Most of us grew-up in the 90s- a time known for colorful wigs, bleached blonde hair, highly arched brows, and bone straight hair. If you’re hair was not straight, you were not in style. So most girls, permed, straightened, and weaved in hair to have the ‘look’. I was one of them.
I grew up with people telling me I had pretty hair. They would pat my hair and say it was ‘soft’. But I never understood what exactly what that meant. To me, my hair was puffy. I wasn’t allowed to perm it.
How could it be pretty if it wasn’t as straight as Aaliyah’s?
When I walked outside in the rain or humidity, it would only puff more and more. My mom thought it was cute; I thought it was complete torture. To this day, only two hairdressers have not brought me to tears after they finished styling my hair. Yes, I was that connected to my hair. Sadly, I’m not the only person.
Coming to terms with your natural hair, is coming to terms with who you are and what you look like. Let me say this up front, I DO NOT knock any girl who wears weaves or wigs. Maybe I should say that one more time… I do not put down anyone wearing weaves, wigs, or extensions. I think women, especially women of color, have so much fun being a chameleon and playing up their hairstyles.
I do think it is important to be able to look at your natural self, ‘hairlistically’ speaking, and not have a complete identity crisis. Many girls become accustomed to the image of themselves in their wigs and weaves, that when they take them off or out, they are confused by the natural image in the mirror. I once was.
I was always a fan of extensions, weaves, and wigs. In my ideal world I would be able to be a different ‘character’ every day. I mean, the character would look natural, as in I wasn’t going to be pink one day and green the next. But some days I would have my hair braided, other days it would be natural, and others it would be straightened. When I moved to a new state to go to college, I did not have a hairdresser. And getting a great hairstylist in New York City is VERY expensive. Therefore, I rocked a weave….every single day…. for four years.
When I would go back home to get my hair done, I would take out my weave and not have knowledge of who the person was in the mirror. I was shocked to the point where I would have to wrap my hair up and travel down to my hairdresser with a wrapped head. People thought I was crazy because they considered my hair to be “pretty”. Again, what exactly did that mean?
All of a sudden my life began to drastically change. BOOM! Life began to kick me in my butt. I lost a family member, lost a job, lost friends, and lost knowledge of the person I was for those four years. My weave no longer made sense. Neither did my clothes, my shoes, nor the things I had suddenly placed value on.
I tried to find the self I once was before my surroundings changed me, so I took out my weave. I started by mimicking this Halle Berry haircut on the cover of Vogue from years back.
What a mess! The cut was lopsided, and the back was chopped off. I then decided to let it grow out naturally. Although I knew I was going through the process of growing my hair out, I would still pull it into a bun and throw on a curly pony tail extension.
I was failing!
I decided to rock some “Poetic Justice” braids, which for some reason made me extremely happy.
I just loved the style. And my hair grew like it was on crack. I started becoming myself. I was pitching to investors, being highlighted at speaking events, getting modeling calls. Things were turning around.
There was no power in my braids, but there was extreme power in being my natural self.
Needless to say my braids were soon taken out and I learned to nurture my natural hair. I go to the salon biweekly, for a wash, condition, blow-out, and light trim. When I get home, I sleep in rollers, take them out and my hair is in semi-tamed curls for the next two weeks, which allows my hair to naturally grow and makes it easy for me to maintain myself.
I still have the same hairdresser from when I was 13, and my hair was HEALTHY, long, and shiny. She said its her personal mission to get my hair back to that length. I’m not as worried about the length as I am happy that I came to terms with who I am without the influence of hair styles, fashion, thoughts, and ideas that we are bombarded with on a daily basis.
Not only has my hair become healthier, so have I.
I’m not asking you to do what I did. Honestly, I don’t associate myself with the ‘natural girl’ movement. We all have our own walks. My hair was simply a SYMBOL of my own personal changes.
I reflect who I am, or how I see myself, through how I style myself, and that’s not for everyone.
But please, take a second to notice all that you hide behind. All that you are losing yourself in. And ask yourself how you can change the small things, so that those big things within you can SHINE.
Don’t look outside to define who you are inside.