April 6th marked my three year anniversary of being creamy crack free! HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO MEEEE!!!!! Those three years rolled around fast! I’ve said it many times before, but I’m glad I’ve made this decision and I couldn’t be happier. It’s been an interesting journey full of highs and a few lows, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! My natural hair ROCKS!!!!
Undefined curls or undefined afros is something I’ve been hearing about for a while but never really paid much attention to. I don’t feel I can continue to ignore it because it’s really starting to bug me since these terms are actually targeted towards those whose 4c hair may not curl up and bounce like other natural hair types. Apparently to some, undefined curls or undefined afros are deemed undesirable or even unkempt. All I want to know is why? I know unkempt hair when I see it, and no it’s not attractive at all. But if a woman decides to just rock her beautiful afro with no particular curl pattern in it, what’s wrong with that? Why do people think that only curly natural hair is pretty?
There was a discussion on FaceBook yesterday regarding an article that had several pictures of women rocking their undefined afros in very elegant ways. The point of the article was to show that women with 4c hair can rock their hair without defined curls and still be beautiful. I think that is a great message to put out there and we need to hear it more. In the comments following the article, one naturalista made a very powerful, eye-opening statement:
“Curls are the new relaxer for natural women.”
I emphatically said “YES” when I read this statement because it is so true! There is a curly hair obsession reminiscent of the creamy crack (chemical relaxers) addiction among many in the natural hair community. There’s an insatiable thirst for curly hair. This, in turn, breeds product junkies because they are constantly searching for that magic potion to curl up their hair and give it the best definition. Somehow, curly naturals have become the standard of beauty to which we all should strive for, and again I want to know why? Please don’t think that I’m bashing those with curly hair because I’m not. I know there are many who have naturally curly hair, and there is nothing wrong with that. There are also those who go through painstaking efforts to make their hair curl. And then there are those who are ok with just letting their natural hair do whatever it is it does.
Many of us became natural because we knew it was the healthiest decision to make. We have educated ourselves and have personally experienced the harmful effects of chemical relaxers. We’ve vowed to get and maintain the healthiest hair possible by going natural. Somewhere along the way, the belief that curly hair is the only hair and the most beautiful hair to have has taken over. Maybe that belief was always there but I ignored it because I was so wrapped up in my own natural hair journey. I never cared about having curly hair because I knew from the beginning what my hair could and could not do, nor was I interested in trying to make it curl up.
As if we don’t have enough fighting and dissention amongst us as black women, it saddens me that we still have to deal with this very old, poisonous belief that kinky hair is ugly and undesirable, but curly (“good hair”) is beautiful. If less emphasis was put on having curly natural hair and more focus is put on natural hair health and the beauty of ALL hair types, then maybe there wouldn’t be such an obsession with achieving the ultimate defined curls. Maybe more naturalista’s would simply love their hair regardless if it can curl up, or if it’s just in an amazing afro standing tall and proud with no emphasis on curls.
For the past few months I’ve been reading and hearing disturbing accounts of black women being shamed or made to feel ugly because of the darkness of their skin, the kinkiness of their hair, the fullness of their lips or noses, or the curviness and voluptuousness of their bodies. This isn’t just happening in America, it’s happening in Brazil, Cuba, Africa, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic – any place where there are darker hued people. To me, it’s a reminder of how deeply rooted racism, colorism, and self hate really is. In Louisiana for an example, it is a fact of life that those deemed Creole, who are basically light skinned (might as well throw in “with good hair”) do not associate with those who are darker skinned. They won’t even allow a darker skinned person in a photo with them, let alone stand up in their wedding! In 2016 this is still happening, and it blows my mind.
In Brazil, there’s a young woman named Nayara Justino who is a model and actress. She made history by being the first dark skinned woman named Carnival Queen. Sadly, she was stripped of her title because of the racist outrage over her dark skin. The people wanted the tradition to continue of only crowning a lighter skinned Brazilian woman. This poor woman was called every racist name in the book on social media, and the judges cowardly caved into the public outcry and stripped her of her crown and giving Nayara no reason for doing so. Much later they denied taking her crown because of the color of her skin, even though everyone knows that’s exactly the reason why. Let’s be real – if the public never had a problem with her being Carnival Queen, she’d still have her crown, right? Right.
I hate hearing and reading about these things, but I’m glad for social media because without it we’d never hear about these things happening. Mainstream media never report about these types of things because they want you to believe that the world isn’t as racist as it is. Well you’d have to be living under a rock to not know that racism in America and in other countries is alive and well. It’s this narrow-minded thinking that keeps black women and women of color from loving everything about themselves. This is why it’s so hard for women to even attempt to love their natural kinky, coily hair because all they hear and see on tv and in print ads is that straight, long hair is the only hair that is beautiful, and it’s the only hair you should want. Curls and kinks are ugly, unkempt looking, and wild. Just writing this makes me cringe at how ridiculous this thinking is, but it’s out there and the roots run deep in the minds of many black women and black men.
Recently I watched the documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution on PBS. During the 1960’s and 1970’s there was a call for black pride because of the hideous racism and persecution taking place against blacks at the hands of white people. Loving ourselves, our culture, skin color, and natural hair were just some of things that were encouraged by the Black Panther Party. Seeing all of those beautiful, natural afros of various sizes, textures, and colors in this documentary made me smile. It made me swell with pride because all of these people looked like me, they had hair like me and they wore it proudly. After the demise of The Black Panther Party, that pride in our natural hair practically disappeared as chemical relaxers and Jheri Curls took over. Fast forward to today and you have black women once again saying no to putting harmful chemicals in their hair and yes to proudly wearing their natural hair. Many call it a movement, others call it a fad. Ask the manufactures of chemical relaxers and beauty salons about their sales for the past ten years and they’ll tell you it’s not a fad. Today, women are more informed and aware of the harmful side affects that chemical relaxers cause. There is a plethora of information all over the internet at our disposal to educate ourselves with. So no, this is not a fad. This is a lifestyle change and natural hair is here to stay.
Collectively as women, we need to help and encourage each other whether if we are natural or not. Don’t look down on those who aren’t natural, be encouraging. Remember, most of us were addicted to the creamy crack for many years too! Don’t preach to them, be informative. Compliment one another and be an example. Be willing to discuss your hair journey if given the opportunity. Your story could help someone else make that final decision to go natural. Before I went natural, when I would see black women rocking their afros, afro puffs, or twist outs, I always felt their hair was beautiful. I felt a sense of pride seeing them rock their natural hair because I always felt our natural hair is beautiful. I wouldn’t hesitate to compliment them and tell them how beautiful their hair was. Then I had to look at myself and ask “If you know natural hair is beautiful and it’s healthier for you, what’s keeping you from going natural?” I had no answer, and I had no excuse because there was nothing holding me back. My daughters were natural, so again, what was holding me back? Nothing. I got educated and I took the plunge. I big chopped.
There is nothing wrong with loving our culture. There is nothing wrong with loving our blackness. And there is definitely nothing wrong with loving ourselves and our natural hair.
It’s been a while since I’ve had a soap box moment, and what inspired this blog is an article I read posted by Curly Nikki on FaceBook titled “The Death of The Black Hair Salon.” It was a very hot topic that many naturals chimed in on, including myself. The majority of those who posted a response had the same experiences and complaints:
- Wasting an entire day at the salon because of over-booking, slow service, or both.
- Damage done to hair and scalp (too much heat, harsh relaxers, etc)
- Ridiculous prices
For me, I got fed up with my beautician of 8 years because she simply didn’t respect me or my time. Because she is a great stylist with a clientele that could circle the block many times over, she felt that she could come in late (and by late I mean be a half hour to an hour late to your appointment), take two and three customers ahead of you, take 45 minute breaks to talk and chit chat and laugh with her family and friends who basically lived in the shop, and take 45 minute breaks to eat.
I share the blame for this because I allowed this behavior to go on. I loved the way she styled my hair, she understood me and knew my style preference. At the same time, I absolutely DETEST looking for new beauticians, so I overlooked and endured this treatment. Don’t get me wrong, there were times when I forewarned her before sitting in her chair that I had to be out by a certain time because I had things to do. Over time she became worse, and I became more and more pissed.
I would purposely make early morning appointments with the hopes of getting out of the shop before noon. Yes, I said noon. But low and behold, there would be three other ladies waiting with me who also had 8 o’clock appointments with my beautician. During all of this I was seriously considering going natural. I had been contemplating going natural for the past four or five years. As my beautician became worse with her tardiness, coming late to the shop with an attitude as if we, her faithful customers, did something wrong to her, my decision became easier to make.
My hair was very damaged by the heat and by the relaxers. I was curling or flat ironing my hair almost every day. For years I wore my hair in short jazzy hair styles, and with short hair (at least for me) your hair looks better curled, and that’s what I did every day. I curled it, basically fried it, to death. I had so much breakage it wasn’t even funny. Deep down I knew this wasn’t right. Deep down I knew my hair deserved better and it needed to be taken care of properly with lots of TLC. The only way I could do this was to start from scratch, and that’s what I did.
Big chopping wasn’t a big deal to me because my hair was already very short. I stopped going to the shop and I stopped getting relaxers. The only relaxer that remained in my hair was at the top, and I began to trim it out little by little myself. I went to my husband’s barber and had him finish the job and that freed me from the creamy crack. That began my natural hair journey. I’ll never forget the day that I went to my husband’s barber. When he was finished I smiled so much, and I couldn’t stop smiling if you paid me to. I. WAS. FREE.
There’s an unwillingness on the part of black beauticians and salons to educate themselves on caring for and styling natural hair. I’ve been turned away by many who turned their noses up at having natural hair customers, yet they complain about and wonder why they are losing business? They wrongly believe that the natural hair movement is just a fad, that it will run it’s course and black women will come tearing down their doors begging for the creamy crack again. I strongly disagree. While there are many who have gone back to the creamy crack, the number is very small compared to those who are joining the natural hair community.
Many blame YouTube vloggers and DIY videos for the black salon losing business. There wouldn’t be a need for YouTube DIY videos if beauticians would educate themselves and learn how to care for all hair types and not just slathering chemicals on our hair. We’re in an age where women are more informed, and the information is out there at your finger tips if you want to research your options. Women they want to live healthier lifestyles and they want to save a buck. We want to learn how to do things ourselves, and I think that’s a positive thing. Not all naturalista’s are into DIY. There are many who still go to salons and have found a natural hair salon or beautician to care for their hair. There is nothing wrong with that. Matter of fact, I’m still looking for a good natural hair beautician!
Most of all, our time is precious, and if black salons refuse to respect our time, then they will continue to lose customers period, and not to just the natural hair movement.