Andre Walker talks Oprah's Natural Hair
A year after signing off from her daily talk show and more than 25 years after debuting, Oprah’s still grabbing the attention of women everywhere. This time, it’s for her hairstyle on the cover of the August issue of O Magazine, where she featured her natural hair for the first time in the magazine.
Nobody knows Oprah’s hair better than Emmy award-winning stylist—Oprah’s only stylist for the past 25 years—Andre Walker, who still regularly tends to Oprah’s locks and styled the look for the cover. MODERN got a step-by-step how-to from Oprah’s mane man and talked to him about how to keep your clients’ hair healthy and his upcoming product line.
Were you a big influence in experimenting with Oprah’s natural hair on the cover?
I don’t think I was a big influence because she’s always wanted to do that. We just never had the opportunity. You probably heard Oprah say during the summer she braids it or gives it a break. When that six weeks is up, we normally take it out and it’s wavy and full. She thought, This is a great style, maybe I should wear my hair this way. We just finally decided to do it for the September cover.
Some have questioned whether or not this is really Oprah’s natural hair.
If you’ve read the magazine about her hair, it’s exactly that. It’s not totally natural. It’s her hair after it’s been braided while it’s damp, and that’s the texture that it leaves. Her natural texture is similar, this is a more stylized version of what it looks like.
How did you achieve the look for her?
Usually I start with hair that’s a little damp, and on her we add a little bit of some sort of oil and a little bit of styling cream, something that gets it a little bit of shine and hold. Then we cornrow it while it’s damp and then, overnight if you can, let it dry. Then the next day I unbraid it and finger it out until I get it exactly where I want it and maybe add a little bit more oil to it like, Argan oil. That’s pretty much it, it’s as simple as that.
I kind of teased it a little bit, too, to get it that full. There’s another cover coming out where it’s also natural but not as full. It’s probably a little, for lack of a better word, floppier.
What type of hair does Oprah have?
Oprah has slightly relaxed hair, it isn’t totally relaxed. I relax it normally to the point of being just a little more manageable. We only do it maybe a few times a year. Her hair is pretty much in its semi-natural state. It’s pretty kinky and full. If you have relaxed hair you could possibly get the look, probably not as an afro look or a full look. It would probably be a little straighter. But I think you could still probably do it.
How do you keep her hair healthy?
There have been times in the past when we just about killed her hair. We were styling it sometimes three and four times during the day. The average person doesn’t have to do that, of course, but with a job like hers it’s damaging for her hair. But we figured out ways to keep it healthy.
There’s no miracle conditioner. Sometimes for three months we put it in extensions. There are times when most of her extensions look like her hair, so it’s hard to tell. But we do. She’s very candid about it. She’ll tell you if it is or isn’t.
You’ve been working with Oprah for decades now. What are some of your favorite looks of hers over the years?
I like her hair long, and she likes it also. Some of my favorite looks were around her 50th birthday when she had hair that was just touching her shoulders slightly it was kind of just bob-ish and really bouncy and movey. But right now she’s enjoying her hair long and like most African women when they can have their hair long and healthy it’s a great thing. She really does what she can to keep her hair healthy.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m working on a line for highly textured hair called Andre’s Favorites. The star product is mainly a styling cream for achieving natural styles. I’ve really been trying to fine-tune so it works for a variety of hair textures. We’ve been working on it all year testing it. We’re looking at spring [for a launch].
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