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Meet Natasha Crisp of BrownGirlBraids in Santa Monica

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natasha Crisp.

Natasha, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in LA and I have always loved a beautiful aesthetic, art, expression, and valued tried and true culture. Braiding happens to be one of the ways I express that. Like most (at least I thought) young girls playing with Barbies and dolls, I always combed their hair the handcrafted stylings of an eight years old.

Later it progressed to doing all of my elementary school friends hair…ponytails and fishtails were my specialty. When I was about 14 in the Ninth grade at Audubon Jr. high (the last year they went to 9th grade 94), I decided not to get a perm anymore and “go natural” before it was a thing. Thinking back now, the culture of the time may have been an influence this was around the time of poetic Justice when Janet and Regina king wore their beautiful braids on the big screen. Brandy was on top of the charts and on TV as Moesha revolutionizing how black girls with braids were seen. From groups like Jade to Arrested Development It was all okay to be cultured and flaunt your swag.

Back then, my cousin was a braider Sabrina Crisp (RIP). Braiding is a more specific skill of hairstyling there is a common misconception that all of US know to do it, that is false. My cousin Sabrina was amazing and she did it right from her home in Leimert Park. I marveled at her speed and precision and the way her clients trusted her and how much money she made. She was one of the originals in Los Angeles and became my mentor. She taught me how to do braids and twists. People used to burn the ends back then not knowing if you fray the ends and twist in an interlocking way they would stay. Anyway thats how I began. She paid me in the summers to braid her client’s hair down meaning she attached them and I braided down so she could work faster. I began to do my own hair at 15 and when my high school friends found out I could braid that was it. I loved having my own real money not like summers working at the mall money.

I come from a family of Entrepreneurs. My father Lawrence Crisp, uncles Loyce Crisp, and Floyd Crisp had Hamburger stands throughout Los Angeles Quick N’Split Burgers and owned residential care homes for adults with cognitive challenges. This was born in them from my grandmother and grandfather who owned barbershops with his brothers (Crisp Brothers Barbershops) and also had residential care homes. I never really saw anything different it was common for people to work for themselves. I did hair throughout high school and it just spread. I had clients from everywhere twists were a common skill than even among braiders. By now it was not just a few school friends but my friends and I at Crenshaw high put our stamp on braids… we had a dress code so we wore colored hair as self-expression I’ve always been more conservative so I kept it subtle a pretty gray color (which low and behold has come back around as a “new trend”). My cousin was killed while leaving a store on Jefferson one day just a woman in the wrong place at the wrong time our partnership was over but she left me a gift that I never knew until recently that I loved.

Now as a mother, this skill saved me at different points in life. I worked for LAUSD went back to school many times last for nursing, thinking I have to do this other thing or had to choose an office job. But having this skill and love for it has held me as I look back through many points in life. I am a single mother and honestly having this skill that people always referred to as a “Side Hustle” Is the Hustle. I am honored to be Braider I could say celebrity braider because I am published and have had my work on television shows like Blackish because of all the beautiful artists like Nafessa Williams, Estelle, and Amanda Seales, and Kerry Washington, LaLa Anthony women who have been intentional about showing the world our beauty and kindly putting a freelance artist like my self on. I just want to work with great people, continue building, and pay it forward.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I can say the skill for me came easily learning the industry as a freelance artist in a field that is newer to the Industry. Learning to turn your passion into a business and run it appropriately putting profit first is a challenge for me that maybe just a personal challenge though. Another challenge for me was initially when retiring from the school district and saying wow I am a Braider at 35 now 39 when it was a something I did as a teenager. Challenges are being a mother and wanting to grow and nurture this and expand from being the talent to training and employing talented braiders. Opening a beauty co-op tea bar a Browngirl Haven is a challenge finding funding and starting something new that has not existed. Challenges are conquering other areas as a predominately solo worker the branding and marketing and funding those things.

Please tell us about BrownGirlBraids.
My business BrownGirlBraids is a name I came up with over 15years ago it really refers to the celebration of a time honored tradition from our ancestors Braiding. I am the browngirl I am referring to and in no way means to say I cater to only Black women. I work with and have coiffed the heads of anyone who seeks to admire or wear a beautiful and bold aesthetic. All that being said, Black women have a different relationship with their hair. Yes, I do celebrity hair and I always welcome and appreciate those great opportunities that provide a more visible stage for my work to be seen I cater to all women. Our place in the world and how we are seen our confidence or lack of can have a lot to do with our presentation our Hair specifically.

I specialize in a specific type of braid I call the soft braid and have been doing most of the braid styles people see now on social platforms back before there were social platforms there was only Black hair magazine. I do kinky twists, curly/spring twists, what people are now calling passion twists goddess braids, crochet braids and cornrows. I am known for customizing colors and textures to recreating the braid so I may do something like a beach wave looking braid bob something soft and ombre or any style my mind can think up that is classic enough and lightweight and beautiful enough for a woman to take from corporate to her vacation. I specialize in bohemian styles its a different take on the tight more urban or city braid. We have our own styles and my braids are meant to reflect that. I am very happy to be a braider that is known and has always been known for keeping your edges…most people know how temperamental and fragile the perimeter can be people talk about tension alopecia I am certified in trichology and just naturally because of how I braid protected that section of hair.

I am proud to be a more seasoned braider who sets not follows trends. Proud to be starting an LLC that will sponsor two deserving girls a month with a hairstyle from foster care and homeless girls or girls of single parents, I have girls who were adopted by white families which presents a challenge sometimes learning to tame curls. My desire to pay it forward so braiding can do what other young women what it has done for me. I also handcraft hair accessories that I created Bohostrands basically a clip in hairpiece that add cultural flare.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My favorite memory from childhood would have to be this will sound crazy but counting french fry bags my father would have me help with inventory by counting these boxes of bags with almost bible thin paper. Over 1000 bags per box would have to be divided into 25 it would take maybe an hour to two per box but precision and concentration was key. I earned 7 dollars per box and would sit and do that and earn to my heart’s content. The thing is we grew up with money but he always provides a way for me to earn my own and there’s nothing for me that brought more pride than independence. Well, that memory and memories of riding in the back of our Nissan pick up truck (when the seatbelt laws were less rigid) up and down Crenshaw and through Inglewood when the Lakers were on a winning streak in 85,87, and 88. Crenshaw cruising and the African Market Place festivals they would have at Rancho Cienega Park Annually…Oh my Gosh !!!! and being in the King Parade every year, my stepmom shad A drill team it was the best Childhood was dope in LA.

Pricing:

  • Styles range from 150 to 400
  • Boho strands start at 12
  • Cash donations and product donations are accepted through cash app $browngirlbraids to sponsor a littlebrowngirl

Contact Info:

  • Address: 1725 Ocean Ave #108
  • Phone: 3239456902
  • Email: natashalcrisp@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @Browngirlbraidsofficial

Image Credit:
@Tyrenredd @nafessawilliams @arthive_magazine

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