Naturals To Know: Samantha Abrams
Samantha Abrams wears many hats. She’s a stand-up comedian who frequently performs around Los Angeles. She’s an actress with credits in Scary Movie 2 and on BET. She’s a writer with a short film being presented at Cannes this year. And she creates mouth-dropping pencil art. This North Carolina-bred entertainer is ready to claim her place among L.A.’s comedy elite. Today she reveals what it takes to make it in the business, her natural hair routine, and how her daughter influenced her decision to stop relaxing.
How long have you been natural? What made you decide to take the leap?
I went natural 4 years ago when my three-year-old daughter looked up at me while I was straightening my relaxed hair and said, “Mommy, I want hair like yours.” I paused and looked at her. I was devastated for two reasons: 1. Because my daughter was learning to hate her natural hair and 2. Because I knew I had no choice other than to go natural so she would learn to love it.
I wasn’t passionate about becoming natural. My plan was to trick my daughter into loving her natural hair by showing her mine. It was terrifying and highly dysfunctional but it was true. I knew I had to at least fake it for her. I had no idea what I was going to look like so I just stopped relaxing and wore my hair in a tight ponytail slicked back with gel. I did this for about a year and then tried to lock my now shoulder length hair that was 1/2 natural, 1/2 permed. It was a hot mess.
I got frustrated one day and chopped it off in 2011. I felt like a boy for a month or so and wore makeup and big earrings. That first year was stressful but eventually I learned how to style and enjoy my hair. What felt strange at first now feels great, playing in it, washing it, looking at it…
Today I truly love my natural hair and because of this love I realize how much I had hated it before. I’m blessed to be teaching my daughters to love theirs. I thank God for Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary Good Hair and for all of the many beautiful black women transitioning to natural. To me, they all look more beautiful now.
I don’t judge women who still go out of their way every hour to hide their natural hair from the world. After all, I lived that way for 30 years. However, I sincerely hope they will eventually break through to the freedom that I found.
What is your hair routine? Do you have particular products you swear by?
Since it’s short, I wash my hair almost every day with cheap VO5 conditioner. I only use sulfate-free shampoo (nothing too expensive) and no more than once a month. I spend my money on gel. Goldwell’s Lagoom Jam is strictly THE best gel for edges. It doesn’t dry out your hair or flake. If I’m going somewhere special or will be on camera, I use a gel by KeraCare gel and massage it in to define my curls.
How did you get started doing stand-up comedy?
Keenen Ivory Wayans called me funny back in 1999 and said I should try stand-up and then call him after I get off stage. I did. He gave me pointers. I loved it and then moved to LA. He was very instructive to me in my early years doing stand-up. I will always owe him for helping me discover a dream.
What do you enjoy most about performing?
In truth, stand-up comedy is the act of taking a tragedy and exposing the funny. I enjoy making my audience think differently about their pain. Next time you’re laughing at a comedian, think about what you’re laughing at. It will be someone’s misfortune.
I’m bold and honest and if I can show a room full of folks my twisted point of view -how I see my pain and theirs, help them understand and relate- then I win. The proof that I’ve done this is their laughter. If I can take a dark area and make folks chuckle about it, I’ve done my job. I’m not at all negative, but I speak about real life dynamics like marriage and divorce, dating, bad sex, and my daughter’s autism.
What advice would you give to those trying to make it in the business?
Fear was a huge deterrent in my early comedy years. I was terrified of success, failure, mediocrity. During a recent acceptance speech Bill Cosby said, “You have to show up. You cannot allow yourself to talk yourself into being so scared of who you are, because you are the only person who can represent who you are.” That spoke to me.
Comedian Owen Smith told me that in a comedian’s life there comes a point when his/her personal and stage lives merge. My advice then is to be yourself on stage. When you get off stage, the audience ought to know you better. Leave the knock-knock jokes for your little nephews and nieces. Be real for the grown folks. You’ll do better.
You can connect with Samantha on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. To find out where she’s performing next, follow The Comedy Union. And be sure to check out her awe-inspiring pencil drawings at Only In Pencil.
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