Q: Where are you from and how is the natural scene there?
A: I am from Washington DC. The natural scene here is phenomenal and I am not just speaking about the sistas — it is truly an oasis of natural hair on every block. I mean when I look around it is a mix of brothas, sistas and children. It’s simply beautiful!
Q: Did you transition to natural hair? If so, what were your experiences? I really didn’t transiton per say.
A: One day, when I was an undergrad at Elizabeth City State University, I asked a friend of mine to cut my hair. He asked me if I was sure; I answered yes. He sat me in his make-shift barber’s chair and cut my hair straight down the center – ‘no turning back then’. When he finished, he asked me if I was ready to see my true-self’? I said yes. When I looked in the mirror, I was a bit stunned at how much I looked like my mother. (My mother had been natural for years then.) I was pleased. So, now was the test, I had to step out the door onto campus and make my debut to the “public”. My friend gave me a hug and told me I looked beautiful. That helped, but I still had to make my new entrance out into the world. So, I put on some lipgloss, lifted my head high and walked out the door.
Now, almost 16 years later, I’m still putting on lipgloss and holding my head high!
Q: Did you have any support?
A: I actually received the most support from my friends. I think I caught most of my family by surprise when I big chopped, because they had never seen my hair so short.
Q: In your opinion, what has been one of the best things about having natural hair?
A: I’ve met many wonderful and powerful people since being natural. It may be a person asking about hair care for their child, a sista inquiring about the “how-to” transition, or just a compliment on my hair. It’s been great. The conversations may start with hair, but may lead to something else – work, school, life in general. Its been a great journey! Additionally, I believe I hold my head up just a bit higher than I did before. It’s just something about natural hair and being confident in who you truly are.
Q: What were some mistakes you made during your journey that you’ve learned from?
A: Excessive heat, alcohol infused products and sulfate products are no good for my hair. I learned this the hard way. I’ve had to endure major cuts due to damage to my hair. Each time was because I failed to properly take care of my hair, though I knew better. The lesson learned is natural hair needs attention too! Another mistake I made was negating to sleep in a satin scarf or bonnet. OY! This sista learned a valuable lesson (twice) the hard way.
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island and had to choose 3 items for your hair, what are three things you would have to have for your hair and why?
A: Okay, the three products I would take:
1) Olive Oil to maintain the sheen and conditioning state of my hair,
2) Shea butter with jojoba oil, for the same reasons as with olive oil, but to also twist my hair, and lastly
3) Burt’s Bee or Organix sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner.
Q: How do you maintain your hair?
A: I wash and condition my hair with sulfate-free products. I use either Burt’s Bee or Organix Coconut products.
Q: What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going natural?
A: Have patience. It is truly a virtue. Identify that we are unique — not all products that work for one will work for the another person. Experiment but read the labels of the product you are using. It’s key to maintaining healthy tresses. A journey, (in this case a hair journey), is about lessons learned. You may find that you learn a lot more than just lessons about hair during this venture. Ask questions. Read, research and remember no heat or for that matter low-usage of heat; maintain a trim at 6-8 weeks. Enjoy your tresses!
Q: Do you have any final words?
A: My favorite proverb (African) states, “If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside will do me no harm”. This is applicable to many things in our life journey including hair. When we are in-love with ourselves, external (negative) forces have no sting.
Peace. Love. Light. ~ Akenjeli