Melissa Jean-Baptiste
Naturalista of the Week

Who is Melissa Jean-Baptiste?

Melissa Jean-Baptiste is currently an 11th grade high school English teacher as well as an adjunct professor at a community college in Brooklyn, NY. Her "side hustle" is blogging and co-owning the natural hair/ lifestyle brand Trials N Tresses began a year ago, but the ideas and methods behind it were brewing from the time she and her partner decided to stop using a relaxer back in 2012. It was through their hair struggles that Trials N Tresses was born. They created it as an outlet for other women who were confused by the loads of tutorials and videos and just needed a one stop shop to find stories of women about their hair, health and fitness. 

So far, they have obtained 33k followers across social media platforms. She and her business partner both work full time jobs while also taking classes to further their educational and career pursuits.

Melissa was born in Queens, NY and is a ‘90s kid! Of Haitian and Jamaican descent, she is perfectly interwoven into the cultural makeup of New York. As teacher in the city of her rearing, she believes that her students’ accomplishments are her true accomplishments. She recently won recognition for being one of the top 40 teachers under 40 in the nation. In fact, she deliberately chose to work in a Title I underfunded city school to be of most impact. Since working for the district, she has created mentor programs and career days boasting over 25 guest speakers comprising school officials and current college students.

Many times people are ready to throw up their hands and give up, saying that there are too many problems and not enough solutions,” she says. “But if you are not a part of the effort then you are a part of the problem.”

 This year alone, Melissa has helped two over age, under credited students with criminal records not only pass their first state exam, but obtain the minimum amount of credits to transfer into an alternative school that would better meet their needs and interests.

Melissa believes that the outcomes of our lives are not affected by fate or chance, rather they are controlled by choice. “Every day, there are choices you make that take you down different roads When you allow someone to take away your gift of choice, you allow them to take your life in their hands,” says Melissa.

How long have you been natural?

My last relaxer was in March of 2012, and I transitioned for 11 months before big chopping myself (what a disaster) in February 2013.

Why did you decide to go natural?

I went natural because my hair had fallen out of love with the way I was treating it. After being fried and dyed for pretty much my whole four years in college, my hair decided to pay me back for the harsh treatment and started falling out/breaking off  tremendously. It was painful to see it happen, though it was truly all of my fault. I was growing depressed with the way my hair looked so I kept hiding it under sew in weaves, not realizing I was doing more harm than good.

When I removed my weave in June of 2012, I was shocked and mortified at how much hair I had lost. So, I decided then and there to salvage the damage (though now I realize you really can’t) and stop doing everything I was doing before. It was a learning experience that I'm glad I was shocked into because I would have been bald had I not decided to drastically make some rapid changes. 

What is your fave styling product?

As a self proclaimed product junkie and long term transitioner, my favorite styling products during the beginning of my hair journey were hands down Cantu  products. They helped me so much during my journey from wash days to styling days I just couldn't get enough of the entire line. Now I do a lot more product reviews and DIY things, so my loyalties are a bit skewed as I've been trying anything I can get my hands on or anything that is on SALE! I still use Cantu Leave In Conditioner from time to time and it, of course, still works its magic. Right now, I'm dabbling with Hydratherma Hair Care products and they are giving my hair such life during these humid months in New York. 

What is your fave natural hairstyle?

My favorite hair style during my transitioning time period was definitely the faux hawk because it gave me an illusion of length and fullness even with all the damage I still had to grow out.  I also loved the fact that my hair didn't need to be perfect or have a lot of curl definition to achieve this look because my twist outs weren't perfected at that point (and they still aren't) Right now I'm totally digging flexi rod, perm rods, or roller sets. I love the look on day one when I throw it up into a puff or pineapple but I still struggle to maintain it for more than a day!  

- Week of July 13, 2014

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