Tolu Agoro is a hair artist, natural hair nurturer, a hair stylist in general at LUSCURLS. She’s Chimamanda Adichie’s UK hairstylist at all times. I have followed her work for a while and her artistry over the author’s hair, especially the work she puts in folding those curls in large rounds. She might be the new hair philosopher, as she is making a new market for black women. I was so pleased to hear her grant this interview. Nothing exciting as hearing from the brain behind Chimamanda Adichie’s hair story. In this conversation, we will get to know how the meeting started, her hair artistry, and what it feels like to make Adichie’s hair.
When did you discover your passion for hairstyling? How did you start? Anything you learnt from your grandmother?
I discovered that I had a passion for hairstyling when I eased the itching desire that I had to learn a lot about the biology of hair. To do so I burnt huge holes in my pockets for books to understand hair, especially my own, when I decided to transition from being relaxed.
I was taught by Aunty at age 11 how to do basic braids, twists and cornrows. I practiced on my dolls and friends during school lunch breaks, creating patterns and shapes with the braiding technique.
What inspires your styles. I’ve seen them to be totally multi faceted. Something different for different persons.
Everything inspires the styles that I do. As cliché as that sentence is, I use my environment and natures perfect forms and shapes for inspiration. When I see an object or items that intrigue me, I’ll take a picture and try to recreate it on afro hair with my interpretation or figure out how I can incorporate different items in to the hair.
What is your typical work day like? Any other side work apart from your practice at Lu’s Curls?
I am a Producer and Radio Presenter/ Host as well as a Hair Artist. So my days are varied but structured. So I would usually know and plan my week between Wednesday to Friday of a week, leaving flexibilities for impromptu styling or changes during shoots.
How was the encounter with natural hair? When did you start yours?
I started my natural hair journey near the end of my first year at university. I had chemically straightened (relaxed) hair, and I was tired of the burns, sore scalp and having to think twice about itching my scalp to avoid wounds/scabs after relaxing ().
I have 2 dates of when I started my journey. The first was 9 years ago, when I failed my journey miserably, reconsidered and stood in front of relaxer boxes in cosmetics store many times. YouTube videos were not as popular; I was frustrated and lost in the image of what my hair was ‘supposed’ to look like.
The second time was 4 years ago when I wanted to see if I really missed the slick, sway in the wind look. So I had a silk press (straightening with heated tongs, no chemicals used) and a jaw length layered cut. I loved the Oprah Winfrey bounce, the hair flicks and cheesy boyband finger gliding () for the first 3 days, but very quickly got bored. I missed the artistic freedom and challenges that my Afro hair gave me. From then I decided to put all the scientific knowledge that I had into full accord. I learnt patience by allowing myself to gradually fall in love, understand and appreciate my beautiful hair and it’s needs in its entirety.
Do you have favorite hair care products. What are they? Do you also appreciate local hair care, like shea butter, coconut oil, and all the organic products. How do you deal with them all.
I have a few hair care favourites, I’ll list what I remember. I use cold pressed castor oil and grape seed oil from fresh skin on Amazon, Lavender, Rosemary and Tea Tree oils. Cantu Leave In Conditioner, ORS Curl Unleashed, Kera Care, Tresemmé, Mane Choice etc.
I love and appreciate local hair care, all organic essential oils and butters are my favourites. I always use them as mixers in my cocktail of products or as stand alone hair care. I deal with each product and organic produce by the hair porosity of a client. I use them according to what each hair type can retain.
Like I whispered earlier, I take you as a market for new black women who are ready to embrace africanism in their hair. How do you feel?
I felt very warmed by your compliment and title of ‘hair philosopher’ because I am fascinated by hair from its beauty, science, history and politics. I am deeply involved in the understanding of it in those areas and more.
I feel very privileged and will continue to be very grateful to be apart of a market for new black women.
Embracing Africanism in our hair is still a taboo today, so accepting the truth of our identity-aesthetically, is another vital movement for black men and women who are owning their hairs non conformist liberating growth. Also, fully Embracing Africanism in our hair despite hostility and misconceptions is imperative to our continuity. Our documentations of style and culture through hair, strengthens, enriches and creates a new history whilst extending on the stories and tips our forefathers blessed us with for the wealth of our generations to come.
Okay, now this brought me to you. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I have been waiting for this day. Asides all her glamorous fashion and makeup, I have always fallen so deep in discovering whoever is behind her hair do. One day my mother asked me to find out. And I’m glad to send a message back to her. I found out, and here she is, in conversation with me, TOLU AGORO. My mother’s mind will now be settled. (Laughs). So, how did you meet Chimamanda Adichie, or how did she meet you? Which year did you start working with her?
Lol, your sweet mother, the fact that she asked makes me feel so happy, please Thank your mother.
Ok, so last year November, on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, after I’d finished styling a client I received a picture message from Bernicia (UK makeup artist for Ms CNA). She asked if I could achieve the hairstyle in the image, she also added it was for a high profile client, but didn’t disclose who. I confirmed that I could, and as you can imagine my mind was on overdrive because she couldn’t mention who the high profile client was. So I waited, and she returned letting me know the PA will be in contact with me by the evening or Wednesday morning, she ended by saying it’s Chimamanda Adichie, you know her right?
Casually I replied, yea, sure and thanked her for suggesting me to Ms Adichie’s PA. When I got off of the phone I could not stop pacing my house with excitement as I was currently reading her, then, latest book Americanah. Fast forward to Thursday of that week, I met Ms Adichie to style her for the Harper’s Baazar women’s award. I’m quite a calm person outwardly, but inside me on that day I was a child on a sugar high, I couldn’t understand the coincidence and why me. So I told her that I was reading her book and how surprised I was at her request for my service to which she smiled warmly and said, “aww my dear, nothing is by chance. You are where you are supposed to be”.
What has it been like working with her. From what I see, I feel she’s always satisfied. But I will be glad to hear from you, what’s the entire process like?
Working with Ms Adichie has been incredible to say the least. She is, the phenomenal, fiercely intelligent and endearing woman that I believe a lot of people see or feel when in her presence.
She is a self assured woman, she knows what she likes and how, so when she’s satisfied you will know. She is also open and trusting of my creative input, which I find very complimentary especially when she chooses a style that I have created on myself.
In regards to the process when I know the style that she has chosen, I practice it and the timing on friends or family before styling her.
Do you always have to work with BERNICIA BOATENG (Bernicia is the makeup artist) – you choose Bernicia or she chooses her. And then you both have to come together?
Yes, I always work with Bernicia for Ms Adichie, she chooses us each time she visits the UK. Myself and Bernicia work so well when we come together for Ms Adichie. We understand each other’s working style and we help each other, it’s always a great time.
What are your future plans like, if you can tell us; and what you would like to tell young stylists reading this interview.
There are a few future plans that I have but for Lu’s Curls I am growing an online platform that incorporates hair stories, visual galleries and workshops for black men and women as well as other cultures that appreciate and would like to understand our culture and community.
I would like to tell young stylists to continue practicing! Learn on yourself if you can and others. Ask and accept HONEST constructive feedback, you WILL get better. Keep creating, someone IS watching, and you just never know who! I never expected my work to be seen by Ms Adichie early-mid last year, let alone to be her UK stylist a year on. So do not underestimate your art, growth and the power of showcasing; let the world see your gifts. Create with love, it’s seen and felt in your work. Lastly, I believe the ultimate role of a stylist is to make someone feel special, better than how they came, through your creation. It’s an empowering role so please believe in yourself.
Thanks Tolu, I am so happy to have talked with you today.
Thank you Chimee. I appreciate you asking me to be a part of your online stories. I enjoyed thinking of and answering each question, they brought back great memories.