Where are you from and how is the natural scene there?
I’m In Omaha, Nebraska. The nappy view here rather non-existent. I see a lot of ethnic braided styles that are being used to either totally cover up or “enhance” relaxed hair styles, but as far as being totally natural, it’s not very prevalent here. When you do see natural hair, it’s usually cut short into a TWA and not of the 4B variety like mine. Here in Omaha relaxed hair, weaved hair and braided hair extensions rein. My styled 4B hair is indeed an anomaly.
How long did you transition and how long have you been natural?
Way too long. When I decided to stop relaxing, back in March or April of 2002, my intent was to grow it out and go back to a press and curl. However, I found that I loved the convenience and versatility of long micro braids. Mine were absolutely lovely, and I ended up wearing them, without a break for three-and-a-half years. Altogether, I would say that I’ve been totally without relaxed hair since maybe December of 2002.
I grew up in the 70s, and I often alternated between a press and curl and wearing a BAA. So the thought of having nappy hair never bothered me. Now I won’t lie and say I had a nappy love affair going on; I didn’t. And other than an afro or a puff, which I viewed as being a dated hairstyle, I had no clue how to care for and wear my hair in its natural state. As a result, wearing nappy hair out was initially not an option.
How you feel about your natural hair in the beginning?
I made the decision to stop relaxing my hair when I in lived in Cleveland where extensions are extremely common place. Nevertheless, I was very apprehensive to wear them in my high-profile corporate position. However, the braids were well received. That gave me the confidence to wear them when I decided to embark on a job hunt as well.
In 2003, I offered a much better position in my career field in my hometown. In Omaha, I found an excellent braider; however, she was extremely unreliable. I either couldn’t get an appointment with her when I needed it, or after making one with her, she’d always reschedule. This caused me to keep my braids in way too long, resulting in horrible damage to my hair line.
Other times I’d take my hair down and wouldn’t know what to do with all the nappy hair on my hair. That’s when I started pressing my hair and experimenting with natural hair styles — well twists anyway. But since I hadn’t taken care of my hair under the braids, and I had started using heat on my hair and had no clue what kind of products to use, my twists were dry, brittle and scraggly. But you know what? My family and friends ALWAYS supported me. They always said my natural hair was cute. So, although I wasn’t really feeling them, I kept rocking my twists like I had the cutest hair style ever!
Has there been any differences in your life from going natural?
Not really. I’ve made a bigger deal out of my hair being nappy than anyone else has. I had absolutely no problem with my physical transition…it was the mental one that kept me in hair bondage. After I took my braids out for the last time in July 2005 I struggled with it being acceptable in certain situations — specifically during a new job search. Every time I’d get called for an interview, I’d scramble to get my hair shampooed and pressed. That became really inconvenient, and so I purchased two wigs. Yuck!
I finally found this site and Napturality in February. After that, it didn’t take me very long to make the mental transition. Viewing the hair member hair albums and happening upon instructions on how to style and take care of my hair really helped tremendously. After being a member on that site for less than a month, I was totally sold on the concept of nappturality. As a result, I do now have a total love affair going on with my hair. It’s so beautiful and versatile. Honestly, I can’t imagine wearing it any other way.
What has been the best thing about being natural?
The freedom to let my hair do what it wants to do — and that’s be nappy. I sweat really badly in the scalp, and since my hair is extremely porous, it makes trying to wearing thermally styled hair very impractical. The styles just don’t last. Once I learned about my hair, its characteristics, likes and dislikes, and learned how care for and style it, my hair has never looked better, been healthier or even longer than it is right now. Heck, I don’t even get dandruff anymore!
How do you take care of and maintain your hair?
My hair is in protective styles most of the time. Life is just simpler that way. Plus it promotes length retention. I don’t use heat in anyway shape or form. I don’t use grease or oils. My products of choice are Aubrey or JASON brand non-sulfate shampoos and conditioners and my hair loves water/glycerine based moisturizers. Right now, I use Pro Line Lite Comb Thru Moisturizer or any similar product.
I shampoo every three weeks, occasionally more, some times less. Since my hair is now between 11-13 inches long, depending on where I sample from, I’ve had to come up with ways to minimize tangles during the shampoo, conditioning and styling process. That now involves sectioning my and banding my hair along its length.
Next I rinse my moisturizer out (which is water soluble, apply shampoo, squeeze each section gently and then towel dry. Then I apply conditioner and wear a shower cap for a little while to deep condition with my body heat. Then I rinse, combing though each section with a wide tooth comb to get rid of any remaining shed hair and make sure all the conditioner has been washed out. I towel dry and then use a blow dryer without a comb attachment to accelerate the drying time on each section of hair. Even without using heat my hair dries remarkably fast.
I apply moisturizer and put each section into twists. I then style the next day. All this usually takes place over the weekend so I’m good to go on Monday morning! Although my hair is longer than it’s ever been, my goal is to grow my hair as long as possible. I used to look at hair growth in terms of inches …I don’t any more. I would like to for my twists .
If you were stranded on a deserted island and had to choose 3 things for your hair, what are three things you would have to have for your hair and why?
I only get three things? Wow. I’d have to have my shampoo, conditioner and my moisturizer. These are my hair care staples, and it doesn’t get any more simple than that. I can use my shirt for a towel and my fingers for a comb. I guess I’d have to wear big fat juicy twists until I got rescued! I’d have to get really, really good at detangling with my fingers. Guess I could use my shirt as a towel.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going natural?
I’d say first and foremost take the time to learn about nappy hair. Visit MotownGirl and Nappturality to learn the basics about how to care for, style and maintain nappy hair. Look for information on transitioning and investigate your options then choose the best method for them. Peruse hair albums, which are accessible via most hair boards for encouragement and in some cases entertainment as well.
Also, gauge your support. If your family and friends aren’t going to support your efforts, be ready to stand strong and steadfast in your convictions to stop the chemical abuse in order to have a healthy scalp and hair. Also, use the various hair boards out there as your primary support system; there’s nothing wrong with that. I didn’t have a hard time going natural, but when I want to talk to like-minded folks, many times I can only find them online. Having someone you can relate to will be a really big help.
Finally, just go for it! And finally, just go for it. Just do it. I don’t know. That sounds so simple. Once I decided not to relax again, I never looked back. However, I think my decision to stop relaxing was so easy because I wasn’t afraid to have nappy hair. I didn’t get my first relaxer until I was 23 years old.
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