After months of research and talking to people, I decided to do the big chop in May 2018 and start my natural hair journey. I told myself, by the end of May, my hair would be natural. I had read articles that had connected the long-term use of relaxers to negative health outcomes, I couldn’t verify the authenticity of their claims, but I knew I would rather be safe than sorry. I had seen and read about thinning of relaxed long hair. I was tired of the process of relaxing my hair, the burns associated with it and simply the fact that I liked my hair more towards the time it was due for a relaxer, when it was thicker and when it was most like my natural hair. Most important of all, I was curious to see my natural hair, learn more about it and basically tell the world that I believe that my natural hair is beautiful and worthy to be part of the Beauty dialogue.
The days leading to my hair appointment, were filled with nerves and I began second guessing myself and feeling uneasy about this big decision. Some people close to me thought it wasn’t a big deal – after all it was just hair. I couldn’t relate. It was a big deal – long straight hair was tied to my identity.
I went to a natural hair salon, and the stylist asked me twice before she cut my hair if I was sure I wanted to do it. I said yes. When she finished cutting it, I noticed tears streaming down my face. Everyone in the salon told me I looked great, looked beautiful, but I couldn’t see it. The stylist asked me if I felt free – I said no. I stared at the mirror and couldn’t recognize the person in the mirror. What have I done? I wasn’t sure I did the right thing. I mustered up some fake smile and thanked everyone for the compliments as I left the salon.
Once I got outside, my husband was waiting with a big smile. “You did it, you look great he said. I said thank you again not really believing I looked great. I sat in the car quiet – touching my hair. We went to watch the movie “I feel Pretty” with Amy Schumer starring in it. What a coincidence. I laughed throughout the movie and took away the message that beauty was defined internally about how one felt. It reminded me that confidence is beautiful and that I didn’t have to fit into other people’s expectations of beauty and me. I left the theatre, happier, feeling pretty and holding my husband’s hand.
As the days went by, I began to love my short hair. I found myself playing with it a lot. Most exciting part for me was showering without a shower cap. Amazing feeling, letting water run through my hair daily, an experience I never had. I began to share my new look with close friends and family. It was met with mixed reviews, but mostly support. The person that gave me the advise in the beginning of the first article “Hair today, Gone tomorrow 1” said I looked cute and became a fan of my short hair. Some people questioned me, in a way that seemed they were attached to my hair more than me. Fascinating. I also began to get used to seeing more of me, more of my face and my features. I got used to having short hair and embraced my curls. I got compliments from random strangers as well. Interestingly enough I got more compliments from men.
I believe a lot of Africans especially those who lived in countries that were colonized by Europeans and in particular lived during that time have been conditioned to prefer euro centric standards of beauty. The media has also had a role to play in promoting that bias, but I believe this bias is reducing as diversity is now celebrated. Since, going natural, I now see beauty in a different way and I appreciate hair that grows out of one’s head even more :).
I believe I made the best decision for me and it is aligned with my innate cause – promoting the beauty of Africa. My young nieces also played a role in my decision as they have natural hair and often asked questions about why my relaxed hair was different to theirs. They live in a country where Black people are a minority and it reminded me of when I was the only black girl in my class in primary school. I want my nieces and other young black girls to see more representation of natural hair in their everyday world. This will allow them to be more confident in their skin, in their uniqueness and not feel the need to conform to a particular standard of beauty. It is amazing the effect that role models, media, lack of diversity have on us all – day in, day out. It is even more amazing that we would think that the hair that naturally grows out of our head is ugly. I am on a mission to ensure diversity is promoted and celebrated. Beauty comes in all shapes, colors and sizes and there is enough room for all in the beauty club.
P.S. I am not saying everyone needs to have natural hair. I believe everyone has a right to do what he or she wants with his or her hair. I am just sharing my thoughts and journey on this topic :).