The natural hair movement has gone from stride to stride over the past couple of years.
Black women are now reclaiming their hair and are proud of their curls. Though we’ve seen a change in how many black women style their hair, we don’t discuss how difficult that change can be.
Black women have been bombarded with images of white Europeans hairstyles for years. Unlearning those images and ideologies isn’t something that happens overnight. Though we as a community are doing the work to ensure black women learn more about their own hair, seeing a black women with natural hair in the mainstream media is still a rarity. We still have to continuously ensure ourselves that we know that black is beautiful.
Appearance, ease and hairstyles
For myself, I’ve been natural since I was 16. This means I have not chemically straightened my hair and have been doing protective hairstyles since then. Back then I don’t think this was an intentional thing, I just didn’t see the need of relaxing my hair. I’ve always loved having box braids and until this day, they’re my preferred hairstyles.
Though I’ve never hated my hair, I haven’t always been in love with it either. My mother did a really good job of ensuring that 1. my hair was healthy and 2. that I had my natural hair out quite often.
During my childhood I either had my hair in afro puffs or braids and I loved them. When I eventually did get my hair relaxed I cared more about the fact that my hair was easier to manage and less about my appearance.
When I got older I became more aware of the link between European hairstyles and beauty. I wasn’t allowed to get weave until I was able to pay for it but I remember feeling that all the pretty black girls had a weave. When I eventually did get a weave, I remember being obsessed with it. The feeling of the hair, the way it made me look and the way others saw me
It was whilst I was in university that I realised how dependent I was on protective hairstyles, I didn’t even know how to manage my own hair. I could just about tie it up nicely for a couple of days but I had no knowledge of how to do my own hair. As well as this, I noticed when it came to special events such as birthdays, parties and events, I’d always run to get my latest bundles. I didn’t want to rely so much on my wigs, I wanted to start loving the natural hair I was born with.
A constant battle
One Summer I decided to have my natural hair out for one whole month. (This feels like a year for black girls). Many of us usually only have our hair out when we’re transitioning from one hairstyle to another. I forced myself to learn how to do my hair and how to find beauty within myself with my natural curls.
During the first week or so, I realised that I didn’t like my hair as much as I thought I did. I would struggle to take pictures and to find myself attractive. This was mainly to do with the fact that I wasn’t used to having my hair out for long periods of time.
As time went on, I slowly started to appreciate and understand my hair. I think for many black girls, unfortunately our natural hair is so foreign to us, we don’t have the knowledge or experience to know what to do with it. Because of that lack of understanding and often patience, we can find ourselves becoming reliant on protective hairstyles.
Throughout that summer, I was able to find the beauty in my hair and my hair texture especially.
It wasn’t easy but that summer changed the way I now see my hair. I learnt how to style it, the condition of my hair and managed to learn how to love it.
In Indie Arie’s song I Am Not My Hair one of the lyrics is:
I am not my hair
I am not this skin
I am the soul that lives within’
I would differ from this. I believe I am my hair and my hair is me. There’s so much history with black hair and I believe there’s power in black women sporting natural hairstyles.
If you’re a black woman who is scared to take that next step in her natural hair journey, I say go for it.