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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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