Like any black girl, all my life, EVERYONE, black and white, felt entitled to tell me what they thought about my hair and what I should do with it. People seem to be fascinated with black natural afro hair ( especially when it is on a darker skin woman), for the better of for the worst, they would give good or bad comments, ask questions, give unsolicited opinions or advice and some would even be just plain creepy and have a fetish with it…
Growing up my hair was never called beautiful, nice or cute, therefore by association, I didn’t find myself beautiful, nice or cute. Being beautiful growing up according to society’s expectation of beauty, meant that or I had to be black light skin girl with ringlets curls or that I had to have straight hair like the white girls, my dolls, the media that I consumed or the cartoons that I watched.
Every time I had an important occasion and that being a date, wedding, job interview or just a night out of the girls, the world would ask me:
So what are you doing with your hair? You can’t go out like that…
Like if my hair, the way it was natural in all its glory, wasn’t acceptable.
So at the age of 15 years old, I decided ( okay, mainly my mum) to chemically straighten my hair with a relaxer. I hated having straight hair, found it lifeless, boring. I missed the volume of my kinky curly hair. I missed having the freedom of not spending hours in the hairdresser and I realised that I didn’t find myself more beautiful or different for having straight hair. I still felt the same insecurities.
I realised that cliché as it sounds, beauty and confidence really come from within.
After 3 years of wearing my hair straight, after a failed experience at the hairdressers, I decided to cut all of my hair, had only about 2cm of hair and rocked that look for about 2 years. it was a good time to start fresh. I was about to move countries that year, to come to the UK to study, so I felt that this would be a golden opportunity to create a new identity, to be unapologetically myself and to define my own beauty. Surely in another country, in a University town, full of young people of all backgrounds, they will be more forward thinking…
This didn’t happen…
The struggle continued…
Again and again Black and White people around me would make comments about my afro. I believe some of it was influenced by the media and the fact that I lived in the north of England in this tiny town called Lincoln, where there wasn’t a lot of black people or black people at the time wearing their hair natural, so nobody knew what to do or what to say.
They would ask me:
- Why do you wear your hair like that?
- What are you doing with your hair? you SHOULDN’T go like that ( for a job interview, date, work)
- Ohhh you WOULD look really nice if you straighten your hair
- Have you thought about a weave or wig? Maybe extensions or braids? you WOULD look nice
This completely affected my self-esteem. Those questions felt like little daggers, slashing away any idea that I could be beautiful. That to look nice I had to straighten, get a weave or braids. Like the hair that I had growing naturally just wasn’t enough.
There are many black women that use chemicals to relax their hair and use weaves, extensions and wigs as method, to protect and grow their hair, mainly because they like the look and it is just easier and quicker to deal with, that is their choice and I am not judging or bashing it down or saying that natural hair is the only choice. It is not. Is just a personal preference mainly because I just hate going to hairdressers ( I have not been to one since 2006) and I hate having my hair straight.
In my case, natural hair gave me confidence and just made me more aware of the everyday struggles and judgement that black women got through even by the kind of hairstyle that we choose to wear.
Me, being incredibly stubborn and with a natural rebellious nature attitude towards life, especially if someone tells me that I can’t do something I would take it instantly as a personal challenge, of I do what I want, How I want, with who I want. One day I just decided to literally Fuck it and just be myself. I realised, that if for people to find me beautiful I would have to change myself, I just would not be beautiful to them…so Fuck them. I might not be the most beautiful woman in the world but I certainly love myself just the way I am with all of my many flaws, This self-love and self-care took roughly a quarter of a century to appear but it is here to stay.
At some point, I just realised that I am never going to be or look like the lighter skin black girls with ringlet curly hair or I would be like the white girls with straight blowing in the wind hair.
When there is wind, my hair stands strong. My hair defies gravity. When there is humidity my hair bounces. If it rains I never worry that I will ruin my hairstyle because my hair loves the rain. I wouldn’t change it for anything.
In a rebellious move, to protect my own sanity, I just zoned out all of bulshit, I even had to cut some people (white and black) out of my life because of the comments that they were making and decided to define my own beauty. To wear my hair how I wanted just because it made me happy. This is the beginning of me becoming the woman that I am today and also to explore more this new world of being a black feminist.
I found a new self-confidence that I didn’t know where it was coming from, but something deep inside me, made me wear my hair natural almost as a feminist protest. Saying to the world, black and white, look if you don’t love me, leave me alone. Let me be. I am fine on my own.
I felt incredibly in love with my hair. Everything about it made me love more what was being reflected in the mirror. I loved how kinky curly it was. I loved the volume. I loved the unlimed hairstyles that I could wear. I loved how strong it looked. I loved that the more attention and love I paid to it, more beautiful it looked…like a flower. I loved experimenting with new products and looking for inspiration online and talk to other black women about their struggles to be accepted by the society. The natural online hair community in 2006 was still quite small, but I found like-minded sisters online in forums and blogs, helping each other out, giving tips, sharing DIY recipes, sharing their struggles with lack of acceptance from other people.
A burning question still remained, growing my afro out again, made me at the same time grow my confidence. So why almost everyone was still against it? Was I being delusional? Why society was so obsessed with straight hair and couldn’t see the beauty and magic of a black woman’s hair?
I am still aware that because I am still living in a racist systematic society, I would not go with a full afro to job interview simply because for many people an Afro is still looked upon as unprofessional, unkempt, wild, aggressive and political, but I will find a hair style to go to a job interview, without the need to straighten it. I call that a compromise in the never ending relationship with my hair and the world.
I look forward to the day where I can wear a full afro to a job interview, without questioning if the hairstyle will hinder my chances of getting the job if I would look to wild, political, aggressive, rude, unkempt, unprofessional.
Everywhere else I will still go with my full natural hair in all its force. If people don’t like it Fuck them ( I quote Bernie Mac for everything, by the way, haha)
I still have insecurities like any other women and sometimes gets hard if you see your old crush riding into sunset holiding hands with a white or lighter skin girl, I still question things but now I know that they just weren’t right for me and it is really their loss if they couldn’t see the beauty in me .
It gets hard:
- when I never see in the media, fashion or advertising women that look like me.
- When it is still difficult to find makeup for my complexion.
- When there is still a lack of representation of black women in society.
- when I type in the Google images the sentence Beautiful women, all I see is hundreds of pictures of white women, Asian women and a couple of light skin black girls and right at the bottom of the search just a couple of dark skin black women. I highly suggest for u do this experiment on google images because that is a reflection of how the wider society feels about beauty.
- When I still get stereotyped with everyday examples of racism without people even knowing me.
I realised that wearing natural hair for dark skinned black women, if they actually prefer their hair natural, takes courage, a rebel heart, a hype man mentality and a feminist attitude 24/7 because at the end of the day we are really not just facing our own insecurities but also fighting against the world and what society deems beautiful.
To prevent those future black girls that are now growing up, would have less beauty hang ups I believe that as a society we could
- Increase the representation of black dark skinned black women… in media in all media outlets
- Increase the representation of black dark skinned black women… in advertisement, makeup and fashion
- Increase the representation of black dark skinned black women… in the TV and Movie industry with positive portrayals, like the movie Hidden figures, not just the stereotypical black girl or the maid or the slave…
- Increase the representation of black dark skinned black women… in children toys and cartoons
- Increase the representation of black dark skinned black women…in the workplace because a diverse workplace would give little girls more confidence that they could go to any job that they set their minds to.
- Increase the representation of black dark skinned black women…
Why increase it?
Because we are beautiful.
Because the world needs to see how powerful, diverse and strong we are
Because we are goddesses dipped in dark chocolate
Because Fuck whoever says the opposite