• Salisha

Earlier this week I was a part of a forum for my alma mater. A few impassioned students took it upon themselves to start a group that is working to make sure their shared space on campus is a safe space as well as inclusive. A couple of the big topics we tackled were on being BIPOC in school and in the Broadway community, and Mental Health. I’m proud of these students because back when I was in college, neither of those things were acceptable discussion topics.

Today they are. And these students are going for it.

I’d like to touch on Mental Health for a second. In the Black Community, anything mental health related has a stigma attached to it. Like something is wrong with you, or you’re broken, or (the bad kind of) crazy. Let’s go ahead and nip that in the bud right there. Having the school of thought that if you need to seek professional help something is seriously wrong with you, is DANGEROUS. It’s important for people to have outlets (especially now more than ever since the world is upside down). In fact, the more outlets a person has the better: Friends, family, journaling, working out, doing something creative, Therapy. These are all healthy ways to get out what’s been bottling up inside of you.

Talking to the students reminded me of how stressful being in school can be. The work load is out of this world (ie. Having days when you’re on campus in class and rehearsals from 8am to 10pm, with the only time to work on scenes for acting or directing class between 1 and 3AM. And somewhere in there, you still have homework for the boring classes. Oh and don’t forget you still need to sleep so you can hit that high note for Musical Theatre class first thing in the morning. The stress of trying to get into a competitive program, not flunk out of your GE classes, having a “Broadway Body” all while dying to make it look easy, being kind to the Freshmen, and for some, working a job to pay for school can be overwhelming. Where is Mental Health prioritized in that equation? Where is there time for self care?

I recently parted ways with my therapist. Ah—you didn’t know I had one of those, did you. (For starters, he was a total babe, but that’s besides the point.) He started off as such a great listener. That’s really all I wanted—an audience. In the past if I had a therapist while in a show, it was a healthy way for me to talk mad shit to someone who was on the outside. That way I can go to work and not be a gossiping little bitch. I’m able to walk into work and be pleasant. I can leave my problems at the door and not burden everyone around me with petty things. That’s the beauty of therapy.  That’s also part of the reason why I love working so much—most of the time I’m able to keep my space a positive environment.

In New York, I know very few people without therapists that I completely forgot it’s taboo to a lot of people elsewhere in the country. In California, it’s something to be whispered and NOT to admit out loud.

I say NO.

It is way better for you to go and talk to someone about what’s on your mind—big and small things—than to keep it in, let it build up, and then you go leave your family, or burn a building down, or shoot up a bunch of people. This battle on earth is a mental one, and if some negative, evil spirit can get inside your head and make you feel like you’re all alone or that you should be ashamed because of XYZ, then it’s easy to hold on to whatever secret you’re trying to keep in. And then that secret has power over you. That secret can send you into a deep dark place because you haven’t dared utter it out loud. But when you do—when you have the courage to say something out loud, it suddenly begins to shift and move things. Thoughts, ideas, secrets that once had power over you no longer do. It feels ironic that voicing something you’re afraid to talk about actually gives you STRENGTH. It hands the power back to YOU. (I’m encouraging therapy but it doesn’t matter who you talk to as long as you get it out to someone!)

On the other hand, you don’t have to be going through anything life altering to reap benefits of therapy. Well, why would someone go to therapy when they aren’t going through anything?

I’m glad you asked.

That’s like when someone asked why I would read books about being broke when I’m not broke. When you’re proactive, you can avoid pitfalls that come from simply not knowing any better. (The more you know….) Same for therapy. When you go to therapy and your world isn’t crashing down on you, you can crack the code on triggers in your life that you’ve never thought twice about.

When I have an attitude—sometimes I just need a sandwich.

When I’m sad—most of the time, I need a NAP.

When I’m talking to my superiors who are white, I censor and sugar coat everything.

It kind of feels like dating yourself. Noticing the little things (that can turn into big things). Being more aware of how and why things can affect you.

Just give yourself a break. (not a mental break, lol). Give yourself whatever it is that you need. The sooner we get rid of this stigma, the sooner kids will stop bringing guns to school or doing the unthinkable to themselves when no one is looking.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing new under the sun. And if you’re going through something (like idk… stuck at home because of a global pandemic and you can’t stop eating those Doritos), that’s a great way for the devil to make you feel trapped. Like no one would understand.

You are NOT alone. You are not weird. There is someone else going through something similar to you. And the sooner you talk it out, the better you will feel.

Go to ZocDoc and find someone to give your $25 copay to and keep it pushin mama. 

Salisha Thomas IG: @salishathomas

  • Salisha

This month is my two-year anniversary since my accidental Big Chop. I was so excited to try this hair stylist that my white girlfriends were so pumped about. ROOKIE MISTAKE. A blind man can see that my hair doesn’t look anything like my white friends. Salisha, TAKE A NAP, GIRL. The stylist had a great Instagram presence. I loved what I saw, so I signed up. Why it never dawned on me that none of those girls looked like me, is such a ‘GIRL, BYE’ to myself.

Long story short: She cut off all my hair.

A few days after my Chop in 2018

Not only did she cut off all my hair, but she didn’t define my curls. She frizzed it out and let me roam free. I was shocked that she didn’t care that someone would leave her salon looking the way she was about to release me out in the wild. I had never felt uglier. And I couldn’t throw it back in a ponytail because it was too short. I was stuck.

At that point, I was determined to grow my hair out. I believe that when you channel your focus on any area, it will increase. That holds true for petty drama at work or noticing your own flaws. When it’s all you think about, it just seems to grow! The good news is, this also holds true for #Goals. When I set a goal and devote time to obsess over it, I see changes. In a good way!

Here are 9 ways that helped me transform my CHOP into a full headed MOP.

1. NO HEAT. I know, sister. It was tough for me too. But if you put down the hot comb for 5 seconds and hear me out, it’s worth it. I used to flat iron my hair every other week. (Yes, you read that right.) FRYING my hair. It looked bomb. But as soon as I wanted to wear my curls, I looked crazy. Just a whole bunch of straight ends that were as dead as those fishsticks I was hoarding at the beginning of the pandemic (they taste good though). I did not like the way I looked when I started transitioning. I started wearing SO many wigs (which was honestly really fun). Slowly but surely, I let my own hair see the world little by little. On my own time.

2. BIOTIN SUPPLEMENTS. I took an allergy test sometime in the last year or so. And my results came back with a Biotin deficiency. I was like uh oh, hold up! Alopecia runs in my family. So to already know that background information and now to see these results helped me to wake up real quick and get on it. I ran down to the store and got me some Women’s gummies and called it a day. I took two a day for many months. But beware, hair started growing EVERYWHERE. I absolutely have a beard and my electrologist can’t see me until Coronavirus goes away. Textbook NIGHTMARE. Also, too much Biotin can cause Acne, and so with wearing a mask all the time, my dermatologist has been working overtime with me. I recently dumped the Biotin supplements… but if you want hair—IT WORKS.

3. SCALP MASSAGE. It feels so good. But takes a lot of time. I’m not talking about scratching your head for 5 seconds. I’m telling you to put on a good ole Netflix show, set the Cheeto puffs aside for one episode, and with your fingertips (not your nails) massage your scalp all over for 20-30 minutes. It gets the blood flowing where the hair grows out of your scalp. Make time for it every day. Bonus benefit: MAJOR stress reliever.

4. DEEP CONDITION. My hair was so thirsty all the time. And then one day I asked myself: What if when it’s looking ashy, I moisturize it? I know that sounds so basic. Because it is. I didn’t know and nobody told me! About every other week, I put a mirror on the table, grab my spray bottle, and my favorite Shea Moisture deep conditioner and go section by section, drenching my curls in water, detangling the section, and then coating each strand with conditioner. Which usually leads me to…

5. PROTECTIVE STYLES. I twist up each moisturized and detangled section. If it’s a deep conditioner, I’ll rinse it later that night (or the next day!). And if it’s a regular leave in conditioner, I will keep it in, let my twists dry fully for about a whole day. And then the result is a twist out that lasts me 3 solid days. Day 4 and 5, I’ve got BIG, frizzy hair! Sometimes that’s my jam. Sometimes it’s not. When it’s out of control, I sit right back down with my spray bottle, some product, and detangle each section again.

This is my routine every 3-5 days. (I get a lot more length retention doing a twist out than when I do a regular wash n go.) The bonus of a twist out protective style for my fellow performers is that it’s a solid wig prep. I would twist it up 8 times a week on Broadway. And it can take me anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. But I recommend taking your time and to…

6. TREAT YOUR HAIR LIKE IT’S A SWEATER FROM SAKS. I don’t know about you, but I grew up fighting with my hair. Doing my hair was a CHORE. But now, I treat it like a privilege. One of my best friends, Chantea McIntyre said, ‘Salish, each hair is important.” I have watched her with my own eyes, take 5 minutes to carefully get a scrunchy out of her hair, and then observe the scrunchy to find that no hairs were lost. Wait wait WHAT? YES. I was dumbfounded. I have ALWAYS yanked scrunchies out of my head in a hurry. And when it got stuck, I would just pull it out of frustration, and there would be 50 hairs on my scrunchy. LADIES, THIS IS A NO NO. Vernon Francois has said in his youtubes to stop rushing when doing your hair. ENJOY doing your hair. Put some music on, and take your time. If you have to use a brush, start from the bottom, drench it in water and conditioner, and slowly and calmly work your way up to the root. Otherwise, separate your tangles with your fingers and handle it so delicately, like it’s the most expensive sweater you’ve ever purchased.

7. WRAP IT UP. I have silk-lined headwraps, pillow cases, and baseball caps. And I can visibly see and feel a difference when I use them versus my not-silk-lined products. It’s easier on your edges, keeps your hair soft, locks in moisture, and reduces friction and frizz. I JUST stumbled upon a company called ANEWCROWN. What I love about their hair wraps is that they’re silk lined and they look like the African wraps I use in the daytime when I’m hiding my protective style. I’ve completely upped my night time game, and now I go to bed looking like a straight up QUEEN. The scarf I’ve used for the last twenty years is officially in retirement.

My ANEWCROWN silk-lined headwrap 😍

8. DRINK WATER AND EAT YOUR VEGGIES. Lame, right? But I have to add it because it’s totally a thing. It’s so basic, yet sometimes we have to consciously add this into our diet or else it won’t happen. In fact, add sleep on the list as well. I don’t play games when it comes to my 8 hours of sleep. These three things are so transformative, that it would take many books to display all the benefits of this combination. Your skin will feel it. your body will feel it. Your hair will feel it. You get the point. But if you really want to see the benefits, you have to…

9. BE CONSISTENT. Listen. You can deep condition your hair once a year, or massage your scalp every now and then. You can have some broccoli on Tuesday and call it a day on the veggies front for the week. But if you focus your energy on actively growing your hair, you can pick a couple of things from this list and see real results if you stay consistent. It’s the little habits that we do on a regular basis that make the most impact on our lives. And with that I will add that being patient, which does not come naturally for me, is equally as important. One day, you’ll wake up and be like, when did THIS happen? When did I get hair?! It’s like taking care of a plant.  

*Bonus: I do not do it religiously, but every now and then I will wash my hair in rice water for a month. You can buy any type of rice, use a 1:1 ratio and of rice and water and put it in a bowl. Let it sit for a day. Separate the water from the rice and either spray bottle it all over your hair or dip your head in a bowl. It’s totally a hassle. BUT…. My hair is usually really soft after. I’m not officially adding it to the list because it’s something I’m never consistent with. But I think there might be something to it. It could be worth a youtube rabbit hole for if you’re interested….

I hope you found joy reading through this list. One thing I will say, it’s one thing to know what to do, it’s another thing to do it. When I don’t follow my own rules, my hair becomes stagnant. Like it plateaus until I realize…um…my hair has been the same length for a jillion years. Why? Oh, yeah. Because I forgot to take care of it. If you try some out, take photos so you can track your progress! Let me know how it goes. Hit me in my DMs on Instagram (@salishathomas or my secret Curly Girl account @curlygirl24601) and tell me about your process! I would love to hear about it! Good luck, sis!

Alright, come on in, and take a seat. I have something to say.

My entire career has been based on being as white as possible while simultaneously still being black so that the people hiring me can fit their quota while also not feel threatened or uncomfortable.

Are you listening? Great. Let’s get started.

I realized way early on that in order for me to be successful, I have to play by the rules to the tenth degree. In addition to playing by the rules I have to look a certain way (straight hair, clean lines, approachable smile) and also be good at whatever it is I’m doing.

I had a front row seat and first hand training on how to fit into white society seamlessly when I ran for a million pageants throughout Orange County, California. There was a day that my friend Nick and I were getting a movie from Redbox (remember those?) and next to it was a stack of local papers. On the front page was a Klan member standing next to a real life City sign that said, “Welcome to Ku Klux County- County of Orange.” He was in full Klan garb. Nick and I thought it was a joke. We grabbed a copy to further investigate.

Y’all. That sh*t was not a joke.

Within the paper, it pointed out street names and popular buildings throughout Fullerton that were named in honor of Klan Members. *eyebrows raised so high that they’re about to fall off my face*

People are always asking me why I love New York. Honestly, I feel and have always felt safer in Harlem at 3AM by myself than when I went to college in Orange County walking by myself in a parking lot at night. Y’all know I have always loved pageants and I still do, but being crowned Miss Fullerton left no room for slip ups. Going to school and working in “Ku Klux County” there was always an unspoken undertone that left me feeling uneasy. But I learned how to be a presence in any room without making my white counterparts feel uncomfortable.

I’m exhausted.

I started writing a Broadway musical during this quarantine. It’s a passion project and something that I love. While day dreaming about who I’d want to partner with me on my creative team, I started thinking of the talented, amazing people that I already know and love. I definitely want women and black people represented around me. First, I went down the line of people at Beautiful. And then I thought about it…

And it hit me: Everyone on the ‘other side of the table’ was white. Mostly white men. But hear me when I say it is not their fault that they’re white. Just like it’s not my fault that I’m black. The fact that they’re all white is not the issue. I love them. I would do anything for them. THAT’s the problem.

The subconscious hoops that I jumped through while seeking the approval of them all was something I was not actively aware of while I was doing it. I realized that any time I knew any of them would be popping into town to check on us when I was on tour, I would unconsciously make myself MORE WHITE to appear more DESIREABLE. (I do the same thing when I know I might need to hail a cab. Look the freaking part so that you don’t get passed over.) I would go find my straight hair wig, or one with a light wave, put my makeup on, and wear colors and silhouettes that made me appear softer and more approachable.

Salisha Thomas appearing soft and approachable.

OH MY GOSH. I’ve been doing this for YEARS.

And guess what: IT WORKED.

I bought a whole house based on doing this. My brain has been in overdrive for so long, and I didn’t even know it! I don’t even have the energy to get into Disney right now. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, the times I’m asked to play a black stereotype. “Think more—Whoopi!.... a little more sass..... Can you do like, a soulful run at the end?” What is being asked while trying to avoid sounding racist is, “Can you be more black?” Each audition I ask myself, what box do I need to fit into today? You guys, I’m so tired.

It wasn’t until recently that I’ve begun to start wearing my own hair. Media has begun to shift. The American ideal of beauty is slowly changing, and when that shows up in the media, people’s minds begin to change whether they know it or not. The more you see black people or natural hair on TV, in magazines, on stage, etc., the more accepted it becomes. When I was a child, all I saw were white women with soft, straight hair. So to me, that was beautiful. The only people with big curly hair on screen were the crazy side kicks who were supposed to be funny; not necessarily desireable.

Things are changing.

I got to be Miss California, but I rocked that year with so many wigs that it took up an entire suitcase while I traveled. I’m grateful for the reigning women right now who are rocking a whole lot of texture. Things have changed from then to now, thank God.

But…. You already know.

Racism is so freaking real that it’s not even funny. Sometimes it’s little things: Like when my dear sweet friend, DeLaney and I went to enjoy a movie together in Chicago. She’s a total bombshell, gorgeous, kind, approachable, you name it. She’s also white. We got our tickets, and she walked right through. I followed right behind her, but the attendant stopped me (and only me) and said he needed to check my bag. My tiny little purse. It was upsetting. I wanted to say something. I wanted to point out that he blatantly let her through and only checked me. But I didn’t do that for two reasons: 1) I didn’t want to be defensive and cause a scene; become the angry black woman. I was taught early on to always comply (as we’ve seen, something small can quickly turn into life or death) and 2)… She actually had all our snacks in her bag which in hindsight was genius for exactly this reason. The downside being that I got profiled while having to act like everything was okay.

It was not okay.

And then there are big things, like a white officer murdering a man for 8 minutes on camera and getting away with it.

Let’s sit with that for a second.

How much more obvious do things need to get before it’s addressed?

I’m ready to be whoever I feel like being. If I choose to wear a wig, I want it to be because I was too lazy to do my curls. Not because I’m metaphorically trying to catch a cab in my profession.

I just got to California. I’m staying down the street from where my parents are. And just yesterday, I jogged a couple miles to see them and wave at them from the front yard. I rang the doorbell and ran into the street to give whoever answered the door some space. My papa came and was trying to conceal how worried he was when he realized that I had jogged on foot alone instead of driving over. Sidebar: The neighborhood is nice.

I’m being modest.

My dad said, “You shouldn’t be jogging in this neighborhood by yourself.” I interject, “While being black you mean.”

I shouldn’t be jogging in this neighborhood with a mask and gloves on while being black.

He looked at the ground and we both took a beat.

Y’all, this is not okay.

Anybody else ready for a change? I could write a whole book on this. But I’m hungry and need some lunch. I’m grateful for everyone who’s checking on me and their other black friends right now. I never really know what to say but it does mean a lot. There’s a quote that I saw today that rang so true in my spirit pertaining to saying All Lives Matter versus Black Lives Matter:

“If I say my house is on fire and you say ‘all houses matter,’ well that may be true, but all houses aren’t on fire right now. My house is.” -Talib Kweli

I have a dream of living in a world where I don’t have to worry about the safety of myself or my family members while doing normal things in predominantly white neighborhoods. I have a dream that I won’t need to do a million subconscious black flips (lol, I mean back flips) to get a job or fit in to prominent circles, but instead just simply look how I look; that being myself will be enough.

I am a strong, proud black woman stepping into her power. Even if I am afraid, I will be brave and stand up for what I believe in. Now is not the time to be silent, whether you’re black, a person of color, or an ally. Take a stand. There is no grey area on this one.


Salisha Thomas photographed by Chia Messina

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