SZA Vogue by Alessio Boni – 01

SZA Talks Losing All of Her Hair as a Teen & Caring for Her Big Natural Curls in Vogue

SZA for Vogue photographed by Alessio Boni

SZA for Vogue photographed by Alessio Boni

Top Dawg Entertainment‘s leading lady SZA and her glorious natural tresses appear in a Vogue Magazine feature photographed by Alessio Boni.

In her interview, the self-described “total tomboy” speaks on falling ill as a teenager and losing all of her hair from medication-related side effects, her current natural hair care routine, and more.

The 24-year-old singer-songwriter released her first solo album, Z, on April 8, 2014. It serves as the third project to drop from TDE, following labelmates Isaiah Rashad‘s Cilvia Demo (January 28) and ScHoolboy Q‘s #1 charting Oxymoron (February 25).

Z debuted on the US Billboard 200 at #39, selling 6,980 copies in its opening week, peaked at #9 on the US Hip-Hop/R&B chart, and entered the UK R&B Chart at #32.

For the Vogue shoot, SZA is styled by Clare Byrne, with hair by Paul Merritt and makeup by Ana Marie. See more photos as well as her interview below.

When she started wearing her hair so big:

“Well I guess I’ve been looking this way since middle school, before big natural hair was even popular. My mom was adamant about not doing anything to my hair. I grew up Muslim, and wore the hijab through middle school. The only girl that I could look to for natural hair inspiration growing up was Lauryn Hill. I wanted dreads but my mom wanted me to wait until I was sixteen, by which time I didn’t want them anymore.”

SZA for Vogue photographed by Alessio Boni

SZA for Vogue photographed by Alessio Boni

How she looked after her hair growing up:

“I broke so many combs and brushes growing up that eventually my mom decided that we should perm it. I was in eighth grade. So all my curls were stretched out and I had these superlong pigtails that fell down my back—but chemical straighteners break your hair, and I ended up going through so many hair transformations from there on. I remember bleaching part of my hair platinum blonde, Cruella De Vil-style, the day before an important meeting with Howard University when I was in eleventh grade. My mom was furious. I also got really ill in high school and my hair fell out because of the medication I was taking.”

How she lost her hair affect you:

“It’s such a big part of my personality so it was really tough. I hid behind my hair before, but I had nothing to hide behind in that moment. I think the very idea of femininity fell apart for me, but in a good way, because after that, the superficial things didn’t matter so much. None of it mattered. I don’t even shave my legs. Today is the most made-up I’ve ever been in my life. My mom on the other hand, is the classiest woman I know. She has elegant hands, and always gets her nails done. I wonder if I’ll ever grow out of my jerseys and into a lady.”

SZA for Vogue photographed by Alessio Boni

SZA for Vogue photographed by Alessio Boni

How she cares for her hair now:

“I like to co-wash, which means washing without a shampoo. I just use a conditioner and coconut oil, and then I rinse my hair with lukewarm water instead of hot water which strips hair of all the moisture. I make my own deep conditioner from coconut oil, avocado, a drop of Pantene’s conditioner for women of color, cinnamon, and tea tree oil. Then I sit and catch up on TiVo’d episodes of Chopped and Iron Chef. If I have time I’ll twist it, but my hair takes days to dry so I usually blow-dry it out with a diffuser instead. I’ll lean over the blow-dryer and divide my hair into four sections, but I never comb it through because it breaks up the curls. I use a silicone-based heat protector to keep it from getting super frizzy, and coconut oil, and that melts in your hand and won’t weigh your hair down either. I haven’t had a chemical relaxer for at least six or seven years.”