See this article featured in The COCO Magazine here: Ms. Betty Lou’s Natural Hair Journey
As a natural gal I often get tons of questions and comments about my natural tresses. Some I don’t mind answering/hearing, such as: “What do you use in your hair to maintain it?” “What is a good leave in conditioner?” “What are you mixed with?” Others I find a tad bit annoying! For example: “How do you make your hair curl like that?” “It doesn’t seem curly all the time so how do you get it to curl?” It’s almost as if some people believe I have a secret hair serum that I created in an underground laboratory which I am hiding from the rest of the world. Oh, and I was actually checked for tracks once by a total stranger at a Christmas party! Yes! She did a full fledge stick her fingers into my scalp and rub! Her attempt at being discrete was saying, “Oh my, your hair is so beautiful!” while she proceeded to violate my scalp. I also have had dozens of women I know tell me that I inspired them to go natural.
Now, while I love being an inspiration for women to go the natural route, it’s important to choose the route for the right reasons! Back when the “afro” was “cool” women were choosing to go natural to express their pride in being black and to follow style. Let me start by telling you the reasons that I went natural.
1. I have always loved curly hair. As a teen I often wished my hair would curl like my Puerto Rican girl friend, but due to the creamy crack, it was bone straight.
2. I realized I had no idea why I chose to perm my hair in the first place; in fact I used to have curls. The only reason I could come up with was that I had done so to conform to European standards of beauty. White girls have long straight silky hair and this is perceived as beautiful. Black girls relax their hair to make it silky like the white girls, and long hair seems to be glorified in black communities. So I too relaxed my hair. I suppose it was also for style, but I am not European.
3. Once I went two months without a relaxer. When I was playing in my new growth one day, I looked in the mirror and realized that I was hiding something behind the relaxer. I didn’t know exactly what it was, but I wanted to find out! I soon realized that I could not be/know myself if I was altering my appearance through chemically changing the texture of my hair. When I looked in the mirror I no longer saw Betty. I saw someone in disguise. I wasn’t sure who that person was. It was then I decided that I wanted to be freed! That was the day I decided I wanted to go natural and find out whom the heck I was under there!
The transition phase! So for another month or so after my discovery, I refrained from relaxing my hair. I often did straw curls to hide my new growth. (Straw curls –Wet hair and piece by piece apply aloe vera non alcohol gel by IC, wrap each pieces around straws in a spiral fashion, pin each straw to your head with bobbing pins, sit under dryer until completely dry, and then pull out straws once dry. You can pull apart the spirals to create smaller curls).
Straw curls gave me the spiral curl effect, and it was a great way to hide the new growth! Still, it was tedious, didn’t look as great once slept on, and it was not my natural hair. Soon idleness possessed me to take up a pair of scissors and experiment! I took a chunk of hair out my ponytail at the back of my head. I decided I would just cut off the relaxer on that one piece to see what my hair would be like when I was relaxer free. While I had never considered the “big chop” one piece turned into another piece turned into another piece, and before I knew it I had cut off all the relaxer!! I will never forget the moment! I looked at all the hair on the floor, then looked in the mirror at myself, short fro full of curls. It was like seeing myself for the very first time. I fell in love instantly and thought, “Yes, this is who I am. This is how God made me. Who the hell am I to insult God’s work by altering the beautiful head of hair he gave me!”
Don’t misunderstand my personal enthusiasm about natural hair. I am not saying that women necessarily choose to relax their hair because they are unhappy with their appearance etc. I recognize that some women do it for style, some do it for manageability, and that is totally Okay. It’s your prerogative! Sometimes my curls drive me crazy and I want to chop them off and be done with them. Who am I to judge! Sadly, nonetheless, some women relax because they consider their hair to be “bad hair.” I’ve often had women say “Yea you can go natural because you got that good hair.” How dare we call any hair texture that God created bad!! Shame on us! Now a days, when I see how much healthier my hair is in its natural state, and I see young girls with chemically treated hair that is breaking out left and right and looking so unhealthy I get so vexed! I just want to say to their parents “STOP RELAXING THEIR HAIR! You and ruining their beautiful hair!” To avoid unknown but what I can only assume would be bad repercussions, I keep my mouth shut and just remind myself that if I have little girls I will never put chemicals to their heads.
Just how women relax their hair for different reasons, before you go natural know WHY you are going natural, otherwise you may end up very disappointed and relapse to the “creamy crack!” First off, expect the unexpected! A lot of women going natural have no idea what their natural hair texture will be like! You have to be ready and willing to embrace and love yourself/your hair not matter what the texture is. Women of color and of the African Diasporas are so incredibly unique. We have vast array of shapes, skin colors, eye colors, features, and hair texture! We are so diversely beautiful!! Embrace this!! Second, know that it’s not going to be so easy to manage your hair right away. You have to get to know it first. Kind of like the way you get to know someone you just begin dating. Figure out what it likes what it doesn’t like, what feels good, what doesn’t. Try different products and hairstyles! Realize that understanding your hair texture is a process that can sometimes be frustrating, almost as frustrating as understanding a man! “Why can’t I find the perfect leave in conditioner!!” is my biggest complaint and has been since I went natural! Nonetheless, I haven’t given up my search! Funny, “Why can’t I find the perfect man!” was also one of my biggest complaints! Third, don’t give a damn about what anyone thinks about you going natural, whether you transition or you do the big chop. Love me and accept me for who I am or find your way out the door! “Oh my gosh! You cut you hair!!! WHY! Are you crazy!” “Wow you’re so brave!” There are just some of the annoying comments you can expect! Yes I cut my hair it is just hair, long hair doesn’t make me any wiser or more beautiful, or better! If loving myself no matter what you hair length is crazy, then heck, I’m crazy! I am brave to be who I am and not care what you think about it! It does take bravery to love oneself unconditionally!
In conclusion, go natural because YOU want to! Not because everyone else is doing it. Go natural for reasons you will be satisfied with down the road. Accept that your hair texture is unique and may not be the perfect spiral curls you imagine. Don’t give a darn what anyone thinks of your decision or new do! Be proud of who you are. To answer some of the questions from my first paragraph: I don’t “make” my hair curl. It is naturally curly. To HOLD the curls I sometimes use Kinky Curly and other times I use IC non-alcohol aloe vera gel as well. I use the Macadamia lines leave in conditioner (just a tiny drop spread through hair) prior to putting in the gel. My hair does not look curly all the time because after a few days of not washing and combing it out the curls get frizzy and tangled. I am Afro Caribbean American (my parents are both from Jamaica). Jamaica’s motto is “out of many one people.” Yes like most black people in the US and Caribbean I am mixed.
Hope you enjoyed hearing about my journey to natural! All the best to those choosing this route! I love it and I have no regrets!!