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Tennille Murphy Is Building an Empire Through Authenticity: White Hair and All

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Tennille Murphy has already had a productive morning by the time she logs on to our 9:30 a.m. call. She has worked out, enjoyed a plant-based breakfast, and styled her gorgeous white curls into a beautiful crown that perfectly frames her face. Her skin is practically flawless, and if you regularly watch her Instagram stories, you can confirm that she did, in fact, wake up like this.

Looking at Tennille’s salt and pepper curls, one can’t help but look forward to maturing and aging gracefully. The 40-something multifaceted content creator is vibrant and thriving in an industry that has a reputation for prioritizing youth above all else, and her unapologetic choice to embrace her individuality inspires others to do the same.

Ready to learn how this mother of two has become a top lifestyle content creator? Keep reading to discover beauty through Tennille’s lens.

Tennille Before The Following

Before Tennille amassed a social following of over 200K and counting, she was an adventurous girl growing up on an Air Force base in Northern California. She inherited her father’s desire for exploration, trying sushi, and exploring museums while other children her age were eating chicken tenders. Tennille calls her mother a “domestic goddess” that prioritized homemaking, but she thanks her father for their city excursions that led to her eclectic upbringing. “To receive this richness from my dad was very special, and it gave my brother and me a strong foundation,” she recalls. “He granted us vast exposure to different cultures at a young age, which matured me. It made it so that I could feel comfortable no matter what environment I was in—that’s something I hold on to today.”

While Tennille was discovering different experiences, she also found her personal style. “Growing up, I had people that personified beauty to me,” she says. “Diana Ross was everything, and I loved Sade for her ponytail—it was the ponytail of my dreams! And, of course, Janet Jackson. It was the MTV generation, and there were so many influences, like Chili from TLC. I wanted my hair to be just like her manageable curls. I wasn’t willing to relax or straighten it, but I always fought my hair into a ponytail or a braid, and I would never wear it loose.” Her paternal family in New York and New Jersey kept her up-to-date on the latest fashion through their care packages in the mail, and she didn’t mind that her unique style stood out from her West Coast classmates.

Tennille even marched to the beat of her own drum by choosing to style her own hair at age five when her mother couldn’t achieve her desired styles. “She has very soft, no-product-necessary Native American hair,” says Tennille, “so she just didn’t get me. It was the ‘80s, so it was okay to have big hair, but I wanted the Sade ponytail, and there weren’t a lot of products catering to curly hair. I’ve always worn my hair in its natural state: frizzy and unrefined, and at first, I never felt self-conscious about it. I was always looking for a cute new hairstyle, but my family made me feel uncomfortable about my natural hair.”

Gracefully Going Gray

Like many African American families, respectability politics were ingrained in the older generation, and the pressure to relax or press hair became the cultural standard. To Tennille, fighting the pressure to conform to straight hair was much more complex than her transition to accepting her white hair. While others cringed at the idea of their hair going gray, at the young age of 23, Tennille saw it as an homage to her heritage.

“To feel confident and beautiful with my hair loose was much more emotional than the color turning,” she explains. “My grandmother always had white hair, and she was gorgeous to me, so I just decided to go with it.” Tennille did have a brief attempt at at-home coloring, but it wasn’t worth the damage it was doing to her curl pattern.

Today, Tennille’s white tresses have become part of her signature look: “I feel like it’s God’s gift to me for hanging in there and accepting the glory of my heredity. I’m happy I never colored it. My curls are healthy because my hair is healthy. Nowadays, so many hair products are formulated with curl patterns in mind, and I’ve learned techniques to apply different products. It was trial and error, but I figured out what was right for me.”

To maintain the health of her hair, Tennille has a few critical parts of her routine that she’s committed to. The first is a quality hair mask. “I have to do a hair mask every week because my hair is white [which makes it more prone to dryness] and frizzy.” The second is applying curls to dripping wet hair. “I never dry my hair before applying my styling gel and cream. The products and moisture from the water help my curls clump and be more defined.” Her favorite line? PROSE. “I was initially skeptical about it, but the formula works so well for my hair. Over a year later, I’m still using them because I always get consistent results. I also use NOUGHTY To The Rescue Treatment Mask.”

Building The Tennille Life Community

Tennille could never have imagined that bringing her authenticity online would result in a new lifestyle for herself. She’s someone that has redefined her life more than once; first as an interior designer, then as a stay-at-home mother, and even as a corporate flight attendant, working with celebrities like Magic Johnson. When she started her blog The Tennille Life to showcase all things travel, wellness, and lifestyle, she had no idea it would become her career.

“As a Black woman at 44, with crazy white hair, doing what I do just doesn't seem real,” Tennille shares. Her content focuses on a clean, holistic approach to living. “From my dietary preferences to what I put in my hair or on my skin, I try to use brands that are paying attention to their formulations with safe and effective products. That's what I like sharing with my audience. I started this brand thinking that I wanted the world to know that life doesn't end in your thirties and that Black women love caring for themselves. It's become a rich community with so many people cheering for me. I often hear that there aren’t many beauty creators in my lane that wear their white hair—let alone Black women or women of color doing it, so I’m going to make myself comfortable here. When a brand launches a new product, or a clean beauty brand wants to collaborate, it’s an absolute pinch-me moment every time.”

On Motherhood and Aging Gracefully

Tennille has become a standout content creator simply by being herself and celebrating her white hair. She believes that age is so much more than what meets the eye. It’s not all about having wrinkle-free skin or jet-black hair–it’s the choice to embrace your uniqueness that exemplifies youth. “My work in the beauty industry is ironic because people outside the beauty space assume the industry doesn’t want you to embrace aging gracefully,” Tennille explains. “The brands I work with prove that beauty companies want to identify with a mature image—and that means that either the market is changing or the world is. Sometimes, I suffer from imposter syndrome, but I’m going to say this with as little conceit as possible: I have identified that I project a certain energy, and it comes off in a photo or video—that’s why brands want to work with me. That’s why my community is inspired and why I bring value. Maybe the beauty industry used to want you to think that aging is scary, but I’m proof that there’s another example of what aging can look like.”

Tennille’s choice to embrace her full potential in every season of life is creating a beautiful legacy for her daughters to follow. She credits her daughters for molding her into the woman she is today. “I was 18 when I had my oldest daughter and 23 when I had my second, which is still super young by any standards today. I've always wanted my kids to see that no matter what you're going through, you can still be happy and not let your circumstances rob you of joy. I want them to have grit, and I want them to understand that things aren't always going to be perfect. As I have matured, evolved, and pursued different things, my daughters have seen that. They've seen that you can come from nothing but also, through hard work, create the life that you want. I don't feel like the mission is accomplished, but I do feel like now that they’re adults and are on their own little journeys, they're going to have amazing lives and do amazing things. I put zero pressure on them to do anything other than what comes naturally to them and makes them happy. My oldest daughter asked me, is there anything you can’t do? Because whatever you put your heart into, you turn it into something. I told her that as long as you’re open to learning and evolving, you can turn things into whatever magic you want them to be.”

Inspired by Tennille’s unapologetic embrace of her natural beauty? Discover more Beauty Through The Black Lens stories and learn How Travel Influencer Francesca Murray Gained a Global Perspective or Meet The Melanin Chemist Debunking Misinformation One Post at a Time. Want in on all the IPSY Glam Bag fun? Take our Beauty Quiz now to get started. Already an Ipster? Refer your friends to earn points, which you can use toward products. Either way, don’t forget to check us out on Instagram @IPSY.

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About the author
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Kindra Moné
Kindra Moné is a writer and content creator who works with brands and magazines to create culturally relevant fashion and beauty content. She is also the founder of The Moné Edit: a community and podcast at the intersection of style and wellness.
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Article Last Updated November 29, 2022 12:00 AM