Whitney White — The Queen of The Curls
I first met Whitney having her first bowl of gumbo on a bright, steamy July day in New Orleans — a damn near perfect place and situation to have a real conversation with a sister you learned to love through screens big and small. Until this day she was known to me, and quite literally millions of others (according to YouTube: 67,496,093 views to date), as Naptural85 — a breakthrough natural hair media tour de force. Yet, a savory bowl of shrimp, okra, rice and the spice of our ancestors brings out one’s realness; and strangers may become kin by the final bite. It is Whitney’s realness, not her plush, radically healthy hair, I’m actually most impressed with. She has such ease with being awkward and possesses a palatable humility, all held together by an organic confidence that only comes when passion is put into action. As an OG beauty professional enthusiast who wrote about black beauty and the majesty of our hair on a typewriter, Whitney and the generation of DIY beauty warriors she represents are who I didn’t even dare to dream to wait for. The wait is over and the revolution been done begun, a million beautiful twist outs ago.
Michaela angela Davis
Whitney White is without question the most influential natural hair vlogger in the world. From twist outs to wash-and-gos, we’ve all learned from her candid videos and basked in the glory of her luxurious locks. Whitney — who popularly goes by Naptural85 on YouTube — has brought together a bevy of Black and Brown queens who look to her as one of the most inspiring go-to natural hair gurus. That’s because she is.
Watching Whitney at work can be a whimsical experience. She emits a buoyant energy and a youthful spirit that engages viewers and encourages them to embrace every resilient curl, coil and kink. She reminds and reaffirms that black is beautiful, perfection is boring and, in a world where women of color are constantly marginalized, she helps to make our melanin feel magical.
This all seems like an easy feat for a woman who personifies the epitome of Black Girl Magic but as a self-identifying introvert, Whitney admits that her confidence is something she has grown over time.
“I was never the girl who had it all together,” Whitney said of her early days growing up. “I was never super cute, or wore the cutest clothes, or was like yasss girl or was the talk of the town.”
Whitney said she instead navigated through life as an awkward, goofy Black girl who felt as though she didn’t belong to any group or sub-community. She fit in where she fell in but realized soon enough that refusing to conform and embracing her true self was a fierce, and more freeing, move to make.
“There were a lot of different pressures that I had growing up as a girl, and I never really knew where I fit in,” she said. “I never quite fit in with my own culture. I never quite fit in with any other groups, and so I was always trying to be what I thought other people wanted me to be to fit in. And it never really worked out which was really awkward.”
Expressing her awkward and goofy tendencies are actions Whitney still exhibits with pride. Ultimately, what truly brings her joy is sharing joy. Her favorite color is yellow, she dances around her house to Sia, she’s obsessed with the sun and its warmth doesn’t come near the cheerful energy she radiates. Whitney consistently governs her life around happiness — and when the present-day reality of being a woman of color isn’t always pleasant, choosing to be happy can be a radical accomplishment.
“I have comfort in being youthful, like childish, and reverting back to that for some reason. But also again… I’m definitely focused and can switch on my business side when I need to,” she said in discussing the duality of her playful and professional ways. “It’s kind of a weird juxtaposition.”
It’s Whitney’s quirkiness that defines her charm and her silliness that helps to make her shine. She tries not to take herself too seriously but when it’s time to get s**t done, she makes sure to not only meet her own expectations, but exceed them (like a boss).
Perhaps this is why she has seen so much success. Since starting her YouTube channel in 2009, Whitney has creatively crafted a digital safe-space that promotes sisterhood and self-care. A true visionary, she did this at a time when YouTube creators weren’t being compensated for their work — and when the likelihood of making a career from posting videos to the web, no matter how wondrous they were, seemed slim to none. Whitney defeated those odds.
“It was just something people did for fun because they wanted to,” Whitney said. “A lot of people thought I was weird for it, a lot of people thought I was wasting time, or I was a weirdo on the internet. It was just a hobby that I enjoyed doing.”
Whitney always had an entrepreneurial spirit. She said she grew up selling lemonade, shiny rocks and discarded items from her bedrooms to classmates and friends. But her best and most passionate work came from styling hair.
“I’ve always enjoyed owning my own business. That was fun for me,” she said. “The YouTube and hair, it was never something I did for money. I did it because I really enjoyed it.”
Whitney was, and still is, the ultimate hustler. As a budding influencer, she held positions in corporate America working as a graphic designer for various companies. She even once owned a car-detailing business with her husband, who is a talented Brazilian artist.
“Car detailing is a like the makeup industry — you don’t have to be certified. We got certified, though, and were able to charge for that experience,” she said. “I feel like everything in my life has got me to where I am now and it’s for a reason. So with car detailing, what I learned is what I really want: to work smarter not harder. Because while it was great income coming in, it was exhausting. It wasn’t scalable, and we were exhausted.”
Instead, Whitney gave up on what she thought she had to do and pursued the passions she wanted to do. “I’ve always loved hair. Even when I was younger, and if we’re going to go that far back, I used to cut and style my Barbies,” she said with pride, before divulging more about her own natural hair journey.
“[Hair] was always fun to me so I decided to go natural at the urging of my husband. I hated getting my hair relaxed. I hated the smell. I hated the process sitting there for hours. He was like, ‘Just stop relaxing your hair,’” she said.
Eventually, she overcame the hesitation and went for the big chop — wholly unaware of what kind of curls she would grow, yet fully ready to embrace whatever texture they would reflect. “I thought when my hair grew out that it was actually going to be afro-y texture so I was surprised to get the curl pattern I got,” she said. She described her coils as type 4a hair with tiny, springy curls.
“I saw my hair for the first time, it wasn’t defined or anything, it was kind of just combed out. I was like what? What is going on? It’s like a whole new you. I remember that moment — that was crazy, it was very cool.”
Whitney is so much more than her hair but it is through her hair that she is able to do so much. Her hair, like it is for all of us, is a reflection of who she is and it is through her love for her natural beauty that she has been able to empower millions of people of color to embrace theirs, too. And while that’s a significant responsibility, it’s far from her only one. Whitney is a business owner, mother, wife, daughter and friend, among many other things; and she said balancing all of these roles — like so many of us attempt to do — is impossible. And she’s okay with that.
“There’s no balance. I’m not going to say that I do everything perfectly, because I don’t. There’s times when I wish I could do more at home. There’s times where I wish I could do more at work,” she admitted. “But it's really just trying to make it through and trying to give as much as you can, but making sure that you’re staying healthy.”
For Whitney, health always comes first. She has no beauty must-haves but relies on sleep to give her all the rejuvenation she needs. “Recently my biggest must-have would be going to bed early which sounds ridiculous,” she said. “But every time I go to bed early, I feel more refreshed, I look more refreshed, I have a more productive day. It definitely makes me feel better and more beautiful.”
Rest and self-care are crucial and Whitney makes sure to spread those messages through her work. She said it’s important to show as much love to yourself as you give to others and to understand that when it comes to hair — and everything that surrounds it — imperfection can, and should, be celebrated.
“You only have 100% of your time and some of that needs to go to yourself. I realized things can be messy; they don’t have to look perfect,” she said. “Once I stopped caring, that’s when things started working out well.”