Sonalii Castillo is a rare, talented beauty already taking Hollywood by storm. Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, she has had the wonderful good fortune of living all over the world, most notably several years in and around France and more recently New York, where she spent time cultivating and developing her pure love for professional acting. Sonalii has appeared in both lead and supporting roles in several independent feature film projects in the last year and has landed high profile spots on top rated network television shows such as CBS Network’s “Without A Trace”, NBC Network’s “Heroes” and CBS Network’s “CSI: Miami”. I caught up with Sonalii to talk to her about her amazing hair!
Mz Mahogany: How did you get your start as an actress?
Sonalii: I mainly started modeling when I was in school. In 2003, I went to California for a week vacation. At the time, my friends’ husband was working on a TV show. I went to sit with him and everyone was like oh my god your so this and so that. I was like ok. I always wanted to act but I was obviously in the wrong place (Florida). My friend told me to move to California and if it doesn’t work out you can always go back to doing your thing. 6 months later I moved out and took one of Jeffery Brook’s acting workshops. He picked me up as his client. Immediately I got my print and commercial agent. A year later I got my theatrical agent.
Mz Mahogany: Things happened really quickly for you.
Sonalii: (laughs) Everyone thinks so but I think I’m moving slow. According to everyone else I’m moving fast, so I guess so.
Mz Mahogany: You started off modeling. How did you break into that?
Sonalii: You know what, believe it or not , I was fourteen working at McDonalds and this photographer came up to me and asked me what I was doing there, I said what do you mean, I’m working to make cash, He asked to take my picture. I had my mom call and setup my first photo-shoot with him. I then went to modeling school. I really don’t remember how I got my first job. I was just one thing after another. I took some time off to move to Florida. A friend of mine works for Elle Models in Miami. She had me come out to the agency. They picked me up. I started working.
Mz Mahogany: Let’s talk hair, are you natural
Sonalii: Yes Ma’am, It’s all mine.
Mz Mahogany: It’s super cute
Sonalii: Thank you. I have to be honest, my hair is my child. Her name is Gloria by the way.
Mz Mahogany: You named your hair Gloria!
Sonalii: I had too! Everywhere I go people stop me and ask about it. Well right now it’s not as big because I washed it this morning. When I was younger and I first started wearing it natural my mother didn’t know what to do with my hair. She’s from Spain with long wavy black hair and my dad is Dominican. Born in Santo Domingo, I received more of my dad’s side in hair. My mother put my hair in a bun. I also got a relaxer but didn’t like it because it broke my hair off really bad. I decided to let my hair grow natural. I cut everything off. The guys cut! That was when I was 19 years old, I’ve been growing it natural ever since.
Mz Mahogany: So you did the big chop.
Sonalii: Yes I had a little fro’. Before I chopped it off, I was living with my mom and started transitioning. It was going through this nappy stage and I said OMG I’m going to die. Eventually these little pretty curls started growing. So how I’m wearing it now, I would have never worn it like this because I didn’t know what curl type I had. I had 2 inches of pretty curly hair and a foot of horrible relaxed ends, so I just chopped it off.
Mz Mahogany: After you did your big chop, it was time to reveal it to your friends and family. How did you feel and what was the reaction?
Sonalii: OMG everyone freaked out. I cried. You know when you have it in your head that you are going to do something and then you actually do it; the shock of it didn’t hit me until I saw my hair on the bathroom floor. I tied a little scarf on my head with the little fro’ peeking out but my agents were pissed.
Mz Mahogany: You didn’t tell them you were cutting your hair?
Sonalii: No I didn’t. They didn’t even know I was transitioning because I did good job hiding it with by flat ironing my hair. I was taking the time to make it look straight all the time. But it was a lot of work and very frustrating. After I chopped it off, everyone was freaked out. I did cry for a month about it. I then started researching and asking people about natural hair. I tried so many different products and spent so much money trying to figure this thing out.
Mz Mahogany: Would you consider trying a chemical relaxer in the future?
Sonalii: I love, love, love my hair and will never ever put any kind of chemical relaxer in my hair. If I want straight hair, I can just blow dry and flat iron. I don’t have the need to put chemical in it.
Mz Mahogany: When you flat iron your hair, does it mess with your curl pattern?
Sonalii: I don’t do it enough to see any heat damage or changes to my curl pattern. I don’t trust anyone with my hair. I do a deep conditioner before. When I wash out the conditioner, I don’t put any oils in it. I just blow it out and then flat iron it. Once that is done, I then add some kind of conditioning cream. I really don’t do it enough; it’s once in a blue moon.
Mz Mahogany: What’s your daily hair care regimen?
Sonalii: At the moment I’m using Kinky Curly Curling Custard (KCCC). That is the only thing that my hair likes. I love it. It’s 100% natural. It doesn’t have any oils or alcohol which allows me to control how much oil is in my hair. I wash my hair once or twice a week. At night I put it up in a loose bun. In the morning I spritz it lightly with spring water and touch it up with Kinky Curly.
Mz Mahogany: Are you using the Kinky Curly shampoo and conditioner as well?
Sonalii: My hair only likes the custard from that line. I do use Ojon deep conditioner. My hair loves that.
Mz Mahogany: Some people say the Kinky Curly Curling Custard leaves a white flaky residue when it dries. You don’t seem to have that problem.
Sonalii: I think it’s because people are not leaving some conditioner in their hair. It happened to me one time. I rinsed everything out and didn’t put anything in my hair before adding the custard. I’ve learned from that and it doesn’t flake.
Mz Mahogany: How often are you washing your hair with shampoo?
Sonalii: I only was my hair with shampoo once per month. When I do my weekly wash, I’m using the Ojon deep conditioner as a substitute for shampoo. I wash it twice, once to get the dirt out, rinse, and then I leave it on for 10-15 minutes and then rinse it out. When I do this, my hair doesn’t get as dry and it keeps it soft.
Mz Mahogany: What are some of your other favorite products?
Sonalii: Well you know how your hair can get use to one thing, so you have to use something else. So I sometimes switch to the Macadamia line. It’s at Sephora and cheaper at CVS or Walgreens. But I absolutely love Kinky Curly. It makes my curls longer and by the end of the week I’m like Chaka Khan. My hair gets super big. Everyone says oh you’re cute, but your hair is amazing. That’s all Gloria!! That’s why I named it. It gets a lot of attention.
Mz Mahogany: Your hair color is amazing. What product are you using, and what color is it?
Sonalii: It’s called the sun. I made the mistake of trying to lighten my hair. My hair has a red undertone but after I lighten it at the salon it came out red. Not a pretty red either. It was a red candy cane color. It was horrible. So once or twice a year I put in a rinse to make it look darker and the sun does the rest. I don’t use a permanent color anymore. When I have new growth, I just use a rinse and the sun does the rest.
Mz Mahogany: Some naturally curly girls say using chemical dyes makes the hair dry and brittle, did your hair texture change because of this?
Sonalii: Yes, my hair split. I had to cut off 7 inches after that horrible experience. I have been trying to grow my hair back ever since.
Mz Mahogany: Is your style a true wash and go or are you manipulating it into a curl pattern by doing a twist out etc.?
Sonalii: It’s a wash and go. I can change my “s” curl pattern into a corkscrew by wrapping the hair around my finger when I apply the kinky curly custard. There’s so many ways to manipulate your hair.
Mz Mahogany: Do you have any words of encouragement to the many women that are thinking of going natural?
Sonalii: You just have to do it. When I did it there weren’t too many websites and products that were dedicated to having natural hair. That was very frustrating. Now there are so many things out there and I often say where the heck was this when I was going through it with my mop head. LOL. Since there are so many products out, I’d recommend getting the trial sizes to see what works best for your curl pattern. You can do so many things with your curls. If you don’t like your curls you can manipulate it, naturally. Your hair will tell you what it likes. Don’t be afraid. Curls are so gorgeous. It’s a beautiful thing. You don’t have to spend all that money on getting a relaxer. Go for it and have fun! See I’m so passionate about natural hair and when I have children, momma’s gonna know what to do!!
Mz Mahogany: Thanks so much for sharing Gloria with us !