Such a simple yet loaded question that, at 23 years old, I still do not have a complete answer to. However, my hair journey has most certainly placed me on the path to figuring that out.
My final year in college, I starred in a play entitled ‘Nappy HAIRstories’ alongside two other natural-haired women. The play was a combination of our writer/director, Laura Oliver’s dissertation topic, and the stories of all of our natural hair journeys combined. Through the play I found camaraderie, sisterhood, and closeness to other Black women that I had never experienced before. But most of all, I realized something that I’d been keeping locked away for years... I never truly dealt with the trauma of how my natural hair story began. I never faced the truth of how my natural hair journey actually went.
I didn’t go natural because it was “the wave”. I didn’t go natural because I wanted healthier hair. I went natural because for a reason unbeknownst to me, my mother cut all of my hair off leaving me nearly bald with strings of shoulder-length hair hanging in lifeless patches around my head.
I went natural because after getting my hair cut down into the shortest pixie cut ever, I was teased and picked on.
I went natural because I wanted, no, I needed my hair to grow for the sake of my confidence.
At 5-foot-2, and less than 100 pounds, I had the body of a 12-year-old boy. My hair was my femininity (or so I thought at the age of 15), and that was stolen away from me.
I went natural because I wanted it back.
The most concise way for me to break my natural hair journey down is through a timeline. So let’s begin:
In 2013 I began transitioning… or at least somewhat transitioning since I kept dragging a flatiron through my hair to allow my leave out to match the straightness of the quick weaves I wore so often.
From 2014 to the beginning of 2015 I got tired of the funky-looking straight pieces at the ends of my coils. I big chopped using a pair of crafting scissors you’d find in your elementary school desk. I was so excited to wear my curls out, especially since I had just started my freshman year of college, but I was met with much backlash. So many “you’re ugly’s” and “natural hair ain’t for everybody” from ex-boyfriends and my peers that I quickly ran back to the social safety of quick weaves and box braids. Every day I struggled with the thought of relaxing my hair again so I could escape the ridicule.
2015 to 2016 was my desperate, yet determined stage. The natural hair movement reached a new height and I was determined to love my natural hair, but I was also desperate for my hair to grow. I tried every single hair growth gimmick that I learned from ‘natural hair gurus’ online, from the inversion method (which only left me dizzy and my scalp oily) to washing my hair once every two months (which left my scalp itchy and my hair extremely dirty). I put on one of the first natural hair events at my University to help my fellow natural-haired sisters. Through this internal push toward self-love some of the same women that ridiculed me for going natural were now starting their own natural hair journeys and I was able to turn the tide and help them!
In 2017 my life was a whirlwind of ups and downs. I was adjusting to being single. I pledged a sorority. I was nominated for and won lots of awards. I got way too caught up in my duties as President of this and VP of that, that I allowed my grades to slip. As for my hair journey… nothing really stuck out. I felt more comfortable wearing my natural hair out, but other than that there was nothing really transformative or special or noteworthy that occurred.