I have had my hair “natural” for as long as I can remember. For many black women who are beginning their natural hair journey today, the transition is smoother than it was ten years ago. This is mainly because societies seem more and more accepting of this look. My natural hair journey had many bumps, but it also had happy moments.
First stop: the Big Chop
I started my natural hair journey by shaving my “relaxed” hair, going almost bold in my second year of university. This was a huge change. In fact, many people did not recognise me at first- I actually liked it as it made blanking people on campus easier (lol). But the beauty of being “unorthodox” at a “liberal” university, was how accepting and supportive my fellow students were of my difference. So, despite the fact that it took a bit of time for some friends to recognise the new me, everything went smooth.
From short natural hair to free formed locks
My second natural hair stage was the transition to locks. I started growing them while I was on a work placement in Burkina Faso (West Africa). I let it grow organically (free formed), and so for the first few months, I looked like an eccentric (lol). Luckily for me, I was in a country where I did not know many people. So, those who wanted to be friends with me had to accept my eccentric look. Like my big chop, my locks was another unannounced huge hair change. But once again, most of my friends thought it was “cool” when I returned to the UK after several months abroad.
Family pressure, misunderstanding natural hair styles
Though I had support from my friends throughout my “unconventional” hair changes, members of my family were either “concerned” by this or upright against it. My dad, for instance, worried that having locks would hinder my career prospects and that society would have preconceived views of me because of it. These concerns echoed the reality many black women already faced in our society regardless of how they wore their hair. So, I stood my ground, stayed true to myself and kept rocking my locks. That, however, did not last long. Few days before my graduation, I gave in to pressure and removed my locks. To this date, that remains one of the few decisions I made as an adult that I still regret.
Travelling to the motherland with natural hair
After I cut my locks, I went back to square one. Fortunately, my natural hair grew quite fast. But, to some people in my family, my hair was still not good enough, it was too unconventional, too messy. When I travelled to Congo (Central Africa), many people were very surprised by my hair. Some thought I left it natural because of a religious belief (Branhamism), others just thought that I was a weirdo. If I had to choose between the two, I’d go for the latter because it implied that I was outside society norms.
There were nevertheless some family members who did not see my natural hair as a problem, and I loved them for being supportive when others were very critical of my choice. In fact, I had a family member in Congo tell me how I looked better with a wig than with my “weird” hair… the audacity! Out of respect, and because I knew that they would never see my side, I just brushed it away. After all, I was only there for a few weeks holiday, so it was better to keep the peace than create a hostile environment.
Stay true to yourself no matter what
After the different dramas I’ve had along my natural hair journey, I have never again let any sort of pressure, be it from society, family or friends, influence what I choose to do with my hair or my life. My hair is still natural, and I still love it. Today, many of these people who were so against the natural hair look seem to be accepting of it.
I guess social media has helped give the natural hair look a lot of positive exposure, and so many women and girls are happy to embrace it. This brings a smile to my face; they would not have to put up with half the pressure some women dealt with in the past. I have actually had people who would have looked down on me because of my “weird” hair, now tell me that they like my natural look. What has changed? Not my hair, that’s certain. This goes to show how people are easily swayed, following whatever trend society sets for them.
My advice to everyone, especially to those facing all sorts of society pressure, is this: be different, be unique, and do you. As long as you are at peace with yourself and not harming others, you will always be a winner. Do not let society or people shape your life because you will never please everybody and it is your own life! So know your values, and when the storm of pressure comes, stand your ground like a house built on a super solid foundation.