Olympic Fencer Nzingha Prescod on Her Natural Hair Routine, Guilty Food Pleasures, and the Strong Black Women She Admires

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Nzingha Prescod may stand at just 5 feet 4 inches tall, but she’s a giant in the world of fencing. The native New Yorker was the first American women’s foilist to win a Grand Prix title. Prescod became the first African-American woman to individually medal at the Senior World Championships. And she entered the 2016 Summer Olympics ranked as the 10th best fencer in the world.

Yahoo Beauty caught up with Prescod ahead of the Rio Games and got the lowdown on how she cares for her bleach-blond curls, the sweet treat she indulges in, and why she looks up to Serena Williams.

Nzingha Prescod adjusts her weapon during the Women’s foil competition at the Pan American Fencing Championships, June 23, 2016, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo:Devin Manky/Getty Images)
Nzingha Prescod adjusts her weapon during the Women’s foil competition at the Pan American Fencing Championships, June 23, 2016, in Panama City, Panama. (Photo:Devin Manky/Getty Images)

Yahoo Beauty: What does your natural-hair-care regimen look like? Can you take us through your washing/conditioning/styling routine?
Nzingha Prescod: I’m super-minimalist about my hair. If it’s a normal day, I just tug my hair and go! Sometimes I add Cantu Leave-In Conditioner or the daily moisturizer. If I’m doing something more exciting, I do a twist-out with S-Curl and Cantu Leave-In Conditioner. For washing, I use Shea Moisture hibiscus products or Cantu products. I wash once a week and sometimes co-wash when I feel like my hair is drying out.

Have you ever chemically straightened your hair? Or have you always worn your natural curls?
Yes! I’ve had phases — 13-16 and 18-20. Wearing the curls natural is more recent. I wore braids when I was younger and did the Afro puff for a bit in high school.

Do you have a go-to hairstyle when you’re competing?
My go-to when I’m competing is twisting in the front of my hair and pinning it to the side.

How do you make sure your hair is protected underneath your fencing gear?
It’s hard to protect my hair with the Velcro on the mask. I usually just pray for the best!

A photo posted by Nzingha Prescod (@nzinghap) on Jul 18, 2016 at 1:22pm PDT

Love the blond hair color! Any tips or tricks you can offer natural-haired ladies on maintaining color and healthy hair?
Yes! It is a lot of maintenance. I don’t think there are any tricks but to moisturize every day. I use argan oil a lot. And deep condition often! Also, try to limit heat.

Moving on to skin care — You have a gorgeous, glowing complexion. Do you have a consistent skin-care routine?
The only thing I do everyday is use raw shea butter on my face. More recently, I’ve been using tea tree oil on pimples and blemishes!

What are some of your favorite skin-care brands/products?
Simple, Aveeno, and Cetaphil products. I’m really not too picky.

As far as makeup, do you wear any while competing?
Nope! I’d rather not be distracted by my makeup coming off or running.

When it comes to your diet and fitness, what are your typical meals like when you’re training versus when you’re not?

When I’m training, I allow myself more snacks and more carbs and overall more freedom with my diet. I also consume more protein. When I’m not training, I eat less carbs. I’ve noticed that my body composition changes so much when I cut down on sugar, even when I am training a lot. I’m way more cut when I’m eating less sugar, even if I work out a ton.

Do you have any guilty food pleasures? Everything! I love trying new stuff, probably ice cream.

Nzingha Prescod attends the 2016 ESPYS at Microsoft Theater on July 13, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Prescod looking gorgeous at the 2016 ESPYS in Los Angeles. (Photo: David Crotty/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

You killed it in ESPN magazine’s body Issue. Opening up about your body image struggles probably wasn’t easy, but it resonated with many women. Do you have advice for young girls who may feel self-conscious about their breasts?
Learn to love them! They really don’t [go] anywhere, although mine have gone down as I’ve gotten leaner. And find the best support you can for them and stick with it!

Who are some of the strong and beautiful women you look up to?
Serena [Williams]! Ciara is also beautiful and so strong. I really wish there were more visible and popularized strong black women because I know they are so many out there.

What is your beauty mantra?
Staring in the mirror isn’t going to help; you look fine! Keep it moving.

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