Part 27 – Unpublished content from 2014
There is just something about hair…I can’t quite put my finger on it!
When I was in the hospital I couldn’t have my hair washed in the beginning due to the external ventricular drain I had fitted. Then when I could have it washed, the nurse used a special cap which included some kind of cleansing product, I would then sit under the shower and she would massage my head through the cap.
So I was incredibly happy when my mum visited me she would come to the hospital and oil and plait my hair, there was something very relaxing and comforting about this. So much so it transported me back in time to when I was a child when my mum would sit and plait my hair.
It also reminded me of the Sunday ritual of my mum doing mine and my sister’s hair. There was a sense of familiarity, safety and belonging in this simple act of having my hair plaited by mum. This made me feel so much better when I was in the hospital, my mum would do my hair and massage my feet, hands and arms and my neck and shoulders.
It reminded me of the bond, sisterhood and affection that is very much part of Afro-Caribbean culture, simply through the art of doing each other’s hair.
A random act of kindness
My friend and hairdresser extended a random act of kindness and offered to do my hair as a gift. I was so overwhelmed by this kind gesture, you can only imagine how I was feeling within myself after all that I had been through, so this was the pick me up that I so needed!
I remember getting ready and having my dad drop me off at the salon. I walked into the salon and seeing such a friendly and familiar face, as soon as she saw me she gave me the biggest hug and I just cried and cried and cried and didn’t care who saw me. I was filled with so much emotion, I almost forgot about everyone around me.
She sat me down and then proceeded to do my hair, she did a deep conditioning treatment and cut away all the bad ends of my hair one snip at a time. At the time I was in a frame of mind where I was just wanting to cut all my hair off, there’s something about trauma and wanting to change your hair as a woman and cut it off, it’s almost as if getting rid of the hair was ridding me of all my pain.
Luckily I came to my senses and just had a trim…this took me back in time to the last time when I significantly changed my hair after the end of a previous relationship.
I have refrained from doing anything so drastic since my aneurysm ruptured. But since I have gone through this huge transformation I feel that a change is coming, not only in my hair but in many aspects of my life.
Step back in time
Therefore I’m going to take you back in time to about 6 years ago when I wrote about my natural hair journey, I wrote this piece but didn’t feature it anywhere so I figured now is the time…Read about my natural hair journey below.
Returning to my true self
I would like to invite you on a journey. One that started over two decades ago when I was a young child with afro hair and is still continuing to this day. When most of my female counterparts have remained with their routine of relaxing their hair or wearing weaves or plaited extensions, why did I decide to go ‘natural’?
How was the journey, what resistance did I face and what are attitudes like now that I have completed my transition? Whether you’ve considered wearing your hair as nature intended or already have, or never even considered it, this story will resonate with you.
Mum knows best
Like many great stories, this one starts in childhood. As I’m sure many of you did, I followed in the footsteps of my mother as a child and would always wear my hair natural, not that I had much choice at such a young age.
My mum taught me to embrace my natural hair and to love it for what it was. So when I asked her at the age of 12 to have my hair chemically straightened, it didn’t go down well. She refused and told me that the relaxer would ruin my hair. Nevertheless, I persisted and by the time I reached the age of 13 my mum caved into my demands and agreed to me having my hair relaxed.
I remember feeling really excited at the prospect of being able to wear my hair straight and for it to last for longer than 24 hours. I was finally about to become part of the ‘relaxed’ hair craze.
Style inspiration from my idols
While my mum was against relaxed hair, my female idols were very much for it – and that’s what was important to me as I headed into my teenage years.
I was following in the footsteps of my idols who were American, female RnB and Hip Hop artists such as TLC, Aliyah and SWV. At the time, we didn’t have any young, black female role models in the media in the UK so I would look to the US for style inspiration.
My cousin and I would spend hours in specialist magazine shops flicking through the likes of ‘Word Up’ magazine to look at the latest trends.
Experimenting with my hair as a teen
So with my new found love for all things TLC, I thought I’d try wearing a weave, all because I wanted to see what I’d look like if I had my hair styled like T-Boz from the group. I wanted to see what I’d look like with short and golden blonde hair, but I didn’t want to risk cutting or dyeing my hair just in case I didn’t like it.
Four weeks too long
Wearing a weave was the longest four weeks of my life! I remember waking up at 3am in the morning and thinking ‘I need to get this thing off my head’ and frantically cutting it out.
When I finally removed the extensions, undid my cornrows and washed my hair, I’d never felt as free. It was the best feeling in the world at that moment in time. From that day I said I’d never wear a weave again.
Since then there have been a couple of occasions where I’ve had a few tracks of weaved extensions blended in with my relaxed hair. But again, I only lasted about a week before I started to feel frustrated with them.
So although I loved being T-Boz for four whole weeks, I was happy to return to my extension- free relaxed hair.
I would often look to Jill Scott, an American Neo Soul singer as I always thought she looked so uniquely beautiful when she wore her natural hair. One of my biggest hang-ups was that I felt I needed to have long hair to balance out my proportions, I guess I used my hair as a comfort blanket.
Jill Scott carries off her short natural hair so beautifully that she inspired me to go natural.
From relaxed to natural, the birth of the ‘fro’
I reached a turning point in my mid to late 20’s when I started thinking about going ‘natural’. This was after I had spent the majority of my life relaxing my hair. I would get to the point where I felt I had made the decision to stop relaxing my hair, but then I would always end up changing my mind and returning to the ‘creamy crack’ – aka relaxer – after convincing myself that wearing my hair ‘natural’ wasn’t for me.
The final push to go natural
So what gave me the final push to go natural after much indecisiveness?
My decision came after the end of a previous relationship. When I was in the relationship I mentioned that I was considering going natural, my ex-partner’s reaction wasn’t against it but he wasn’t exactly for natural hair either, I guess his opinion had an impact on me delaying the process of going natural.
When the relationship ended, the stability and everything I had known for the last 16 years had gone and a large part of my life changed forever.
New life, new hair
After the end of my relationship, I found myself on a path of self-discovery and at that point, I felt it was the perfect time to go natural, it was part of the healing process for me and symbolised a new beginning.
Therefore in August 2012, I had my hair relaxed for the last time, I then grew out my relaxer until May 2013. The more the relaxer grew out, the more excited I became as I began to see my natural curl pattern re-emerge, it was a re-birth, and I was reconnecting with the real me which had been forgotten for so many years.
This then led to me having my big chop on the 23 May 2013 just in time for Curlvolution – an afro hair conference that I was attending in London that weekend. 23 May 2013 – marked a significant day for me.
How I cut severed ties with my past
I booked my hair appointment for two days before Curlvolution so there was no turning back, after all, I couldn’t go to Curlvolution with relaxed hair. I remember feeling incredibly nervous on the day that I was finally going to cut off the remains of my relaxed hair. For me this day was an emotional day, not because I was cutting my hair but because of what it symbolised.
My whole body tensed when my hairdresser (the same hairdresser that I saw when I came out of hospital) she made the first snip and then the second snip. As she was cutting my hair and it fell to the floor, my feelings shifted from sadness to a huge sense of relief, each strand represented the pain that I had gone through over the past few years and I was now letting go of that pain.
I was shedding the old me and the new me was being re-born right in front of me. As she continued with each snip I now felt happiness and excitement and my doubts began to disappear one by one. I began to feel an overwhelming sense of strength and confidence, it was such a liberating experience for me.
The way the creator made me
It wasn’t just the day that I cut my hair. It was the final stage in my transition, returning to my true self, the way I was meant to be, the way that I graced this earth, the way the creator made me.
Best thing I ever did
Before having my big chop I discussed it with friends and family and I received mixed reviews. One of the comments I received was ‘you’re known for your long hair, you can’t cut it, my mum cried when I cut my hair.’ Many people couldn’t understand why I had cut my hair and I’m guessing that many of you are thinking the same. Why would I cut my hair if there wasn’t anything wrong with it, such as chemical damage, breaking or falling out?
I can honestly say that having my big chop and going natural is the best thing I have done. I was nervous and excited when getting my hair cut as I’ve always had long hair, so having short hair as well as a change in texture was a big deal. But despite my worries, I instantly fell in love with it.
It’s my heritage – my afro
I’m proud of my hair as it is a symbol of my Jamaican/Seychellois heritage. I love the versatility of afro hair and how it can appear to be completely different lengths based on how it’s styled.
I am now working with my natural hair rather than against it and that’s a great feeling. I have experimented with some colour since returning to my natural hair texture and have had it blown out once, apart from that I have done very little with it other than having it trimmed and trying different styles since it has grown.
It’s who I am
For me going natural was far more than the aesthetic appearance of my hair. It was more about reclaiming me, my natural and individual beauty, and having the confidence to portray my true self. India Arie sums it up perfectly.
“I went on and did what I had to do because it was time to change my life, to become the women that I am inside. I looked in the mirror and for the first time I saw I am not my hair, I am not this skin, I am not your expectations, I am a soul that lives within.”
Setting a trend
I’ve had family, friends and complete strangers approach me, asking about my hair journey and for advice on going natural. It excites me to see more women considering wearing their natural hair.
Being able to inspire other women and give them the confidence to follow in my footsteps is a great feeling. For many there is a fear of how they will be perceived by their peers, work colleagues, the opposite sex etc. and this can take some time to overcome.
There is also this notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hair. Many people have said to me “well you can wear your hair natural, you have good hair.” In my eyes, we all have good hair and we are all individual with different curl patterns, textures and lengths with some experiencing more shrinkage more than others.
Going back to my roots
I was surprised at the attitude towards natural afro hair in Jamaica. I am of Jamaican heritage and of all places I would expect natural hair to be embraced, it would be Jamaica. There is very much a culture of weaves and relaxing hair in Jamaica, with weaves being the predominant choice from what I’ve seen.
I visited a salon while I was there in my family’s hometown of Christiana, where I found it interesting to people watch. There were teenage girls and women queuing out of the store to get their hair ‘creamed’ (relaxed). Most of them hardly had any regrowth, but insisted on getting their roots done, including my aunty.
Many of them were looking at me and I could tell they were thinking ‘what is she doing with her hair?! She needs to get it creamed.’ Lol
The love for natural hair is growing
I’m glad to say that on this same trip I did start to notice a change. I spotted a few women wearing their natural hair and even had two complete strangers stop and ask me about my hair – one of them a member of staff working at the airport.
I even spotted more products specifically for natural hair in the hair care stores. I feel happy that I’m starting to see this change and sad at the same time as I would have expected the acceptance and love for natural hair to be more forthcoming in the Caribbean.
Just Google it
Prior to writing this, I had almost forgotten what life was like before social media, gone are the days when I’d cut out an image of my favourite hairstyle and show it to my hairdresser. Now I look to Instagram and within a few taps, a whole world of inspiration is instantly available at my fingertips. The amount of groups dedicated to natural afro hair is phenomenal, providing so much positive inspiration for young black women.
I truly believe that social media has played a huge and positive role in providing both young girls and women with inspiration and confidence to wear their hair natural.
Embrace your natural hair with pride
As you can see I’ve had both positive and negative attitudes towards my natural hair as well as many influences along the way. What I would say is I’m glad I managed to find the confidence to go natural, regardless of the opinions of others. I love my hair and I’m fully embracing it nearly seven years on. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as part of my hair journey, and my self-esteem and confidence have flourished as part of this process.
I really do hope that positive attitudes towards natural hair will continue to grow as it would be nice to see more women embracing their natural hair.
Unfortunately, we live in a society which dictates beauty, whether that be long hair and straight hair over short curly hair, thin instead of fuller figures, fair skin instead of dark skin – the list is endless.
As women, we need to encourage each other to love ourselves. Beauty comes in many shapes and forms and we are all beautiful in our own individual way. So for anyone who’s considering going natural, my advice would just do it. What’s the worst that can happen? You go back to how you wore your hair before.
September 30, 2018 3:01 pm
Wear your natural hair with pride and rock your crown – because you’re beautiful just the way you are.