I like to say I’ve been relaxed all my life, rather than as long as I can remember, (for dramatic purposes of course), but in actuality, these statements are fairly interchangeable. My life, as early I can remember it, begins at four… and with relaxed hair.
That being said, while I could go through various photo albums and take you down memory lane of a young me rocking whatever hairstyle my mom chose to do throughout the years, that’s not the story I plan to tell today, or the one I ever tell for that matter.
For me, becoming natural was all about looking forward, rather than looking back, so my pride and joy is in sharing my transition story. I remember looking up tons of natural hair journey videos that inspired and excited me to go natural, so now I guess it’s my turn. And anyone who has watched those videos knows that the difference between the okay ones and the amazing ones are the photos, so I apologize in advance for the unflattering ones you’re about to see.
In the beginning:
Since elementary school, I had gained this reputation as the “Black girl with the pretty hair,” which basically meant that I had hair below ear length (EL). That label came with constant questions about how exactly I got my hair like that.
“Like what?” I would always reply. Straight. Long. Soft. Not greasy…
Now don’t get me wrong, I liked my hair, but I never thought as much about it as everyone else seemed to. I had become used to people playing with my hair, saying I had “good hair” whatever that meant, and even asking me if I was fully Black because of it. But despite all the compliments and praise my hair seemed to receive, I just wasn’t feeling it anymore…
I grew increasingly bored of my hair. I had been wearing it straight since the fourth grade, and here I was, a senior in high school, still wearing the same ol’ do.
I think part of it was just habit and the other, convenience. I had a routine that was simple to maintain while playing sports, staying on the Honor Roll and taking AP courses. It didn’t make sense to change now, but I couldn’t help but experiment a little.
So I added some curls to my look, even rocked a braid-out or two…
And I definitely liked the extra texture in my hair, but I wasn’t completely satisfied… I wanted something more… I was playing it too safe.
Around this time, there had been a movement growing on social media of women with natural hair. They talked about everything from how they style their hair to what inspired them to become natural if they haven’t always been so.
Up until then, the concept of being natural was completely foreign to me. I grew up learning that as soon as you saw new-growth, it was time for a relaxer. Never did I think that it was okay just to let the kinky texture be and grow out freely.
My world had honestly been changed (no extra dramatics intended here). I thought, here I am, relaxing my hair straight, just to manipulate it back to a textured pattern. What sense does that make? So May, 30, 2014, otherwise known as the day of Senior Prom, was my last relaxer. I figured, new school, new me – let’s embark on this new journey.
So I entered freshman year of college balancing two textures, a chemically straightened one, and a naturally kinky one. I decided that rather than big chop and cut off all my hair, I would grow out my relaxer, instead gradually cutting off the ends.
It wasn’t hard to manage in the beginning since I still had far more relaxed hair than natural. I typically wore it in the same way as before.
But then, my natural hair became a lot longer and the difference between the textures was unflatteringly evident…
Like, let’s get real.. My ends were far from pretty. If only you could see the extreme mortification on my face as I type. But this is the result of a couple different things… For starters, I was so excited about my “new” hair, that I began to neglect the straight ends all together, meaning they probably look even worse than they should have and that’s my fault. Sorry. But even more so, my natural hair was just so much thicker and even healthier at that point that there was no hiding the facts. Still, I wasn’t ready to let go of my stringy ends so I just got more creative.
My go-to became what would be known as the iconic “fake ponytail.” And to answer your question, no it was actually real.
And if that didn’t do the trick, I began doing bantu knot-outs or my go-to high bun.
I wore these styles for most of my freshman year, but by the end, I had to get creative again.
I was itching to cut off the relaxed ends, which by this point seemed non-existent compared to the rest of what I had going on, but I also wanted to keep with transitioning, so I decided to bleach my ends.
My highlights functioned in two ways. They satisfied my constant need to change up my appearance (that straight hair all those years created a monster), but more importantly, they marked what was left of my relaxer. That way, when I was finally ready to cut my ends, I would just have to snip the color.
So with that, I enjoyed my new look for the rest of the summer. Playing with color was exciting and it was a constant reminder of my goal to eventually become completely natural.
But even so, I was once again beginning to grow bored of my hair, and ready for change.
I don’t know if it was the challenge of managing two textures or the fact that I had never changed my hairstyle so much in so little time, but I had become a runaway train drunk with power. I was eager to try something new.
So of course, I shaved my head.
Okay okay, so I didn’t shave my entire head, but I got a pretty respectable undercut my sophomore year. One that had my barbers begging me to reconsider.
And yeah, you read that right, despite me paying them to do their job, they were trying to talk me out of it. I remember them telling me that girls pay to have hair like mine… like boy bye!
I had to laugh at their reaction, but it was far from surprising. Like I alluded to before, being identified by your hair was unfortunately more than common in my community. But I digress…
I loved my undercut. Everywhere I went I was complimented, and for once it had nothing to do with the length of my hair. I honestly felt like a rock star. No one in Milwaukee had my look, and I couldn’t be happier.
And in a way, my undercut proved the pinnacle of a different hair journey I was having. One that symbolized my freedom from playing it safe and what was expected of me. I had finally satisfied the belly of the beast and was ready to move forward with my journey.
And She’s Natural:
Fast forward a couple of months, (about halfway through my sophomore year), and the scissor itch was strong!
After experimenting with my hair like I had never done before and nearing two years of natural hair growth, I was feeling extra confident and ready.
Every wash day, I would look at my wet hair and see these beautiful curls springing from my head and I felt like they were just begging me to be freed from those raggedy ends.
So I took a big gulp and reached for the scissors.
And just like that is how January 24, 2016 became the day I was completely natural.
I was so excited about my baby puff y’all… you couldn’t tell me nothing! I let it go just like Elsa, and man did it feel good!
But in all seriousness, I really felt on top of the world. Not only was I saying goodbye to those ends, but to that chapter of my life, and I was more than ready to move forward.
So I took lots of pics, but I’ll spare you the hundreds of practically identical ones in my camera roll. Just understand that I was feeling myself! Like really feeling myself.
And clearly it reflected in my curls because my natural hair flourished!
These photos were taken in May just a few months later and the growth is pretty clear.
So of course, I had to continue documenting the process because just like I said before, ya girl was feeling herself!
I was beyond ecstatic with the health of my hair. It had surpassed every expectation I had and more.
But best of all, I was finally in love with my hair, and it had been way too long since I had felt that way about it.
So now it’s your turn. I want to know what inspired your hair journey? And if you haven’t started yet, what’s holding you back from being happy and healthy?
And if you made it this far, congrats! Here’s an Easter egg for your determination… appreciation?… Boredom?.. You know what, you don’t even have to say.