September’s Featured Strawberry is Soteria Brown, an African-American natural redhead who has some wonderful advice to give all redheads, regardless of their skin color or ethnicity. This was one of my favorite interviews, and I hope all of you enjoy it!
I’m excited to feature you this month! Just like July’s Featured Strawberry Mounia, you have coloring that many don’t expect goes with a natural redhead. Was it difficult growing up? Do any of your family members have red hair as well?
Thanks for the opportunity! I liked Mounia’s interview. I related to her story and loved her advice.
Now, was it difficult to grow up as a redhead? One word – ABSOLUTELY! None of my immediate family has red hair – so everyone was always asking if I was the mailman’s baby or if I was adopted. I do have cousins whose hair started out as a reddish tint, but then faded to a sandy brown as they got older, but mine has not changed.
My mother tells me that shortly after I was born she found a scripture card that said, “And I will give you a crown of glory that fadeth not away.” 1 Peter 5:4. I believe that God was foreshadowing that I would have task of going through life as an exterior example of how creative and unique he can be. But I didn’t always feel that way.
Growing up I just wanted to blend in. I’ve heard that less than 2% of people in the world have red hair and that African-Americans with red hair make up much less than that. As I shared earlier, no one in my family, and no one I knew, looked like me. My dad has freckles, so I knew where those came from. But I didn’t have an example or a common tie for the hair anywhere in my circle of influence, so I always felt like the oddball with red hair and freckles.
I always seemed to get a lot of attention from people who would say that my hair was beautiful, or that they wished that they had my hair or my freckles. But, honestly, I hated being singled out for my hair. And despite being told I was beautiful, I just couldn’t see it, and didn’t realize what the big deal was.
Were you teased for it? Do people assume you’ve dyed your hair?
Yes, I was teased about my hair color. Many people, when I told them that I was a natural redhead, didn’t believe it. I would literally have to show them the blonde hair on my arms to convince them that I hadn’t dyed my hair and eyebrows. Still today people ask me what I use to color my hair. lol! I even had a person ask me, “Are you an albino?” But I know that people don’t get to see black redheads often and that is one of the cool things about this: I get to show people something different.
At one point when I was younger, I even felt at times that my hair color drove a wedge between me and my sisters. When we were out and about, people would always remember “the one with the red hair” and try to single me out. My parents were always great at saying, “All of our daughters are beautiful,” but that didn’t stop kids from being kids and siblings from being siblings.
When my sisters would get mad at me, as siblings do, they would tease me and say that I was adopted and that I really belonged to the Cherry Head family and that they were coming back to get me. That coupled with being called the mailman’s baby and other teasing, and weird stares from people who were trying to figure out if I was really a black girl with red hair, was enough for me to try my hardest to forget that I was a redhead by trying to blend into the background. In fact, when people would acknowledge my red hair and freckles I would say, “Oh, yeah I forget that I have it until someone mentions it to me.” I didn’t forget, but I wanted to.
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all bad, but for some reason my younger experiences were enough for me to say that I didn’t want to be seen as a redhead.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I realized how great of a blessing God had given me. I went to Grambling State University, a historically black university in Grambling, Louisiana. People there celebrated my unique look. Instead of staring at me as if I didn’t belong, they seemed to stare in amazement. I even gained the nickname of “Red,” and for the first time I appreciated it and wore it proud. Till this day, I believe a few of my peers from college don’t know me by anything but Red, and I’m ok with that.
(Note from Rachelle: this story brought tears to my eyes. I loved this experience.)
One of my proudest moments as a redhead happened while I was in college. I was in the marching band, and one Saturday at a football game in Alabama, one of the band directors called me down out of the stands and said, “I have someone I want you to meet.” Mind you, it was burning hot outside and I just knew my hair looked a hot mess, so I kept my hat on. We walked up to an African-American family sitting in the stands. With them was a little girl who looked to be about eight years old, and had a big, messy, fiery red ponytail like I used to wear when I was little. The band director said to the girl, “I’d like you to meet my friend,” and he pointed to me.
At that moment I knew exactly what he was doing. I introduced myself to the little girl and said, “Your hair is so beautiful.” For a moment she winced, and then I took off my hat so she could see my hair. The little girl flashed the biggest smile, then looked at her mother and grabbed her arm. She didn’t say it, but I knew that she was thinking, “She looks like me!” I walked back to my seat thinking that I will never forget that day.
Today, I wear my crown of glory proudly. I no longer try to forget that it is there. I love the blonde hairs on my arms and my natural honey-blonde highlights that come out in the sun. I love how when I get a tan my hair seems to turn a bright orange and looks like a majestic lion’s mane when I blow it out. And I love how in the fall it seems to match the crisp autumn leaves.
Many people still stare at me and try to figure out if I’m really an African-American with red hair, or a black ginger as some call me, and now I just laugh and smile because I’m grateful that I get the opportunity to show people just how creative God is.
Do you have any advice for those like yourself who stand out even from the redhead community?
If I could go back and talk to the 14 or 15-year-old me I would say…the Bible says that you are fearfully and wonderfully made. In other words, your uniqueness was not a mistake. You were entrusted with a huge responsibility of being a light. Don’t squander your time trying to change that or trying to blend in because I got news for you, you never will be able to blend in – because you were never meant to. So, that would be my advice to any other person trying to tone down their uniqueness or even bury it behind other people’s questions or insecurities – whether it be a different personality or hair color. Go ahead and shine! That is what you were made to do and someone needs to see your light.
Do you have favorite makeup products that flatter your beautiful natural coloring?
You know, I never really got into makeup. It’s usually just me, my sunkisses (freckles) and a little bit of Carmex. I tried rocking that bold red lip that everyone is doing today, but it wasn’t me. I do have favorite colors that I like to wear that I feel flatter my hair and natural orangey/brown skin tone. Blues, greens, and lately I have really been getting into corals and pinks.
I also think you have gorgeous hair texture. What are your favorite styles? What products do you like?
Thank you! Actually, as you probably saw from my Instagram account, I LOVE to switch my hair up and try different styles. In the summer, I like to wear braids because my hair is natural, meaning I don’t use a chemical relaxer to straighten my hair. So the heat and moisture absolutely annihilates any attempt to style my hair. But, most recently, I have really gotten into crochet braids. They allow me to protect the natural texture of my hair with cornrows and then I add pre-twisted extensions to my hair on top of the cornrows. The fun part is trying to find hair that matches my natural color. But in recent years that has become easier. The color of the extensions is never exact, but I can get pretty close.
I love it when fall, winter, and spring come around because I get to experiment with so many different styles – all different types of curls, halos, and occasionally a silk press. If I had to choose a favorite style, I think it would be big curls. I absolutely LOVE big hair! Again, over the last three years I’ve gone natural, so I get to see the natural fullness of my hair, and so the curls are even bigger. I get all the Annie jokes when I wear them, especially when I post pics on social media, but I just love it. It’s part of being a redhead. 🙂
As for products, my hair is really particular. She, as I like to call my hair, likes anything that adds moisture because my hair is naturally coarse and thick. My hair really responds to a mixture of water, coconut oil, and this product called Care Free Curl by SoftSheen Carson. I mix that in a spray bottle and try to moisturize my hair every night when I’m wearing a protective style. When my hair is flat ironed, I rub coconut oil through my hair and scalp before I wrap it at night.
And just for fun: what are your 5 favorite things right now?
Five favorite things right now…hmmm….I would say my top five at the moment are:
- Lemon Ginger Tea – or anything with ginger in it for that matter.
- Video editing – I love visual storytelling.
- My new “Treat Yo Self” mug. I LOVE collecting mugs. If they ever create a hoarders show for people with mugs, I’ll probably be on the first episode.
- The television show Married at First Sight – I would never do it, but I love that show.
- My new fireplace – I’m getting into DIY and I just built an entertainment center/fireplace. Also, I love my house. I just made the transition from apartment to my first home. Ok, #5 is technically two, but I couldn’t leave them out. 🙂
Do you know someone who would make an awesome Featured Strawberry? Send me a message and let me know!