerable when you have your hair really short because it’s basically just your face with a little bit of hair to outline you. I felt so exposed, but on my most confident days, I feel so fierce and it’s empowering. It’s also so easy, because all I have to do is get a haircut, you know?

I think the big chop is most scary because there's nothing to hide behind. I was really inspired by a trip "home" to visit family in South Africa, and saw how many women were rocking short natural hair and with the same fierce confidence as any other extravagant style and it was affirming. Coincidentally I was in a short film called Where Is Beauty right around this time and it was all about the character's hair journey and personal evolution.

Each time, I have to go through my clothes and jewelry because I feel that these things changes your whole look. So, even facturing into the fabrics and shapes, I saw that “hey this isn’t going to work anymore” and had to work a new style of clothes to match whatever my hairstyle is. Once I get all of that together, I feel in alignment.
Photo Credit: James Branaman; courtesy of Goapele 
CN: I love that! I can totally relate! I’ve done my big chop and found you get to have more fun with things like accessories!

G: Yeah! And even things like makeup with the colors and shades… it just changes the way in which your face looks and you have to figure out how to “work it” again.

CN: Yes! I do want to talk about the perception of natural hair with you as someone navigating the industry. What were the initial reactions to your big chop (whether within the industry or outside, such as your immediate circle)? Did you receive any micro-aggressions about your hair making such a big change?

G: When I entered the industry, I already had dreads so I already felt a little “counter-culture,” so I think people immediately placed me within the “natural hair girl” category. You know, I didn’t hear a lot from people in the industry, but more so fans and people in the public. Some people were attached to my longer hair [i.e. the locs], which I had for almost 10 years. So I got a lot of, “Whyyy did you cut your hair?!” Maybe they missed me in between projects, but even when people see me now… I probably did the first big chop nine or ten years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter and starting to work on my second album (Even Closer). So, I grew it out again and cut it again on my fourth album (Break of Dawn), and now I’m on my fifth! So, I’ve been through it all -- I’ve even colored it blonde, then gone back to black, then colored it honey so I’ve gone through so many transitions. Every now and then, I’ll walk onto stage and see people wide-eyed!

CN: Speaking of your tunes, how has your hair journey affected your music? Has it evolved with your hair or vice versa?

G: It’s kind of hard to pinpoint a certain song, but when I was coming into motherhood, that really changed a lot of my life. I was going to get to see what it was like to be an artist and a mother at the same time and my father also passed away… there was just a lot of transitions going on. I was just transitioning out of a record deal and becoming independent again and that’s when I put out, Change It All… that with that album I was ready for a change and a new perspective.
Photo Credit: James Branaman; courtesy of Goapele 
My latest project Dreamseeker is all about being who I am effortlessly. Reminding myself that I'm enough the way I am.

CN: Well said! On that note, what is your advice to young women who are navigating mainstream beauty standards and desire to enter the natural hair journey as well as those that look up to you?

G: I feel that it is important to listen to your own intuition. Think about what makes you feel most like yourself, what makes you feel most comfortable walking around in your own skin and what makes you feel most beautiful. And I think [beauty] can look so many different ways, especially with hair styles and the many shapes we are. Don’t let the fear of change stop you and [at the same time] don’t feel like you need to change if you feel good with the way you are.

CN: Perfectly put! Thank you so much for joining us, Goapele!

G: Thank you so much for having me! I always run into people on the street and they say, “omg you cut your hair, you make me want to cut mine!” and it’s always exciting to see people before they make the transformation. I know that people are always looking for representation of themselves -- including me -- so, I’m always happy when people highlight that.

You can check out Goapele’s latest EP Dreamseeker, here. And if you’d like to learn more about Goapele and get into some of her lovely past works, head over to her website!

*This interview has been edited and condensed*

Tonja Renée Stidhum is a writer/director living in Los Angeles by way of Chicago. She is the co-host of the movie review podcast, Cinema Bun Podcast. She is made of sugar and spice and everything rice... with the uncanny ability to make a Disney/Pixar reference in the same sentence as a double entendre. You can follow her on Twitter @EmbraceTheJ, on Facebook FB.com/tstidhum, and Instagram @embracethej. You can find more of her work on her About Me page, https://about.me/tonjareneestidhum.

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