We first discovered her on youtube where she shares hair and makeup tutorials to over 5,000 subscribers. One sunny Friday in June we had the pleasure of meeting Whitney Madueke on set of our debut photo shoot in trendy East London.
The 20 year old law graduate, originally from Nigeria has a smile that lights up the lens and an inspiring sense of style. During the shoot we chatted about her natural hair journey and everything in between.
Whitney, we know you as being the editor of Leazz Way and a natural hair enthusiast, but tell us more...
Well I've just completed law school and I'm due to graduate next month, so I'm real excited about that. Blogging is a big passion of mine as I get to write about two things I enjoy; beauty and fashion - in fact my long term goal is to become a fashion designer.
Congratulations on your graduation! That's interesting - a law graduate who wants to get into fashion… Who or what inspires you're sense of style?
Thank you. I think it's important to have career options and not to keep all your eggs in one basket so to speak. I am a very creative person and I love creating things. I've been working on designing some pieces. I adore Elie Saab and Deola Sagoe, both designers who specialise in amazing haute couture. The artistry of their work is compelling and I too would like to be known for the intricacy of my designs.
We understand from your vlogs that you have been natural for a few years now, how were you inspired to make the change?
I like change and something different. I really got bored with relaxed hair and wanted something different. At that time, a few of my friends had natural hair and I admired it from a distance but was not interested in letting go of my relaxed hair, I was still in high school.
I actually had 1 failed attempt when I went for a Rihanna inspired haircut and everyone recommended that I relax my hair so the haircut could 'pop' even more. I did and hated it.
My second attempt, was in 2012 when I had my last relaxer. Since then I have been strong on my natural hair journey. What inspired me was this uprise of natural hair love on social media, at that time I was always on Tumblr, I still am.
It was amazing to see people - men and women embracing their God given gift - natural hair; in different shapes, textures, and colours. It was everything I needed for my hair - diversity and uniqueness. With this found love for natural hair, it fuelled everything. My last relaxer June 20th 2012, My transition that lasted 8 months leading to my big chop on March 13th 2013 and the creation of Leazz Way on June 1st 2013.
How did you feel after you big chopped?
The big chop decision was made out of frustration caused from transitioning during winter - lots of breakage and dryness, I was tired of handling 2 different textures. I remember it was a bright sunny day and I was so optimistic about my big chop. I had my twin sister - Chelsea, help me with the cut.
When it finally happened, the best way to describe my feeling was that of regret. I was not as happy as I thought I'd be - it was a big mental adjustment to see myself without the hair I had become so accustom to. I made a conscious decision to always see myself as beautiful, no matter what. It took a few minutes in front of a mirror and repeated "you are beautiful" to convince myself but it worked! With that, my confidence grew larger and stronger. The big chop was really a stepping stone to greater things. I am glad I did it, when I did.
Having had the big chop ourselves, we can completely relate to that. So what are the most important things you've learnt about your hair?
I quickly learnt that my hair texture is tightly coiled and it LOVES water. To keep my hair soft and hydrated, I like to dampen my hair in water, apply my fav products like jojoba oil, Indian hemp and let it air dry. I prefer giving my hair prolonged hydration and deep conditioning because the spritz method is not as effective for my high porosity hair. I've developed a regimen that works for me and I have incorporated my own homemade recipes to clean and deep condition. I share all of this on Leazz Way.
Speaking of texture, what do you think about the popularity of hair typing?
It has it's purposes. Equally, I do think it also causes an unnecessary segmentation of hair. I mean, it's okay if you'd like to have a greater understanding of your hair and how best to care for it, but I think for some people it becomes an obsession. I think the biggest disappointment with hair typing is the idea that one texture is less favourable than another.
Having 4C hair myself, I've experienced the idea that curls are prettier than coils and kinky textures first hand. This is another reason why I decided to document my hair journey through vlogging to share my learnings to help change this notion. Our hair types are perfect just as they are and do not need to be compared.
What are your thoughts on wearing natural hair in the workplace?
It's an interesting idea that wearing your natural hair to work would even be an issue but this is largely down to the negative stereotypes afro hair has encountered over years. The notion that natural hair looks unprofessional is still the opinion of some, but for me, this couldn't be furthest from the truth. I think the key is to understand your industry or sector and find the hairstyle that is deemed appropriate.
For example in fashion, hairstyles tend to be more diverse, experimental, edgy. However in the legal sector, hair is more conservative. It's a simple case of understanding this and styling your hair accordingly. Knowing when to rock a huge Afro and a classic sleek low bun. Interesting point.
What's your go-to signature hairstyle?
I love to switch it up; I adore having a large, blown-out afro, but equally, I enjoy the hairstyle I'm wearing today, a sleek low bun. I think that's part of the beauty of afro hair - the versatility to wear your hair differently.
Your Youtube Channel has over 5,000 subscribers, how does that make you feel?
I have to say that it's one of my proudest moments as a hair blogger. The overwhelming feedback I've had from followers keeps me motivated. I remember being featured as Buzz Feed's '14 UK bloggers to watch' and it made the time and effort I put into my videos so worth while. To know that I'm helping and inspiring others to embrace their natural hair is a big deal, I feel great about that. I am glad to inspire, and encourage people out there to embrace their beauty.
How would you describe your blogging style?
Leazz Way is a laid-back approach to the natural hair journey. It's an archive of great inspiration from my journey to others simply embracing their natural hair. The main purpose is really to spread the love for natural hair and show it's versatility. I also have my fashion blog Desourire, which is more about on my personal sense of style. I love having both blogs as it's reaching and appealing to two different audiences. Sometimes even the same audiences in both. It's great seeing the different sides of me people enjoy, haha.
Throughout the shoot, it was clear that Whitney was an avid documenter, armed with her Canon 600D, she took every opportunity in between takes to snapchat and update instagram, which of course if to be expected from such a socially astute fashion and beauty blogger.
Her creativity is evident during the shoot, Whitney knows what makes a beautiful photo and her poise and gracefulness on camera was matched by her contagious energy and warm disposition off camera. So what's next for Whitney? The future is bright and as she plans to make the move back to Nigeria to continue her studies and pursue her career goals, we think she's a force to be reckoned with. We'll be watching this space (and youtube of course).
Youtube | Facebook: Leazzway
Twitter | Instagram: @WhitneyMadueke
Photography: Georgina Bolton-King
Makeup: Maria Papadopolou
Styling: Whitney Madueke