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An Interview with Ouidad, the Ringlet Whisperer

Meet the woman behind great curly hair.


Courtesy Ouidad

For those ladies blessed with beautiful and uncomplicated straight hair, you will never understand the frustration and everyday styling struggles that plague your curly-haired sisters.

I come from a people known for their difficult-to-manage hair. My father is African-American and my mother was a Sephardic Jew. Growing up in Washington D.C., I was fortunate enough to find hair salons capable of managing my “kind of hair.” The African-American community is accustomed to dealing with all kinds of curls.

Back in the 90’s, a hair stylist turned me on to the product line designed exclusively for curly hair called Ouidad—and I’d finally found the potion that could contain my difficult-to-style curls.

I use the styling gel mixed with the climate control, dry with a diffuser, finish with hair spray, and I’m good to go.

I recently sat down with Ouidad herself (pronounced "WEE-dad," and it's one name, like Cher). She’s a whirling dervish of a woman, born in Beirut, with a personality that matches her wild, ringletly and beautifully-quaffed hair.

Ouidad was the first to create a separate beauty market exclusively for curly hair. In 1984 in New York City, she opened her first salon catering to curly hair only. “My husband and I got a $25,000 small business loan, and the bank thought we were crazy. They gave us three years to re-pay the loan. Word of mouth was astounding. Curly-haired people were desperate back then. There was nothing for them. We paid the loan back in six months,” Ouidad says.

Ouidad explains to me that there are two critical factors to having great looking curly hair—cut and product. She has trademarked her cutting techniques. In the early years she would mix several products together to achieve the perfect balance, but when clients wanted her products, she knew she had to bottle and sell her elixirs. Her company has become very successful.

San Diego stylist Chris Shingal of Bamboo Salon on Goldfinch Street in Mission Hills has worked with Ouidad herself, and although she hasn’t certified him, she gives him her two thumbs up.

When asked about the Brazilian blowout (the trendy process of straightening curly hair by coating it with Keratin and a small percentage of Formaldehyde), her reaction is almost violent. “I’m absolutely against it. It’s carcinogenic to stylists and it destroys hair. I’m the curly hair queen; of course I’m against people chemically straightening their hair. My hope is that people will accept and embrace the hair they were born with. I’m an advocate for women with curls,” Ouidad says.