My Hair Story! (Old blog post)
So fun fact about me- I use to blog back in the day during 2014. I stopped for reasons beyond me. Maybe I got bored, I don't know lol But, I thought it would be fun (and save me a lot of time) if I repost my first ever blog post about my hair journey before I went natural. Why? Well, because the past didn't change and why not haha hope you enjoy this throwback post and learn some things about me ;)
Published 5/13/2014. See the original post here.
I have been natural for over a year and a half as of current. My hair journey is a long and tedious one but it has been worthwhile. I've learned many things along the way.
To start, I got my first relaxer at the tender age of 3. Now before you go and point the finger at my poor ol' mom, in her defense she didn't know any better. Being a Nigerian-American, ironically most women did not know how to take care of natural hair. I say it's ironic because there is a common myth that all or at least most African women wear their hair in its natural state. I've also heard many people elude to "Mama Africa" and envision her with natural hair. How very wrong they were. It was very commonplace growing up to see most of my Nigerian girl friends with relaxed hair and if it wasn't relaxed, many of them had their hair kept very short.
During my childhood, I would have my hair relaxed by my mother about every six weeks. I know, I know. It's not good to relax one's hair that frequently but my mother and I were clueless about how I was supposed to manage my new growth longer than that. The moment I couldn't make a clean pass from the root to the tip of my hair with ease, I knew it was time to see that Just For Me box. While my hair was more "manageable" I couldn't help but get frustrated why my hair never looked like the girls on the box. I was doing everything right, wasn't I? Wrong! This is how a relaxer day would be for me...
- Apply relaxer from roots to tip (Don't forget the edges! Need to get those baby hairs laiiiiid!)
- When it starts to burn, it's time to rinse.
- Shampoo vigorously with neutralizing shampoo until there is no more pink (Just For Me relaxer changed colors to indicate that there was still relaxer in the hair)
- Blow-dry on high heat until hair is completely dry.
- Apply the leave-in that came with the relaxer.
- Drench hair with Pink Oil every day.
- Sleep on a cotton pillow every night.
...Yeah... Pretty bad, huh? It's easy to see why I got so frustrated with my hair never being bone straight (A relaxer is supposed to straighten your hair isn't it??). I drowned my hair with every hair care bottle under the sink but nothing seemed to do the trick (I wasn't even concerned with length because of the common myth that Black people's hair doesn't grow). I got so fed up with my hair that one day during the third grade I got the smart idea to apply globs of Blue Magic grease to my hair in order to "tame" it and hopefully straighten it. Instead of the grease absorbing into my hair and leaving me with silky smooth hair, I awoke to super greasy hair, a tardy pass, and a heavy heart.
2 years old in Nigeria
Fast forward to middle school. A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of a flat iron. Almost immediately a light bulb flickered in my mind. Oh, so that's the secret to silky, straight hair! That same day I persuaded my mother to buy me a flat iron from the beauty supply store. Unfortunately, my mother got the cheapest ceramic one they had which came with changeable plates to crimp one's hair. The price wasn't even the problem... It had two settings- on and off. Lawd. Since I knew absolutely nothing about hair, let alone Black hair, I began to flat iron my hair (with no heat protectant!) on God knows what temperature every week. Even though my hair was badly damaged, never passed my shoulders, thin, stiff, rough, and dry, you couldn't tell me nothin'! I finally had straight hair.
By freshman year of high school, my hair was in the worst shape of its life and who could blame it? It took quite a beating! A Haitian friend of mine noticed how damaged my hair was and invited me to come to relax my hair with her (One thing I learned in high school is that Haitians and Dominicans are the best when it comes to straightening Black hair!). I agreed and tagged along with her. When we got there, I was confused about all the steps that were going on. Why do I have to leave this mixture on my head for such a long time? What is this contraption? Oh, a hooded dryer... The relaxer doesn't burn yet; why are we rinsing it? I thought rollers were just for White people? You're not going to use a flat iron? Oh, that's strange... Although I was very skeptical about the whole process, the results were amazing! For someone whose hair was badly damaged, she did a pretty good job of bringing my hair back to life. At that moment, I knew that I could not properly take care of my hair and I had to hand the responsibility to someone else. I quickly found another Haitian woman who had very affordable rates and had experience with relaxed hair. Although it was a long drive to get there and I had to go every two weeks to get a wash, there was no way I could depend on myself to take care of my hair.
This went on for about two years. Towards the end of my relaxer upkeep, appointments became less and less frequent. My mother began complaining of the long drive over there and the amount of money she was spending on my hair. Although I felt guilty, I couldn't revert to relying on myself to take care of my hair anymore. By this time, my last relaxer was sometime in October 2010. I gave up my relaxer for a new addiction- weave. Oh, boy, did I love weave! During the duration of my junior year in high school, no one ever saw my hair again. I had a new sew-in every month! Long, short, curly, straight, the possibilities were endless. At this point in my life, I was paying absolutely no attention to my real hair underneath. I mean, who cared right? With beautiful hair that moved, was silky, easier to manage, and lasted me a month, why should I attempt to take care of my thin, not as attractive hair? I had found beauty in weave and my hazel colored contacts. Besides family members, no one caught me in public with my own hair or own eyes. I finally saw myself as pretty.
First successful weave installation.
Towards the last month of junior year, I wanted to try a short cut for my 17th birthday. My hairdresser installed a 27 piece unit with bonding glue and I was good to go. It was nice... until it was time to remove it. That was the first time I ever had a bond in weave done and removing the glue was horrendous! Also, keep in mind that I was 7 months post relaxer so the tangling and knots were a nightmare! I got fed up with fighting and tearing through my hair that I decided to just jump in the shower and shampoo my incompletely detangled hair. Lawd! My hair was starting to mesh! Although I was able to work through the majority of my hair, I had one small dred on the top of my head. I didn't want to rip through my hair anymore so I just let it be. By the end of summer, that small dred had quadrupled in size. I masked the growing loc with ponytails all summer but I knew I was going to have to be a big girl and confront the problem eventually.
27 piece weave
By the beginning of senior year, I needed a change. I returned back to weaves temporarily (if you were wondering what happened to my loc, my hairdresser snipped it off) before I hit another curve ball- my weaves were becoming too expensive. My mother spent on average $100 a month for me to get my hair done and multiply that by 12 and you have $1,200 a year! The numbers were staggering and I knew I had to find another way to manage my hair. But what?
Going into church one Sunday, I noticed that one of the small girls had her hair done and it looked gorgeous (ironically her name is Gorgeous)! The best way I could describe it was that it looked like short, loose curls (Similar to a 3b texture). I asked her mother how that look was achieved and she told me it was a Jheri Curl. I knew then what I wanted to do with my hair next. The following week, I was back in the salon.
The infamous Jheri Curl. Smh.
The process to get my Jheri Curl done was not so bad. Although it smelled terrible, it didn't burn like a relaxer. Once the process was done, I was turned to the mirror to see the finished results. I hated it! I looked like a wet dog plus my hair reeked! Going back to school that Monday was one of the most humiliating experiences in my life. But what could I do about it? At this point I had two options- either to mope and cry or suck it up and attempt to rock it. Guess which option I picked?
By the middle of senior year, I reached another dilemma (I have a lot of those apparently)- what in the world was I going to do with my hair once I got to college?? At this point, I did not want to do anything permanent to my hair that required maintenance and upkeep until I got a car and a steady job. In the meantime, I kept my hair hidden with self-made weaves and wigs I created from the help of YouTube tutorials.
By the time I got to college, I was overwhelmed by the natural hair community on campus! I mean, whoever thought natural hair was even an option? The only people I saw with natural hair growing up were people of mixed race, lesbians, or people who were poor (btw these are stereotypes that many naturals face. Will do a post about it later.).
Along the road, I met another Nigerian girl who had been natural for almost three years and her hair was stunning!! Seeing her ginormous afro every day left me in awe and questioning how we could be the same nationality and her hair look like that and mine looked like... well you know. With some words of advice, encouragement from friends, and a lot of researching, I was ready to big chop! Unfortunately, since my hair was so weakened from the Jheri Curl most of the chemically altered hair fell out over the course of the year and I only had two follicles of hair (ha!) to cut. As of November 23, 2012 (the day after Thanksgiving) I have officially been natural and haven't looked back since.
As I mentioned in the beginning, my road to natural has been a long one with ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies. Although I'm grateful for where I am, there is still more to learn when it comes to my hair. I'll be honest and admit that I was chasing a fantasy my whole life; I was appealing to a European standard of beauty without even realizing it. I envied people with "good" hair and wondered why God cursed me with nappy hair. I never envisioned myself fully embracing every kink, curl, and coil on my head and I thank Him. Even though I embraced my hair in a very short amount of time, there are still some kinks that need to be worked out.