Where are you from and how is the natural scene there?
I’m from London, England. Most women that I come across have relaxed hair or use weaves. I rarely notice natural women. When I do, they usually have a looser hair texture than my own.
Did you transition to natural hair? If so, what were your experiences?
I transitioned for six months, from August 2006 to February 2007. I tried to go natural at age 15 however, I was clueless about natural hair. While growing up, I mostly kept my hair in braids because my relaxed hair was completely broken off. One day, I had to take an old set of braids out, but I had no one to put another set. Thus, I was faced with either going to high school with a dry and unkempt looking teeny-weeny afro, or getting a relaxer done by my cousin, who didn’t have much experience. I chose the relaxer route, but I regretted it soon after. Although I didn’t transition again until three years later, it was always in the back of my mind. At age 18 in 2006, I finally decided that I would go natural once and for all. This time, I found MotownGirl and read her website (Motowngirl.com) whenever I felt overwhelmed and I realized that there were so many styles I could try. I also found Nappturality and the Fotki natural hair community a couple of months later.
I’ve been natural for just over two years now and I can’t see myself going back to relaxed hair. The day I big chopped, I was ecstatic. I loved my “new” hair – I loved the coils, and the thickness my limp relaxed strands never had. However, I did go through phases of insecurity for a while, mainly due to the length. I realized that I had to just be patient; in the meantime, I experimented with different styles and wore braids.
Did you have any support?
The person who supported me the most in the world is my older brother! He was supportive of my decision to transition at age 15. He listened patiently to me, as I talked about it right up until I transitioned at age 18. I must have been annoying, but he never made me feel that way. Aside from my brother, I didn’t really have much support. My friends didn’t understand why I’d want to go natural. I think it’s because women with kinky natural hair are not that commonly seen outside of television. My mother didn’t have any objections about me going natural, but she didn’t really understand why I wanted to stop relaxing my hair. She’s doesn’t really care that much for my natural hair, especially if it’s done in more low-manipulated styles — like shrunken afros. I think some of the best support that I’ve had besides my brother, has been from online hair sites and from my album visitors.
In your opinion, what has been one of the best things about having natural hair?
I’m definitely more hair obsessed! Prior to going natural, I didn’t care for my hair properly. I thought putting some Pink Oil in my hair was really going that extra mile! I didn’t know what conditioner was, let alone a protein treatment. I would flat-iron with no protectant and wash infrequently. Yet I would wonder how my hair could break off from shoulder length to ear length in a matter of months. Now I wonder how in the world it even got to shoulder length in the first place. Now that I’m natural, I try to take good care of my hair. I actually love treating it well and the benefits of that. When I first big chopped, I had very strong views about the widespread use of relaxers of black communities world-wide and would vocalize them very often. Of course, my relaxed friends loved that. Not!
Eventually, I realized that there was such a thing as a “gray area” in the hair debate and that healthy hair was beautiful regardless of whether it was relaxed or natural. I also think it makes others feel I’m more approachable when it comes to hair.
Has there been any differences in your life from going natural?
When my natural hair is stretched out and big, it can be an ice-breaker in social situations! Ultimately though, the best thing about being natural is that I have healthy and versatile hair. My hair is the healthiest it’s ever been in my life.
How do you maintain your hair?
I try to keep it simple. I probably wash 1-2 times a week and condition my hair afterwards. I deep conditioned once, sometimes twice a week and I use a light protein every 2 weeks. I apply castor oil after washing/wetting my hair. My hair is thick and about medium-length at arm-pit length, so I don’t rush the washing and conditioning process. Otherwise, it’s tangles galore. I find detangling in manageable sections makes things easier for me.
To maintain my hair, I conditioner wash and leave a little of the conditioner in my hair, as I find it leaves my hair softer. I usually wear a puff on shrunken hair or a twistout. Occasionally, I blow my hair out. To go to bed, I usually put my hair into some 4-5 twists or braids and tuck the ends under. I sleep with a satin cap or silk scarf. I was a little trim crazy, especially when I first went natural. I would make the mistake of presuming dry ends needed to be trimmed but they don’t. Only until recently, I realized that it was pointless to continually cut my ends, if I never learned to treat them well. I guess being natural is a continual learning-process for me.
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?
First thing would have to be water, secondly, castor oil — my hair can’t survive without this! and Sulfar 8 Shampoo — nothing leaves my hair as soft as this shampoo. This has been of one of the only shampoos that leaves my scalp really clean.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of going natural?
Don’t fear it – natural hair is beautiful. It’s really not as scary, as it may seem at first. Take your time and don’t feel rushed to do the “big chop” or even consider transitioning if you’re not ready. I think the key to becoming and staying natural, is being able to make the mental transition. That part of it may take a while – so don’t force the process. Seek out support – join online communities and read up on natural hair. Even if those around you don’t see why you’d want to go natural, there are thousands out there that are willing to help you through your journey. Always keep it simple – don’t jump on every bandwagon.I wouldn’t recommend trying out every product someone else is sampling on their hair.
Establish the basics then test out or add in any extras that you may feel will help your hair. Prioritise health over length – this is just something I’m coming to terms with myself. I obsessed about getting past shoulder length for a long time. It sometimes meant I focused on that more than health and just having fun with my natural hair. I think it’s ok to have goals but don’t stress about it too much or compare your growth to others.
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