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Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey on How She Came to Love Her Natural Curls

Jillian Hervey looking over her shoulder at makeup counter Photo: Getty Images

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From Beyoncé’s wind-resistant blonde waves to Selena Gomez’s billowy, chocolate brown locks, it seems like a requirement for today’s leading pop stars to have enviable heads of hair. And if Jillian Hervey’s lion’s mane of naturally curly locks is any indication, then her band Lion Babe is practically destined for superstardom.

Hervey took the stage this weekend in New Orleans at Essence Festival’s first ever Beauty & Style Expo with Lion Babe’s creative director, Jeffrey Williams, and the man behind the mane, her hairstylist Chuck Amos. Amos has styled everyone from Hervey’s mother, former Miss America Vanessa Williams, to Iman.

Hervey with producer Lucas Goodman at Essence Fest
Photo: Getty Images/Paras Griffin

Amos and Hervey aren’t afraid to switch things up in the texture department, crafting up voluminous, ‘70s-inspired waves for Lion Babe’s music video "Where Do We Go," and perfectly teased and layered tresses for "Treat Me Like Fire." But no matter how it’s styled, Hervey’s mane remains her signature, so much so that she was chosen as the new face of Pantene last month.

Jillian Hervey performing at Essence Fest, in crouched position Photo: Getty Images

But it hasn’t gone to her head, so to speak. Below are highlights from Hervey’s Essence Festival talk, where she touches on how she grew to love and embrace her natural curls and reveals some of her biggest style inspirations.

On how her lioness mane came to be:

"It’s so funny. It’s really taken over my life in some ways, and I’m not ashamed of that. When we first made ‘True Like Fire,’ that was around the time I was finishing school. I was dancing, and I was alway wearing weaves. I grew up in a town of basically just white people, so I never really felt like my natural hair was good enough. It just didn’t fit in. But once I got to New York and started dancing, I started seeing a bunch of beautiful people of color wearing their hair naturally. It made me want to do the same. It really was one of those defining moments."

On her hair’s real color:

"I’m natural, but I’m not naturally blonde. It was one of those things where I was finally out of my mom’s house, and she was like, ‘You can dye your hair now that you don’t live with me.’"

On finding inspiration from black artists:

"Once I [went natural], everything started to change. I started feeling very comfortable in my skin and really confident about who I was. I started to look to a bunch of black artists who inspired me, that were kind of in my house. My mom had this Josephine Baker painting, and I always knew of her, but I didn’t know much about her legacy and how much I was drawn to it. From there, I wanted to embellish it. I think the great part of being an artist is being able to bring in your surreal world and enhance things you don’t get to see in reality."

On how to actually get curls like that:

According to her hairstylist, Chuck Amos: "Sometimes we’ll do a tease set, which is when you tease the hair, blow-dry it, and comb it out, and sometimes I’ll curl her hair and go over it and curl it again so it sort of distorts the curls from other curls, and they never come back together or clump up."