Where are you from and how is the natural scene there? I am from Nigeria, born and raised in Washington, DC and now live in Madison, WI. The natural scene here in Madison is slower than nearby Chicago (2hr drive), but diversity is increasing, and so is the presence of natural hair styles – this is partly influenced by the student body at the University of Wisconsin (area college).
How long did you transition and how long have you been natural? I transitioned into natural hair for nine months, then did a “medium chop” on Memorial Day weekend in 1999. I have been completely natural for the past seven years (wow!)
When did you decide to go natural and why? Going natural was actually unplanned. I was giving my hair a rest from relaxers. I had my hair braided at an African shop in DC. Back in the day when sealing the ends with a lighter was popular, my braider did what I thought was a new trend – using the flame from a lighter to seal the stray hairs sticking out the braid, rather than using a scissors to trim the stray hairs off.
Seven weeks later, after removing my braids and seeing my hair snap like twigs after a protein/deep conditioning treatment, I figured out that her laziness cost me 5 inches of hair! I made a self-promise not to let anyone touch my hair for a while, and no perms to boot.
How was your transition? My transition was difficult. At the time I was teaching at a middle school, and when I stopped relaxing, I did a lot of ponytails, roller sets, and headwraps. Many of my students would let me know when I was having a bad hair day. Some even offered to braid and cornrow my hair!
How much support did you receive when you decided to go natural? For a while my family sympathized with my braiding experience for a few months – then came the “when are you going to relax your hair?” inquiries. My mom was especially adamant – even bringing acquaintances to the house that did hair and letting them know that they will give me a discount . I was on a bus ride home and decided to take a different route. I discovered a salon not too far from my job – Cornrows and Company (run by Pamela Ferrell).
I went in a few days later and stayed for several hours asking questions, sampling products, and looking at pictures of celebrities and prominent figures with natural hairstyles. It was then that I decided to try and stay natural. I went there when I could afford to get my hair done. They were so gentle and did a wonderful job with styling.
Three years ago when I moved to Wisconsin, I stumbled across this site and www.roshini.net. They both strengthened my desire to stay natural and I loved the different styles that could be done on natural hair. There are really no limits.
How did you feel about your natural hair in the beginning? I was NERVOUS! At the time I was still trying to figure out what to do with myself, in terms of career and such, and this was just an added stress – I was insecure and wanting to please my mom and other authority figures in my life.
Once the new growth started popping through, I felt much more confident about not relaxing. Styling however, was still my nemesis, and I learned how to twist my own hair after several trips to Cornrows and Co. I also started dabbling making my own products from supplies at a health food store.
Has there been any difference in your life from going natural? My self-esteem has gone way up and I have ventured into other areas of life with more confidence! I am pursuing a PH.D in exercise science and will soon be launching my own line of natural skincare and haircare products. I have also started a natural hair support group in my city, and am transitioning to vegetarianism. What has been the best thing about being natural? I feel such control and power over myself and my decisions, and it has translated into freedom for me. I used to think that I was inadequate and unable to live up to other people’s expectations… but it was my own expectations that paralyzed me. I am much more proactive about my hair and my life. What is your favorite hairstyle and why? The first hairstyle I ever had and the one I can do well – curly two-strand twists! My newest favorite hairstyle is curly box braids. They both are low maintenance and are very versatile. How do you take care of and maintain your hair? I take care of my own hair, although I will be visiting a salon for color soon.
I use products by Abba, Aveda, Nature’s Gate and J.A.S.O.N. Organics.
I swear by the Afro Detangler sold by Robin Woods and Hellman’s mayonnaise as my protein/deep conditioner.
I would like to try Qhemet’s Biologics and Mia Simone’s hair products.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going natural?
Take your time. Be open to the experience. If you tend to overthink things, like me, write down what you feel are pros and cons. Keep this list handy. Whenever you meet a person with natural hair or a natural hair stylist (or even an online album or forum), if its okay with them, ask them about your “cons” questions. You may be surprised and encouraged by what others say (or don’t say). Start with your strongest con and work downward to what you perceive are minor disadvantages. Have a strong sense of self and let it be your decision. Thank you for being the MotownGirl.com’s Spotlight of the Month! It is truly an honor to be a spotlight on this site!!!
Shout outs to www.roshini.net, www.motowngirl.com and poochie247 for having inspired me throughout this hair journey with their great albums. Special thanks to Robin Woods at www.growafrohairlong.com for encouraging words and great products. To Nappturality.com and NaturallyYou! Magazine for such extensive information on being a beautiful natural queen. And to my hubby PJ for loving me thru thin (relaxed) and thick (nappy).
Check out Lina’s hair journal!