“I Just Fell In Love With My Hair”: Life After The Big Chop

June 24, 2014  |  

Agnes days after her Big Chop. Credit: Agnes Ojeh

If you’re thinking of taking the scissors to your hair for a “big chop,” but wondering what to expect afterward, worry no more. I sat down with Agnes Ojeh, 26, who is preparing to celebrate her one-year ‘Nappiversary’ soon. She had lots of interesting thoughts and some great advice for those still within their first year, and for those thinking about going natural.

When did you go natural and why?

I’d been thinking about going natural for two years. I decided to take out my weave and transition in 2012. I tried that out and realized it wasn’t working. My textures were two different types and it was very difficult to work with. I got frustrated and in October of 2013, I did the big chop.

Who encouraged you to go natural?

Two of my cousins went natural. One almost four years ago, and her sister went natural shortly after. I thought “Whoa, that’s brave. I would never cut my hair.” I was motivated and inspired by my cousins. I decided to do the big chop because I wanted healthy hair and I didn’t have to base my hairstyle on weaves. I was tired of hiding the transition.

After you did the big chop, what surprised you about your hair?

I noticed that it was just there. I just had to wake up and go. And I was like, “What am I supposed to do with my hair? It’s really gone!” I kind of felt like I had to embrace my hair and embrace who I am. It made me feel renewed, like a brand new person.

Why do you think you were holding on to the length while transitioning?

It was vanity and fear. The older I’ve gotten, the more confident I’ve become. But, there’s just something attached with hair being identified with beauty, and beauty coming from having long hair. I thought I wouldn’t see myself as beautiful with short hair. But I overcame that fear, and that’s why it was so profound for me. I overcame the fear. My self-esteem had to be high, and I didn’t allow any other people’s opinions or views to overshadow what I wanted to do and how I truly felt.

Did you face any opposition to going natural?

Definitely. 100 percent. I wanted to chop before my birthday because I didn’t want to celebrate my birthday with dead hair. At the time, it was my mom’s favorite nephew’s wedding. She said to me, “Why would you want to do that? Who chops their hair right before a wedding?” But my mom had a big afro in the ’70s! She said I couldn’t have short hair and look glamorous. Even my co-workers asked me what I was going to do with no hair.

What did you learn about the day-to-day care of your hair? What was the process like?

It was very trying because I had to learn my texture. Not every product worked well with my hair. Things that one of my favorite hair bloggers used didn’t’ work with my hair. I found myself trying to do twist outs early on, or using lots of products. I spent almost $400 dollars on products trying to find out what works for my hair, and what would give me shine or curl definition. And you know what–I don’t even use half of them!

What advice do you have for others on caring for their hair?

I would encourage a person to do their research on their hair texture. Do as much reading as you can to avoid spending so much money on hair products. Water and a little bit of Shea butter goes a long way! Work with what you have and with what’s accessible.

It takes time to get adjusted and learn your hair. You’re not gonna cut your hair and say, “This is exactly what I wanted.” It takes time to create a regimen. For me, being natural is time consuming because I have to invest [time] in taking care of my hair. It’s like a plant. You have to water it, watch it grow, sing to it, massage it—you have to study hair! Learn to maintain and protect your natural hair as part of your upkeep. It will come with time.

What are your hair goals?

I just can’t wait until I reach four years being natural, or 10 years being natural. I embrace it every day. My end goal is to try new things. I’ve always been so safe; being natural is like a kick-start for me.

What is the best part of your first year after the big chop?

The greatest feeling for me is to watch my hair grow. I just fell in love with my hair. It’s thicker now, it’s healthier and it has more density. Seeing my hair now in its natural state, I think, ‘Why did I ever perm my hair?’ I love embracing how God made me. People have no choice but to respect it and embrace my natural hair as I do because I’m not changing it. Going natural was perfect. It was what I needed. I’m proud that I did [the big chop].

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  • Alexious Johnson

    I have been natural since March of 2010…I transitioned for 16 months and was just ready one night to chop…. I practically had a full head of natural hair anyway…
    I also refer to my hair as nappy….mmmeeehhhh… it’s tongue and cheek. …my hair is clearly not nappy and referring to it as so is not going to prevent anyone from appreciating their natural hair…my beautiful curls speak volumes as well as the fact that I can’t go out in public without someone asking how do I get my hair the curl this way or what I use to care for my hair….

  • Rita

    LET’S GET RID OF THE DEROGATORY REFERENCES TO OUR HAIR: Nappy, Nappiverary. Words like these project negative images and are not positive no matter how you spin it. We cannot accept our own hair if we are putting it down-even in a funny, light-hearted manner. It’s a double standard–and double standards are always rejected. How then can we expect our young girls to accept their hair and truly believe they are beautiful when we continue to describe ourselves with these types of words?

    • B.

      I don’t really have much of an issue with the word. I never really use it, but if people want to take it and turn it into something light, I don’t mind. Beyond that, I think more than any word, young girls are going to see more and more women going natural. That will be the best advertisement. Hopefully, seeing more and more black women with long, healthy, hair will be enough to guide them.

  • guest

    “People have no choice but to respect it and embrace my natural hair as I do because I’m not changing it.”
    Her confidence (both in herself and overall/in general) makes it more appealing too, even to people who don’t like it at first.

  • Gee

    Nice story! She has a pretty face and the short hair really shows it off!

  • MonicaT

    The interesting thing I find is people who are not natural always say you don’t have to be natural to have healthy hair. True to a certain extent. Just think if you started relaxing your hair say at 16 always maintain by your stylist. When you reach say 30 you will start to see the long term effects of chemical use on your hair. I’m not talking about using chemicals incorrectly. Relaxers and dyes breakdown the physical structure of your hair shaft and over time that will weaken your hair even if you use the product as directed. You will began to see hair breakage, thinning and dryness from the chemical. The chemicals will strip your natural moisture of your hair and scalp.

  • B.

    Nice read. I like reading about other women’s hair journey. That said, we are only in June, and her anniversary is in October. The story could have done without the hype about having natural hair for a year.
    It’s always interesting to read how other people react to big chops. People really will try to encourage you not to do it. Sad.

    • NaturalGirl2014

      I agree the read was nice… I must say her hair appears long or full. when I look at mines but then we have to understand the shrinkage involved and then the hair texture as well. I for one am happy to say in August this year I will make my 1yr anniversary. Things I can boast about with my natural hair -I am able to do twist outs, and full cornrows. B your right about people not encouraging the big chop, luckily I had supporters in my corner. Slowly but surely society is accepting the natural hair community. Lastly I think people who are close minded about natural hair perceive it to be a “trend” its not a trend this is what women of color wore many of years. I think the younger generation is now getting back to that which causes the weave vs natural hair battle amongst our young men and women.

      • B.

        Congrats on your 1 year. I’m about 5 months into my journey. So, how much length did you have the first year? Has it gone how you expected it to? I’m so curious to see where my hair is, at the one year mark. Like you, I had encouragement, mostly from my husband. He really pushed me to do it. It’s so sad and crazy that people would sway someone from their natural hair, especially in this day and age when we are seeing all the styles with natural hair. I think a lot of people still think “natural” means afros. So, I supposed people will learn, the more time goes on. Glad you are loving your hair!!

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