Where are you from and how is the natural scene there?
I currently live in Rhode Island, but I am originally from North Carolina. Growing up as a young woman in the South I always looked at getting a relaxer as a rite of passage. It was when you crossed over from being a little girl to a young woman. Before I got my first relaxer I sat in a kitchen chair every Saturday morning getting my hair pressed. Nappy heads were frowned upon when I was a young girl. My mom always said, as she smoothed the hairs in my “kitchen” that I was not going to be walking around with a nappy head looking like one of those children whose mother didn’t love them.
For many years I rarely saw women sporting natural styles other than braids or the occasional twa and most of them were transplants from “up north” or “out west”. While I was in college I saw more young women wear their hair natural, but they were mostly those with a naturally curly texture that was known as “good hair”. In the past few years since I have seen more women embrace their natural hair.
How long did you transition and how long have you been natural?
My first attempt at going natural was my junior year in college (Aggie Pride!!). I remember cutting all my relaxer off and then getting the clippers and cutting it close to my head. At first I loved it, then I remember getting frustrated with how dry my hair always felt. Eventually I added color ( I was going through my Rodman and Eve phases at the time- first red then bleach blond) and after a while I cut it back down to get rid of all the bleached ends, died it brown and eventually returned to relaxing it. At the college I attended there was a mix of hairstyles, but most girls wore perms. I have always been one who is always evolving and changing as far as my hair goes, so going natural at the time and returning to my relaxer was really no big deal.
It wasn’t until a few years later, after I entered the corporate world, that I began to give some serious thought to going natural again. This time my I decided to educate myself about it. My cousin had gone natural and had a beautiful fro (she’s loc’d now) and I found myself admiring her confidence and wondering if I, too could look that beautiful with my natural hair.
I began scouring the internet for any information I could find. One of the first sites I found was MotownGirl and I also discovered some albums on the fotki site. When I did my big chop it was no big deal to me and at the time I really didn’t realize I was going to go natural right then. I remember making my final arrangements to attend my friends wedding in Jamaica and trying to figure out the easiest way to not have to pack a lot of hair supplies and to have a low maintenance style. I considered braids, but then I thought they might be too hot. My hair at the time was in a cute short style. I decided to cut it even shorter and wear the “wet look” while in Jamaica. I loved my decision and when I returned home I decided that I was going to continue to cut off my relaxed ends and go natural. I have been natural now for a little over 3 years.
How you feel about your natural hair in the beginning?
As I mentioned before, I have always done a lot of different things with my hair, so it was really not difficult to cut my hair off. Too me, hair had always been just that, hair. If you cut it, it would grow back. If you colored it and didn’t like it, you could change it. I thought I would have the same feelings when I went natural, if I grew out my perm and didn’t like it I could always go back.
But as I began to educate myself, I realized that I couldn’t continue to do that to myself. I can admit that in the beginning I had some of the same insecurities that most people have. What would my coworkers think? What would my man think? Would I really be able to pull this off? Those insecure thoughts lasted briefly. I decided that I was going to commit to this thing and that the best way to put people as ease about my decision was to embrace my natural hair and wear it confidently, even on those days when I knew I was looking a little crazy
How much support did you receive when you decided to go natural?
My cousin was very supportive, also my aunt (my cousin’s mother) who has a twa. My daddy just rubbed my head and jokingly commented on having another son. Everyone else kind of gave me a raised brow, but they didn’t dare say anything or ask too many questions. Everyone that is, except for my mom. She was not thrilled at first because she always wanted me to grow my hair out and every time she looked up I was cutting it off.
I remember her asking me what I was going to do with my hair now that I wasn’t relaxing it and whether or not I was thinking about putting those things (locs) in my head. I told her I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it, other than never relax it again. I didn’t think she would ever get over my decision to go natural, until the day she saw my first twist out. I had about three inches of hair at the time and I came home wearing my twist out. She loved it and was so happy to see that I was finally letting my hair grow again.
The next time I came home she presented me with my first book on natural hair care (Textured Tresses). I always took that as her way of letting me know that she had accepted my decision and was being supportive. My boyfriend was disappointed, too, because he likes long, straight hair, but I had told him when we started dating to not get hung up on what was on my head, because it was subject to change at a moments notice. I have to know that he loves me for me because he has been there through every stage of my journey and I am sure there were some moments that he wasn’t sure what was going on because neither was I sometimes. All of my girlfriends cheered me on, but said that they could never do it (for various reasons).
Has there been any differences in your life from going natural?
One big difference is an increased love of myself. Many of my friends and acquaintances would be the first to tell you that I never had a problem with self esteem, but I can say that it was not until I could look myself in the mirror with my natural, poofy hair and accept that it I did not have natural curls that looked like ringlets, that my hair would never lay down smoothly on it’s own, that it resembled a big poofy cloud or cotton on it’s best day, that it didn’t have that high sheen and gloss that it once had when it was relaxed, that yes! it really was NAPPY and that my “kitchen” was completely out of order by most people’s standards, that I really fell in love with myself and saw my true beauty. Going natural has helped me to free up time to be more creative and to see beauty in things that I was programmed for so long to see as being anything but.
What has been the best thing about being natural?
The best thing about being natural is that I have inspired other women to go natural and I have met a lot of wonderful people and had a lot of wonderful experiences as a result of going on this journey. One of my best natural moments happened when I was in Wal-Mart one day. I was wearing a puff and I passed a mother pushing a stroller with the cutest little girl in it. She had her hair in two little afro puffs and I remember that she starred up at me almost in a trance and then she reached up and touched one of her puffs, then pointed to my hair and smiled. I realized then that I was not only representing other natural women, but that I was possibly inspiring a whole other generation.
How do you take care of and maintain your hair?
This is such a difficult question because I am always trying new things. I discover a lot of neat things about my hair through trial and error. For the most part I can say that I no poo every other week (whether styled or unstyled) and I shampoo at least once a month to remove build up. Every now and then if I feel that my products are not being effective I will clarify with Apple cider vinegar.
The style I most love to wear is two strand twists (when I am not wearing braid or twist extensions). I don’t wear my hair out often because I like styles that I can keep in a while. At least once or twice a year I will flat iron my hair out so my mom can clip my ends, but I will also clip them myself in the interim if I feel the need. I usually do this by clipping the ends of each twist. I don’t really oil my scalp unless it feels dry, then I use a light oil (jojoba or grapeseed oil) with some eo added. I do believe in the power of moisture (steam or a light mist from a spray bottle). I used to use a lot of creams to twist my hair, now I try to keep it simple by using soy butter or shea butter, or one of my butters.
Sometimes I will try a hair recipe I find. When I first went natural I was trying everything under the sun, but I have since tried to simplify my life. I am still working at it, but don’t we all have a little product junky in us?
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?
What a tough question!!! I will make it easy for myself by just picking products and hoping that I would at least get my Denman brush or in the very least a wide tooth comb as a given. Keeping those things in mind: I would have to have some Suave clarifying conditioner (This is what I most often use to no poo. It get’s rid of build up but is still gentle on my hair. ) I would have my spray bottle with a mix of water, eo, olive oil, and maybe a little leave in conditioner. (This would help to keep my hair moisturized) And the last item……. Drum roll please……… One of my butters (soy, shealoe, shea, mango, olive) – Maybe I would be smart and have already mixed up a few of these in a container and have that with me.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going natural?
Here is my two cents worth of advice:
1. First and foremost educate yourself (go on the internet, read some books and magazine articles, talk to someone with natural hair – There is a lot more information out there now than there was even a few years ago when I went natural).
2. Make sure that you are realistic about your true hair texture. Find a baby picture or something and see what you are going to have to deal with. Some people tend to think that they are going to have the same experience that some cancer patients have after growing their hair back after chemotherapy. They think it will grow back in a different texture. I have yet to see someone who went natural who ended up with a different texture than the one they were born with. I could be wrong….
3. Embrace your natural self and always walk with your head up! Be confident even on those bad hair days (yes you will have them) when you aren’t even sure what is going on with your head. If you look like you did it on purpose, no one will question you.
4. Make the decision for yourself. Don’t do it because your homegirl did it or because there is a cute, afrocentric guy at the spoken word spot that you want to get next to, but he is only interested in natural women. Going natural can be a very emotional experience and if you didn’t make the decision for the right reasons you may not be ready to deal with all those emotions. If you have been programmed for a long time to see nappy as the opposite of beautiful you will have those love-hate moments with your hair.
5. Getting back to being realistic (#2) don’t try to do everything to your hair that everyone else does to theirs and get frustrated when it doesn’t look right. Natural hair is so diverse and your texture may not allow for the same styles that other people can do.
6. Be patient!! It will grow, you will get better at styling it, you will find the right products… it just takes some time and some experimenting! If you are truly committed to going natural you will soon learn why people call it a journey.
Any final words?
I am so grateful that I made this decision and so pleased with sites like MotownGirl.com and Nappturality. These sites allow women the opportunity to educate themselves and to find others like themselves to share their experiences with. I would like to give a shout to everyone who has visited any of my albums on fotki. I will continue to update as much as I can because I realize that it is important to share our experiences so we can learn from one another. I am always amazed at the talents of other women’s albums and touched by all the wonderful compliments I receive.
Visit Qochemist’s Journals below:
http://public.fotki.com/qochemist – http://public.fotki.com/qochemist1 http://public.fotki.com/qochemist2 – http://public.fotki.com/qochemist3 http://public.fotki.com/qochemist4 – http://public.fotki.com/qochemist5