Most of you know her as “naturalchica,” the natural hair guru and YouTube sensation but, today I got to meet Dr. Maeling Murphy, recent Ph.D. recipient, new mommy and vibrant curl girl. We talked about life after receiving her doctoral degree, and some new exciting projects that she’s working on.
I dont want to give it all away :)! So, check out our convo below to find out more.
Can you tell me about yourself?
- My name is Maeling, and I am a wife, new mom, blogger and materials scientist and engineer. I have a lot going on right now but I am definitely focusing on being a new mom first while still sharing natural hair and lifestyle information on my site, NaturalChica.com.
I know that you recently received your Ph.D., can you tell me what your experience was like?
- I started my Ph.D. at Georgia Tech back in the fall of 2008 and my area of study was in materials science and engineering, but my specific research topic focused on biomaterials. It was a very intense process for me with lots of up and downs. It was a true test of perseverance… very, very trying times. I thought about quitting a couple of times, but I am so thankful that I had great support from family and friends that really helped to push me through, and that they were able to celebrate the culmination of my program with me at my graduation ceremonies earlier this year. Graduation actually took place a month after I gave birth to my son. Having him there at the graduation was pretty amazing especially since I was pregnant with him while I was writing my dissertation. If anyone reading this is thinking about enrolling in a Ph.D. program, I would recommend pursuing a research area that you are highly interested in because it is going to take a lot of motivation and perseverance to finish.
Do you plan on diving straight into your field now, or in a few months or so?
- Right now I want to be home with my son for a while because spending time with him is really important to me. I definitely see myself working in the area of science, but for right now I am interested in creating another website or YouTube channel focused on STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). I have been involved in science and engineering programs since high school, so I have a lot of information and experiences that I would like to share with others who are interested in pursuing similar paths.
Do you plan on merging your current brand (naturalchica) with your STEM website, or will they be two separate entities?
- I think they will be two separate entities.
What sorts of things did you experience with your hair during pregnancy, and post pregnancy?
- I was expecting to see a lot of changes with my hair, but I actually didn’t observe any noticeable changes at all. I also haven’t had any post-partum shedding yet and the texture of my hair didn’t really change during the course of my pregnancy. Of course there were tons of changes with the rest of my body but surprisingly nothing with my hair.
What advice would you give new mommies on maintaining the health of their hair during and after pregnancy?
- During your pregnancy, it is so important to stay hydrated. There are so many changes going on within your body and hydration is key. I know when you are pregnant, especially further along, it can be hard to keep up with cleansing your hair and styling but try to set aside some time to do so because it can also help you to feel better emotionally. With all of the different changes going on, it’s so important to take some time for you. I know for me, I made my hair washing day like a spa day. Even after having the baby it is still very important to me to keep up somewhat of a schedule because it really does make you feel good.
So do you have to actually schedule time to do your hair?
- I actually covered this in my latest YouTube video, “Natural hair regimen with a newborn.” Basically, I have to wash and style my hair when I can. Sometimes washing to styling can take several days because I have to do it in stages. For example, I’ll wash my hair while the baby is napping, and then it will be time to feed the baby and change his diaper, and then I’ll put my conditioner in, and then maybe its time to feed the baby again, then I will rinse the conditioner out and then I will put my hair in big twists so that I can keep it stretched until the next day when I can actually style it.
Do you have any staple styles that you are wearing now that are easy to maintain?
- Twist-outs are my number one style because they take the least amount of time to do and I can wear a twist-out for like a week or two. It’s very great for moms or just anyone who has a limited amount of time.
What products are you currently using on your hair?
- I am currently using a lot of products from Shea Moisture. I’m a brand ambassador for them and I love using their products because they have many different products for people with different hair types. I have color in my hair still, and so they have some lines specifically for that as well, but right now I’m using the Manuka Honey line because it is great for sealing in moisture. For my twists, I like their Jamaican black castor oil styling lotion because it gives great hold.
What impact would you like to make on not just the natural hair community, but on women of color in general?
- It would be great to have the kind of impact where women feel empowered and feel like they can basically pursue anything that they can think of. I’m always trying to learn new things and develop new skills and I hope that my enthusiasm for learning and life in general can trickle down to the people who read my blogs and watch my videos so that they become encouraged to pursue their dreams and set high goals for themselves. That’s the kind of impact that I would like to have on the women who enter my circle.
What’s next for you, what are your future plans?
- I really want to start sharing more STEM-related information, in addition to keeping up with the natural hair and lifestyle information. I’m still kind of working out my schedule because I do have a newborn, but my new mission is to get the STEM information out there, and do interviews with other women who have careers in STEM or are pursuing STEM-related educational paths. I basically want to do the same thing for my STEM journey that I did with my natural hair journey where I can document what my STEM and Ph.D journey was like, and also provide encouragement for others who are on that path.
I’m co-hosting our 5th annual Naturally Pretty event this fall in Atlanta with Mimi J. so stay tuned for more details!