All Articles Tagged "going natural"
In a recent interview, Oscar-nominated actress Viola Davis said the public’s reaction to her natural hair had been “huge.”
“I think people admire the boldness of it, and the courage of it,” she told interviewer Kam Williams. “For me, personally, it represents my coming into who I am, not apologizing for it and being comfortable with the way I look. I have been amazed by the testimonies … especially from women of color who have thanked me for it.”
While I too commend Davis for going natural in Hollywood, it struck me as incredibly sad that wearing hair in its natural God-given, or universe-given, or whatever you believe in-given state, would be considered an act of bravery in our day and age, while having long, flowing tresses that were purchased at the beauty shop is the new norm.
It’s true that going natural has become more embraced over the years, but it still represents a rejection of cultural messaging that tells us that silky, straight, and smooth is the standard we should all aspire to. The backlash against natural hair in the corporate world has been well-documented, and the resistance has come from some unlikely sources as well; in 2012, for example, historically black college Hampton University banned MBA students from wearing cornrows and dreadlocks.
The connotations associated with natural hair are often negative and involve terms like “militant,” “wild” and “untamed” – sometimes perpetuated by people wearing natural hair themselves.
Meanwhile, relatives in other cities tell me that weaves and wigs are so common that black hair in its natural state often draws looks of shock and surprise, and it seems that every black female on Reality TV sports a weave that grows longer, fuller and more ridiculous with each episode – think Shay from Love and Hip Hop Atlanta. While reality TV is admittedly exaggerated and sensational, its physical portrayal of black women is troubling because it implies a standard of beauty that requires us to purchase our hair rather than grow it.
While I respect everyone’s decision to wear their hair as they wish, it’s disturbing to see that European standards of beauty have become so deeply engrained in our collective psyche that going natural is considered daring while sporting weaves and wigs is, in many circles, expected.
True, natural hair does not necessarily represent self-love, and wearing a weave is not necessarily a sign of self-loathing. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to a hairstyle; it’s up to each individual to decide what works for them.
But when so many black women – especially those in the limelight — opt for a hairstyle that is as far removed from their natural state as possible, I have to wonder if they are making conscious decisions based on personal preference, or succumbing to societal pressure and conforming to “white is right” standards that border on cultural brainwashing. As Gen. George S. Patton once said, “If everybody’s thinking alike, somebody isn’t thinking.”
Viola Davis, like so many other black women who choose to embrace their natural beauty, is proof that rocking a natural ‘do can be fierce, fabulous and fun. And if she later chooses to forego the natural look because another style better suits her mood, more power to her. As black women, we have many choices available to us when it comes to hairstyles, and we should feel comfortable exploring them all. The fact that so many of us covet what is not ours and reject what is, while accepting our true selves seemingly requires boldness and courage, suggests that we are clinging to a value system that does not value us.
Do you think wearing natural hair requires courage? Sound off in the comments.
I had thought about it several times before, but after seeing Chris Rock’s Good Hair, I knew that I didn’t want to torture my scalp any longer. So on Dec. 31, 2008, I made the decision to stop relaxing my strands. I was 18 years old.
It’s been a long four-year journey, and I’ve met plenty of challenges and obstacles, but I’ve definitely learned a lot, including a few lessons on moisturizing techniques and funky style ideas. For those of you who are still considering going the kinky route, these few pointers may help you out a bit. And if you’re already a natural, I’m sure that you can definitely relate to these lessons I’ve learned along my exciting natural hair ride.
1. My Ends Still Need Trimming
Okay, so it may sound weird to some of you, but when I decided to go natural, for whatever reason, I totally neglected the routine of clipping my ends. I just washed, moisturized when I felt it necessary, and kept I moving. Don’t judge me. I know I’m not the only one who thought natural hair equaled healthy never-splitting ends…? That is, until my hair started to break off like crazy and I realized that natural hair needs to make friends with clippers too.
2. It Needs to Be Fed (Everyday)
I have to admit, I’ve never been one to moisturize my hair properly, even when I was with team creamy crack. However, when I stopped getting perms, my hair really suffered because no longer was I frequenting my beautician who did a hell of a job keeping my scalp fed. And when I decided to splash my head with some color, whew! My locks almost died of thirst. I’m embarrassed to say that my lack of moisturizing contributed to a big chop after my ends decided to do the moonwalk. It took a while for it to sink in, but I finally got over the laziness and decided to water down my weeds on a daily basis (or at least every other day) to keep my whole head nice and healthy. It even helps with the softness and promotes growth for those of you who are trying to get that Esperanza Spalding look.
3. It’s More Versatile and Fun To Style
I don’t know if it’s just me, but I find it more interesting and fun to style my natural hair. When I wear my hair straight (which I still do from time to time), it feels a lot more lifeless and boring when I’m deciding how I’m going to wear it for the day. But with my wavy, curly fro, I find myself having a lot more fun while jazzing it up. It makes me want to pull out scarves, hats, wrap it up, pin it down, twist it, braid it and do a variety of quirky things to it. Not saying you can’t do that with straight strands, but I find it more appealing with my kinks, and it looks better too. Way cooler. I’m just saying…
The road to natural hair is paved with good intentions. The joy of not being a slave to routine chemical processing and heat styling certainly is alluring for many. Many natural hair divas will tell you they find there’s more freedom and versatility in styling hair in its natural state. There are many more positive reasons for going natural; it all depends on who you ask.
I went natural for all those reasons three years ago, ready to embrace my natural coils and free up my schedule and budget in the process. Unlike many other naturalistas, I didn’t do the “big chop” (or BC as it is called in the natural hair community). I just let the relaxer grow out, relying on weaves and blowouts during the transition phase. When the relaxed hair finally grew out, I tried out a few low-maintenance natural hair styles, but was disappointed that I didn’t have the length or the talent to recreate all the fabulously luscious styles I saw the natural hair divas on YouTube rocking.
One attempt at a two-strand twist turned into a messy four-hour ordeal that left me with disastrous results. I followed the directions on the curling product jar to a T, or so I thought. The end result was a frizzy, tangled mess that looked like the ‘before’ picture in a hair product ad. Talk about an epic fail. I felt as if I had let my natural hair sisters down. I was losing hope.
Impatient and indecisive about the direction I wanted to take with my hair, I weaved it up for a couple of months while I decided what my next style move would be. After the weave I thought I would get a blowout for a couple of weeks, mainly to check my hair growth. There was only one place I would go for my blowout; the place where dreams were born and legends were made. Several of my natural hair girlfriends went to the same Dominican salon and their hair looked healthy, flawless and fabulous. I didn’t need much convincing or an appointment for that matter. So to the Dominican salon I went.
I had heard horror stories about the excruciating heat you’re subjected to at the Dominican salon. Someone told me about her one and only experience at a Dominican salon, complete with amusing re-enactments of weeping and gnashing of teeth. She made it sound like it was hell fire and damnation. But I had so many other friends who went to these salons and had great experiences and hair to prove it. I decided I would go through the experience just one time to check my growth and wear my hair in a different style for a couple of weeks.
The stylists at the Dominican salon were wonderful. They welcomed me into the Sisterhood of the Fabulously Flowing Blowouts with open arms. Literally. When I walked into the salon, I was greeted with a hug and immediately ushered back to the spa-like shampoo room. I walked past rows of women under dryers with what looked like ear muffs on their ears. Ladies in the stylist chairs getting their hair blown out didn’t seem to be in tears or crying out in pain. All I knew was that I wanted to get the same flowing end-results they were getting.
When it was my turn to meet the hair dryer, it was hotter than I would have preferred, but it didn’t kill me. All I knew was that 45 minutes after I walked into the Dominican salon with my tightly coiled afro, I was leaving with a sleek, bouncy chin-length bob. I was now a member of the Sisterhood of the Fabulously Flowing Blowouts.
Fast-forward three months later. My visits every two to three weeks were starting to take a toll on my hair. I started noticing hair breaking off around my temples and along my hairline. The strain of the heat was beginning to show. No amount of sisterhood hugs could erase the fact that I was losing the natural hair I had spent more than two years to grow. As much as I hated to admit it, I had to leave the sisterhood.
When it comes to Dominican salons, I can say I’ve been there and done that. I’m not knocking the experience though. I have countless family members and friends who have been going to Dominican salons for years, and their hair is so sleek and healthy you’d think they had perms. I just know that it’s not for me. It’s been almost three months since my last visit to the Dominican salon, and I’m starting to see a little evidence of growth around my edges. Maybe after all I put it through, my hair has forgiven me.
This is me, the very day I went natural. Or stopped doing unnatural things to my hair. However you want to look at it. (No shade, no shots fired to my relaxed sisters.) Having had a relaxer since I was five years old, I can’t deny the…fear I felt when my beautician spun me around to reveal a teeny weeny afro. It was jarring. But after a couple of days I got used to it. While I was going through my own transition with my hair other people were adjusting to my new look as well. And they didn’t adjust quietly…
My journey to the promised land of natural hair has been a path paved with many trials and errors, shampoos, conditioners, creams and oils. As I am learning to embrace and celebrate my natural hair in all its coil-y glory, I still like to wear my hair in a sleek, straight bob every now and then.
Enter my two BFFs: Hot Comb and Flat Iron.
I wasn’t always on good terms with the hot comb, having suffered scalp burns and trauma caused by many a styling ordeal during my childhood. Over the years, as hair styling techniques advanced and electric hot combs with heat settings became available, I let the hot comb back into my life, albeit slowly. Not knowing the tricks of the trade, I’ve singed myself and my hair more times than I care to remember.
Since I began my hair transition three years ago, I found myself relying more and more on my flat iron. Not knowing what to look for or the best way to use it to get my roots super-straight made styling my hair difficult. Still, I gave it a good ol’ college try and ended up watching my hair break, strand by strand. I assumed the breakage was caused by the heat on my hair.
What I didn’t know was that the kind of flat iron I was using was making matters worse. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite the collection of ceramic, “high-low” two-setting flat irons. I have black ones, blue ones, broken ones…you name it, I probably have it. According to Johnny Wright, SoftSheen-Carson artistic style director and celebrity stylist, the best flat irons are titanium-plated with variable heat settings. Wright recommends the Corioliss Baby SXE. It’s a smaller flat iron, because “it’s small enough to allow you to get as close to the hairline as possible without burning the scalp.”
Ceramic irons were once thought to be good. But if you look at the surface of a ceramic iron under a microscope, the surface was ridged like an orange peel. And that surface would cause friction on the air. The titanium-plated flat irons have a much smoother surface, and can straighten the hair in one pass, rather than the two or three passes it would take with a ceramic flat iron.
Don’t throw away that hot comb just yet. It still has its purpose. The hot comb is good for straightening hair around the perimeter of the head “to give the hair a straighter finish,” says Wright.
All this time I had it wrong. I would use the hot comb to straighten my roots, and then comb it through the hair for good measure (and torture). Then I would go over my hair with the flat iron over and over again until my hair was relatively straightened, or I got tired, whichever came first.
Wright recommends when you wash and blow-dry your hair, go ahead and set the iron on the highest setting your hair can handle. For those, like me, who flat iron their hair every day, turn down that flat iron!
Follow Kimberly Shorter on Twitter at @KimberlyWriter.
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The beauty of natural hair is undeniable. And with so many women now making the decision to go natural, for beauty and even health reasons, it’s important for these women to also know that going natural is rarely something that should be done on a whim. Going natural requires a lot of things. And usually, the process requires months or even years of contemplation and education. Yes, it’s very tempting to run to a stylist shouting “I want that!” after you’ve seen a natural haired woman rocking a gorgeous afro or locs. But you should resist doing something impulsive before you’ve fully prepared yourself for the commitment. Take your time to think the whole process through. The road to natural hair is wonderful but it is also paved with occasional obstacles. Here are 5 things you’ll need “before” going natural:
(New York Times) — MAELING TAPP remembers the moment three years ago when she saw her mother and sisters wearing their coil-prone hair in its natural state and decided that she, too, would stop slathering caustic paste onto her scalp to burn her own similarly textured locks into straight submission. ”Unfortunately, after four months I relaxed my hair again because I just didn’t know what I was doing,” said Ms. Tapp, 25, a Ph.D. candidate in materials science and engineering at Georgia Tech. ”Going natural” is the term used by many African-American women who decide to stop chemically processing, or relaxing, their hair. It’s a move that can be fraught with confusion, missteps and sometimes pain, as the 2009 Chris Rock documentary “Good Hair” attested. Many women with Afro-textured hair have not seen it in its unadulterated state since childhood. And even some who are acquainted with the texture of their untreated tresses are not comfortable styling their hair in ways they believe are fashionable and appropriate for them. Figuring out which of the countless hair-care tools and products on the market might work can make the undertaking even more overwhelming.
Y’all remember the scene in School Daze. The Jiggaboos and the Wannabes run into each other in the hallway, which leads to a musical battle of wits. Dark vs. Light. Nappy vs. Straight. Assimilated vs. Rebellious. Strutting their stuff around the faux beauty salon, they called each other “pickaninny,” “Barbie Doll,” “high yella heffa,” “tar baby,” and “wannabe white.” Spike Lee not only grossed $14 million from the film, he enlightened a nation to the truth of colorism.
This moment happened 22 years ago…