No matter if you’re a longtime subscriber, looking for natural hair tips, or just seeking your daily dose of inspiration, Whitney White’s charisma will undoubtedly stick with you. Creator of the YouTube channel Naptural85, White has created a strong community by documenting her personal hair care journey. She may have over 1 million subscribers, but make no mistake--it feels as if she’s only talking to you. With her business-savvy and knowledge, this closeness and kindness that she exudes, make her all the more authentic and personable. She remains humble in her accomplishments, feeling the most proud when hearing from those she’s helped and inspired. This month, learn more about Whitney, the next hairstyles on her mind, and Naptural85.
in 2009 you started your own youtube channel, naptural85, to document your natural hair journey. now 9 years later, you have over 1 million subscribers across your social media channels, paid partnership deals, and a reputable and growing online business. what are some memorable moments you’ve shared with your fans?
I love the Naptural85 community! I really am blessed with kind, intelligent, caring and hilarious supporters. I think my most memorable moment has to be my very first organized appearance. I was extremely nervous, but the turn out was incredible. At one point during the event, as the host addressed the itinerary for the night, she mentioned that I was there, and the entire crowd turned burst into roaring cheers and applause! I was so taken aback by the support, energy and love in that room in that moment that I gasped and then burst into tears. It was the sweetest, most loving energy I have ever felt. I’ve never forgotten that moment, it was very special to me.
At what point in your career did you realize you were building a movement and doing something incredibly meaningful for black women?
I can’t remember a specific point where I was like, “Aha! This is what’s happening!” As my channel grew, probably around 2014, I began to realize that I was helping women and men go natural and thought it was really cool, but I don’t think I ever thought about the emotional impact of it all. To this day, I still forget! It’s really the moments when I meet my supporters in real life that I get a dose of reality that I may have been a positive influence in the lives of others. I, unfortunately, can be very hard on myself regarding impact and achievements, so being able to hear the individual stories really puts things into perspective for me. It’s incredibly heart-warming and rewarding to know that just in sharing my truths and passions, I’m able to be a positive influence in someone’s life. So it’s definitely the in-person conversations, as well as the emails and supportive comments that I receive from the Naptural85 community that lets me know that my efforts have been helpful.
As an entrepreneur and beauty vlogger, what would you share with other women of color who are interested in creating their own beauty tutorials or platforms? what are some tips to navigate youtube?
I always say, just go for it! I think people think it’s too late because the platform is so saturated, but that’s not true, there’s always room for more! It’s not about how many beauty vloggers there are, it’s about the quality of your content and how you make people feel. Every individual and has their own unique strengths that they bring to the table, so figure out what your strengths are and let that lead your content. There is no other you, so be as you as you possibly can be and you will surely stand out.
what are some of your favorite protective hairstyles?
I love box braids and kinky twists as long-term protective styles! Why!? Because they’re quick and easy to install! I unfortunately can’t do them as often as I’d like because I’m always trying to switch things up for content purposes. If I wasn’t a hair vlogger, girl, I would probably live in box braids and kinky twists for those moments I need a break in styling! Super simple, gentle on the hair, and doesn’t take a year and spidey-fingers to install? Yes please!
what do you envision or dream of when you picture your hair in the next 5-10 years?
In 5 years I’d love to have experimented with some short cuts. I love the simplicity and sass of a short hair cut. I’ve also thought about loc’ing my hair, but that would be a long time from now. I love how freeform locs look, it’s very much my laid-back, casual, gives no effs personality. So I’d love to experiment with that later on! My hair naturally locs up after a two-week twist out anyway, so I figure it would be a pretty easy transition, haha!
as a public figure with a powerful platform and huge following, how do you stay true to yourself? how and when do you check in on yourself?
One, I’ve got a great support system. My husband is a very simple man who loves nature and makes me go into the wilderness to reconnect. He doesn’t get involved in the industry and has his own career goals which keeps him planted in reality, and by default, me as well. Two, I am already extremely hard on myself, probably more so than I should be. Because of this, I don’t celebrate every little milestone, or think that every little achievement makes me this “grand figure,”…which is a good thing, but also not. I’m trying to work harder on celebrating my hard work, but then again, I do like that I don’t take myself so seriously or think too highly of myself. There’s a healthy balance between the two that I’d like to reach. And three, I keep my butt out of the entertainment cities. I love living in Massachusetts and just going into New York City and Los Angeles when I have work to do. It keeps me grounded to live in the town that I grew up in, close to my family and hometown friends. There aren’t very many beauty vloggers in my area, in the same industry, it’s very much a STEM, tech and education-focused state. So it’s a great place to retreat to after the glam and glitz of some of these beauty-focused events, where I can get back to the reality of life and what’s really important.
what are some eurocentric standards of beauty you’ve unlearned or are continuing to unlearn today?
Oh man, I’ve definitely had to unlearn that stretched/straighter-looking hair is more attractive. Even as I went natural, without realizing it, I put a preference over my twist outs than my wash and gos. I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing this, but I just naturally gravitated towards the hang time and waves. As I spent more time with my natural hair, as the community grew and more stories and conversations were shared, I began to realize that I still had a bias over my natural hair that I wanted to overcome. So I began wearing my wash and gos more, learned to style it different ways, learned to love my frizz and kinks, and freed myself of the notion that one type of style looks better than another. Now I love my hair in all styles - stretched, shrunken, curled, kinked, frizzed - whatever it wants to do, I support.
other than your gorgeous hair, what or who inspires you to create? who are some of your mentors who have helped you along the way?
I get inspiration from everyone and everything, there’s really no one person specifically. I like to ask a lot of questions, read books, talk to people, observe my surroundings, and pay attention to trends. I’m always looking to improve myself, so self-help content is something I’m always absorbing. I would love to find a mentor IRL but I think my introverted tendencies sometimes make me fearful to reach out, but I’m getting there. New figures inspire me daily, but I tend to always keep Madam CJ Walker in mind. She was such a pioneer in her day, I imagine what it must’ve been like as a black woman back then, trying to start a business, and then once she was successful, protecting that business and herself. Couldn’t have been easy. Plus, we both love hair and were born on the same day! She’s my spirit figure… I think about her a lot.
the power of the black consumer is strong with black consumers spending up to 6x more on hair care than their white counterparts (huffington post). Mintel, a market research firm, values the black hair care industry at more than $2.5 billion and yet mainstream brands are only now entering the market. what are your thoughts on this gap and what do you have to say to these companies that see diversity as merely a trend?
Haha, I just did an entire presentation about this subject! Yea, it’s a great opportunity for companies that are actually authentic and care about the black consumer to become successful. It’s unfortunate that there will be companies that care more about the green in our wallets than us as human beings, but it is what it is. Once an industry sees a gap, there will be a flood towards it. But what they miss out on, when they only care about the money, is a true connection to the community that would ensure loyalty. Those who are not authentic always, and I mean always, show themselves. On the other hand, it’s great to have more options! I mean, part of the issue was that no one cared enough about the diverse marketplace to make products for it, so should we really continue to complain, when we are finally being served? It’s a tough question…
hair is incredibly personal and emotional, and it can even have psychological impacts. the following you have amassed is evident that you have built a community and even a safe space of healing and validation. what do you think your role in this is and how does it influence your brand?
I love what I do and am proud to call myself a hair vlogger. Hair is incredibly important, and it has been for centuries, since the beginning of time. There’s not one culture on this earth that has not held hair in high-regards. There are cultures that value it so much that they cover it, in order to protect it’s beauty. That’s some serious significance! So, I definitely understand the power of hair. Personally, I just try to keep an open mind, knowing that members in my community live all over the world, with so many different cultures. I know that I do not know everything, and therefore I am always looking to learn from the members in my community as much as they like to learn from me. It’s really a partnership and I try to create an open and supportive space for people to share ideas and learn from one another. I think being open myself, always staying true to what I like, what I believe in, being honest in my triumphs and mistakes, puts people at ease to do the same. I know that there are women, and men, of all ages watching me so I always make sure that I am sharing my truths, but in a respectful way. It’s very easy to gain a following with shock-value content, but I think having a space that’s safe, honest, and real puts people at ease, and feels like coming home. So I try to share my thoughts and life honestly in hopes that others will feel empowered to do the same.