Q&A: PEARL WALKER 

"THE HAIR DEVA"

Pearl Walker is a hair stylist and the third-generation owner of Legacy Locks and Natural Styles in the University of Memphis area. Walker also hosts a weekly online radio show, "A Kinky Konversation," a program that she says discusses hair from a "sociological, psychological, and historical" perspective. Her show airs Wednesdays from 3 to 4 p.m. on innerlightradio.comby Shara Clark

Flyer: How do you know so much about hair?

Walker: As a young girl, my aunt had a hair salon, so I grew up in that environment. I was encouraged to take cosmetology in high school, but one of the main reasons I ended up in cosmetology was my desire to be an entrepreneur. I've been a licensed stylist for 20 years, specializing in natural-hair care for nine years. I was appointed by Governor [Phil] Bredesen to the Cosmetology State Board, thus making me the first natural-hair stylist in Tennessee to serve on the board.

What's a natural-hair stylist?

A natural stylist works primarily with African-American hair that has not been processed with a chemical straightener — it's in its natural state, its natural texture. The types of styles [I do] are dreadlocks, braids, twists, and cornrows.

Why do you call yourself the "Hair Deva"?

I read an article in Black Enterprise magazine where Tavis Smiley was talking about "name branding" yourself, and it sparked something in me. My middle name is Eva, and it started as "Pearl Eva the Hair Deva." Then I shortened it.

What do you talk about during your online radio show?

I started hosting "A Kinky Konversation" in 2003. When you say "kinky," everyone pretty much mentally goes to the same place, and I've got to say, "Oh, that's kinky as in hair!" It's a great name, and I've had a lot of fun with it. The objective of the show is to dispel the myths and stereotypes associated with natural hairstyles and to increase social acceptance [of them].

Within the black community, there's discrimination relating to skin tone and hair type. The wavier, straighter hair, we call the good hair, and the nappier, kinkier hair, we call the bad hair. This fosters our self-esteem and our perceptions of beauty as we compare ourselves to others in the larger society. We've talked about Hillary's hair, Michelle Obama's hair, and their daughters' hair.

Could you do my hair?

Sure! I've worked with Caucasian hair. If you want to come by, I'll play with your hair, and we'll have a kinky conversation. That'll be cool.

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