I have always loved my natural hair. I love its texture, its thickness, its versatility so much that I’ve never gotten a perm or texturizer. I have been natural since birth. Growing up with girls and women with straight hair all around me I think my natural hair made me feel special and I never wanted to throw my special thing away. But I think my biggest reason for staying natural was my mom. My mom had been perming her hair for years and years; that was the only way she “knew” how to do her hair. But she had always made sure to tell my sister and me how beautiful our natural hair was, and I never stopped believing that. Even when my sister got her a texturizer and then a perm when she was in high school and I thought her hair looked straight and thick and beautiful, I knew I didn’t want to do that to my hair. I had always loved my texture and the variety of styles my hair could be put in; straight hair just seemed to me a little boring in comparison. Then as my sister continued to perm I saw her hair get thin and start losing its color and I knew I had made the right decision to stay natural. A few years later my sister came around and made the decision to go back natural. And last year even my mom hopped on board. I was born to be natural and it looks like my family was too.
From left to right: my sister Dyonna, my mother Evelyn, and Me
But even though I’ve been natural my whole life it’s still been quite a journey. Growing up I always had someone else to turn to when it came to my hair. From birth up until my senior year of high school I had my mom or my sister or my godmother to style my hair and choose my hair products. I never had to think about what was going on with my hair and I embraced the ignorance. But then came the summer before my freshman year of college. My mom (and I admit me too) was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to handle my hair on my own. I knew how to twist and plait but that was pretty much it, and even there my skills were nowhere near advanced. And so that summer my sister taught me to braid and when my family said goodbye to me after freshman orientation I was left to fend for myself. It started out a little rough; there were some nights freshman year that I was up until 5am trying to get my hairstyle perfect for the next day. But little by little it got easier and started taking less and less time (thank goodness!). And then I started looking up hairstyles online, seeing what my sister was doing with her hair as it grew, seeing what my natural-haired friends were doing and imitating and creating new things along the way. By my junior year I was feeling like a natural hairstyle connoisseur doing everything from twistouts to buns, braided fauxhawks to cute up-dos.
I may feel like a style master now but despite being natural my whole life there’s still a lot I’m learning from people about styling my hair. For most of my life I was a passive participant in the experience of my hair. It was really only after my sister did her big chop (I think right before my junior year of high school) and when I came to college and I met people who were transitioning or had been back natural for just a few months or years that I became part of a conversation with people who were actively engaged in their hair experience and knew exactly what they were doing to and putting in their hair and knew exactly why (or experimenting to figure that out). There were so many things that I realized I didn’t know. Like the idea of trimming my hair, which was a completely foreign concept. It never registered that maybe trimming your ends every once in a while was a good idea if they were breaking off. So I just got my second trim ever as a step toward maintaining healthy growth (well I asked for a trim, to me it seems more like a cut – when I stretch my hair out its about 2 inches shorter than it was before). Or like when I was growing up, whenever I would get my hair washed a good amount of hair would come out when it was getting cleared out. And all the time my godmother would tell me that it was natural and that was just all the shed hair that didn’t fall out regularly coming out at once, and my hair was naturally thick and didn’t look like it was getting any thinner so I figured she must be right. My hair would get dry fast and I just though well maybe I’m not using my products the right way. It wasn’t until I was on my own newly surrounded by naturalistas that I finally realized that maybe my hair was so dry so fast and so much hair came out when I was clearing out my hair because I wasn’t using the right products for my hair. And so beginning my freshman year I started experimenting with new products—I’ve found a couple of things I really love and way more things I’ll never use again. And now if possible I love my hair even more, because now I’m active in my own hair experience.
And so going into my senior year the “gaining the ability to style my own hair” journey is complete and the “taking care of my hair properly” journey is in progress. It took me a while to realize what all the fuss was about taking care of my natural hair because I’d always had it. But I’ve learned it’s just like when people have a natural talent for dance or music, if you don’t work to maintain it eventually it goes away. We’ll see where my hair journey goes from here. But wherever my journey takes me I’ll never forget that my natural hair is beautiful and that natural is absolutely positively cool enough.