Why does my hair offend you? Nope, not just my natural hair, but my weaves, my wigs, my braids, my freedom to do whatever I want with my hair. Furthermore, do you really believe I have low self-esteem because I choose to wear my hair straight or that I am not properly kept when I wear my hair natural? Today’s podcast allows me to explore just that. I take you on my personal hair journey and also talk about the policing that comes from various people when it comes to your hair, but I think the key word in that sentence is YOUR.Your hair, your decisions, your freedom.
Find out why I don’t get offended when people ask me if my hair is my hair, and why the conversation of hair is such an important topic in the African American community.
What’s your stance when it comes to hair politics?
I wore my natural hair to work for the first time and it felt awesome! Some people might be surprised that it took 4-years for me to wear my natural hair to work but getting the courage to do so was a journey in it self.
I started my natural journey in 2011, and it has been a very long four years since then. Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s been that long. My hair journey is complicated. To give you the short version of the story, I big chopped when I was about to graduate from Penn State, wore wigs for 2-years and then during the summer of 2013 I got so sick of wearing a wig every day, I decided to wear my natural hair on the weekends(Baby steps).
I remember first going natural. My eyes completely opened to this new world of hair. I spent most of my life being ashamed of my hair and for the first time, I learned there was a community of women who had the same feelings, concerns, and hopes for this revolutionary hair movement. I no longer felt alone. It was a beautiful moment in my life, one that I will cherish forever, because it taught me how to love myself. I finally looked in the mirror after years of doing so and saw a beautiful woman staring back at me.
After 3-years of being natural, my hair completely fell out. I mean, fell out. It was gone. I worked so hard to grow my hair. I watched videos, moisturized, washed once a week, finger detangled, oiled every day and night, and even used a silk bonnet before bed. I thought my hair was strong enough to withstand heat, so when a hairdresser blow dried and flat ironed my hair I had no idea, it would break off only a few weeks later. I could blame it on the heat damage that weakened my follicles but the real issue was I was listening to all these natural hair “experts” internalizing what worked for their hair and thinking it would also work for my own.
Four years after my big chop and I am detached from the natural hair movement. All the information and misinformation began to get overwhelming. One article tells you Biotin and Castor Oil is great for hair growth, while another article tells you it’s not. One youtuber says mineral oil is the worst thing known to man (and hair), while another youtuber tells you there are some good ones out there. So many experts, yet no one is really an expert. It almost felt like the blind leading the blind.
The natural hair movement is one of the best and most powerful movements out there. I thank God it came into existence because I would’ve never known my hair. I would still be wearing weaves, thinking my hair is not capable of growing. I can’t thank the movement enough for my consciousness now but I’ve learned that MY HAIR is teaching me all that I’ve ever needed to know; Not a youtube vlogger or a blogger—the hair growing on top of my head. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is. Now, I am not as anal about my hair. I wash it 1-2 times a month and do a protein treatment when I do. I moisturize it with water every day and an oil of choice (now its coconut oil). I take my hair, nails, and skin vitamins every single day. I doubled my intake of water, which is huge because I was one of those people who thought water was “nasty”. I honestly just let my hair do the talking and I am so amazed with its progress! It’s not where it used to be but gradually getting there. When you first go natural, the excitement is there, and it should be, I never want to take that from anyone. But with time you will learn, like me, that your hair is the best teacher!
There is something about summers in New York. I can’t explain the feeling but it’s just liberating. Each year, there has been some kind of life lesson or personal growth that took place in my life during the summer months. I am inspired to become a better version of me for the latter part of the year and give life my best foot forward. One of the things I enjoy doing and have been doing every year since I graduated is create a list of things that I want to do over the summer. It could be something dealing with the arts, maybe a new exhibit, possibly write more, wear my hair natural, whatever it might be I always try to hold myself accountable for my goals.
When I first graduated from Penn State in 2011, I was lost. I didn’t have the slightest clue where I was going to work in the fall, I had no money and no insight into my future, but those things did not take the fun out of my life. I was shockingly content with finding myself. I let go and let God take control and I allowed myself to live a little. Just getting out of a bad pseudo-relationship, I spent the summer rebuilding my self-esteem, writing, and on youtube learning everything there was to know about the big chop and being natural(It would take 2-years before I actually wore my hair natural). I even started an earrings business.
Ma, your curls are just popping; let me take a picture of you
I know they are. Okay, let me put on some lipstick
My grandmother has no shame, she loves any opportunity to be acknowledged for her beauty which I absolutely love about her. Getting older sometimes can be discouraging because you think you’re looks are fleeting and no one finds you attractive anymore but she gets compliments every day. People stop her on the street to tell her how amazing her hair looks or how well she did her makeup. She’s beautiful. Her curls are so defined. They just twirl out of her head when she wears it in a wash and go. I had to capture this moment. It made me happy to know that she was happy.
When I was 10-years old, I overheard a family member tell someone that she thought I was cute, not pretty, just cute. I was taking a nap on the couch, and woke up in time to hear her conversation. It damaged me. I pretended like I was sleep, but turned around to hide the teardrops falling from my eyes.
For years, I looked at myself as just cute, not pretty, but cute. In reality, I questioned why others didn’t view me as I viewed myself. I loved my skin color. I am amber brown, a reflection of my mother’s fair skin and my father’s rich dark skin. I have beautiful full lips, big brown eyes as bright as the sun and a button nose. I have a small gap in my teeth, which adds to my beautiful imperfections. My hair is cotton soft and was never really able to grow very long (it has a mind of its own). I loved who I saw looking back at me when I looked in the mirror, but to others, I guess I wasn’t good enough.
When I was 15, my boyfriend told me “You’re Beautiful” for the first time in my life, I heard those words; it made me love him even more. My whole worth was warped into how he viewed me. I wanted to be his ideal; I wanted to remain beautiful in his eyes. Once our relationship died, I was completely lost. I spent years trying to reverse the effect that he had on me. I was insecure and I felt rejected. Who would ever love me as much as he did? Who would ever view me as beautiful again? I was broken. Continue reading “Reclaiming My Beauty”
I know the importance of hair to black women and men. I’ve learned this even more while reading Hair Story: Untangling The Roots of Black Hair in America by Ayana D. Byrd and Lori L. Tharps.
Since our days in Africa, hair to blacks is a form of expression and a source of pride. When we came over here on slave ships, one of the many ways we were dehumanized was by being denied the right and resources to groom ourselves, specifically our hair. As slaves in America, we had to find resources to maintain our tresses. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to carry on with the eccentric styles and braids that we wore in Africa. Some of our ancestors settled with plaits or a head tie. As times changed so did our hair. After slavery we wanted to fit in so figuring out ways to keep our hair straight was important to us. Once we realized a revolution was on a rise in the 60s and 70s we took pride in our kinks and started wearing it natural, no longer wanting to assimilate; we allowed our hair to send a message to the masses and it did. Black men and women take pride in their hair and this book, is one of my must reads. It allows you to go on a hair journey that doesn’t end with the last page of this book because our hair is constantly evolving.