Below is a story written by a young woman, Christian Nelson, who was in many of my courses at the University where I teach. She was always very meticulous about her work/studies and continually expressed her enthusiasm for her ambitions to serve in the field of Public Health. Little did I know that beyond her quest for knowledge, this amazingly intelligent and creative woman, has a skill that comes natural to her based on her African ancestral lineage--the skill of braiding hair. I am very impressed by her as I too have the skill of braiding hair, which came to me naturally, so I see her as a kindred spirit. Below is her fascinating hair braiding story, which definitely offers further to an important truth, which is that Natural IS Cool Enough
Christian Nelson's Hair Braiding Story
So, how I started braiding hair?I became interested and successfully "mastered" my very first "box plait/box braid" at the age of seven on a Barbie doll my mother had given me. That only came after several unsuccessful attempts of trying to make outfits for my barbies with left over fabric my mom would give me. See, I thought for sure I'd be a seamstress (like my mom) or fashion designer after I witnessed my mom make her whole wedding party's gowns! I watched my mom braid and micro our (my sisters and I) hair which I took interest in as well.
Years later (at 11 or 12) I started braiding my own hair; the following year while in the 7th grade, I started braiding the hair of my friends and family for fun. My older sisters, cousins and nieces were my "guinea pigs." By the end of 7th grade I began doing hair as a side "hustle." The summer of 8th grade had come around and I began doing micros and braids everyday. I was the lowest of the community; cheaper than most women who were career braiders and just as good as those women with my braiding (at least that's what I was told ). I was doing hair so much, my body "shut down" and I had gotten very sick from lack of rest--at this time I was only 13 years old. My mom completely stopped that and told me not to book any more appointments for the rest of the summer. By then, I had saved a lot of money and was able to buy all of my school clothes to enter 9th grade. I was extremely happy that I could do that on my own. My parents had recently separated at the time and my mom had been laid off from Motorola after serving many years there so the extra money certainly came in handy. Sixty five dollars for a 10+ hour(s) hair style never looked so good! Yes, I was only charging 65 dollars for a full head of micro dots and 20 dollars for "crazy braids" aka "Allen Iverson braids!" I realize now why so many people were coming to me. By this time I was doing older women's hair, my cheerleader's hair (i was a junior cheer leading coach), church family member's hair, young men, and more.
Here I am, years later, a full-time grad student, still doing hair. What started out as a hobby turned into a job in middle school. It's like a repeated cycle, I could not work then as a middle school student and as a full time grad student my schedule was not flexible enough for me to have a regular job (well, until now) so hair has been an alternative route for me as far as support goes.
Ultimately, I love putting smiles on my clients faces. When my younger clients sit in my chair, I began to talk to them about hair, school and all sorts of topics--my conversations eventually turns into a mentor session. :) I get many satisfactory texts, calls and posts (on Facebook and Instagram) about my work! No matter how hard I try to stay away from doing hair (to focus more on my studies), the people always seem to draw me back! I love braiding! And I love those that have been supporting me! My family always asks "Christian, what are your going to be, a doctor or a hairstylist?...or Both?"
I believe I get my creativity from both my parents which is a plus when styling/braiding hair!
As Dr. Rose told us in class, hair braiding is "in us" as far back from our ancestors from Africa. It's in our hands.
Position on natural hair?
I'm all for natural hair! I'm natural! In April, it'll be 7 years!! I actually convinced my mom, all 4 of my sisters and nieces to go natural and they love it. Before going off to college, I decided to transition and it has been a healthier journey for my hair. My hair has grown more than it did when I use to get perms (even professionally done). I'm now MBL (mid back length as the natural community says) and my moisturizing, oiling, washing and protein treatment routine has helped with its growth and healthier state. I mostly wear protective styles (braids, twists, sew-in). Since moving back home (to Florida from DC) and being a commuter student, I find it more convenient for me. Recently (since its cooler) I find my self wearing twisted up dos with my hair bushed in a ponytail with a hand braided or twisted piece connected to it. With Florida's heat, I found that my hair doesn't react well to it. It dries and become brittle very quickly so I choose protective styles as an alternative--to retain the moisture. Since my hair has gotten longer over the years, my coils are not as tightly curled as they use to be--and I really miss my tightly/defined coiled hair !!! I always think about cutting it because of this. Many women are afraid of the natural state of our hair and I always find myself telling friends and family to "embrace your hair--embrace yourself--embrace your beauty". I prefer natural hair over permed hair any day! Natural hair is fun--you have versatility with it!
Every Sunday my [late] great grandmother hot combed my hair, in the kitchen, near that very hot gas stove--I still remember it vividly. Now I'm able to do my own; I do this very rarely, but I know how to hot comb my own hair then revert right back to my curls. :)
I use to be a fan of the "Dominican blow outs", later did I find out it was damaging to the hair because of the extreme high heat. I questioned myself and wondered what exactly was the point of going natural if I straightened it with these Dominican blow outs. Today, I barely use heat to my hair. Many women think for lengthier hair or "prettier" hair, they must straighten their hair. Not true! So overall, Natural Hair is Cool Enough and every client I get, walks out convinced and are happy about going natural! :)
The picture below are some of Christian's styles. Included are: braids, plaits/box braids/individuals, senegalese twists, havana twist, and faux hawk (mohawk).