My Hair Is My Brand and That's OK

Monday, January 19, 2015

A few years ago I realized that, whether I like it or not, my hair is part of my personal brand.  Even though I want to be known for my writing, teaching, and feminism my curly coif frequently steals the show. I could pout about this or I could roll with it. I decided to go with the latter and I often use conversations about hair as a way to break the ice when meeting someone new or when at a networking event. 

I'm a member of a Facebook group for naturalistas like myself and was recently put #OnBlast. This means I had to answer some questions about my natural hair journey. And when you put a writer on blast she's going to turn it into a blog post! So...

How long have you been natural and how did you come to the decision to go natural?

I started wearing my hair in its naturally curly state in 2002. Back then "going natural" wasn't a thing. I didn't even say that's what I was doing. I just said, "I'm wearing my hair curly now." While I did have a relaxer when I was younger, I got relaxers so infrequently that I never had an addiction to the so-called "creamy crack." My drug of choice was heat. I basically tried to burn my hair into submission using the hottest blow dryer and flat iron I could find. This process was ridiculous and, of course, very damaging to my hair. During the summer of 2002 I was living in Louisville, Kentucky for an internship and my roommate at the time, who was watching my tussle with my tresses, said to me, "Maybe your hair doesn't want to be straight. Why don't you just wear it curly?" 

Her words changed everything. As crazy as it might sound, in the 21 years I had been alive at that time NO ONE had ever said to me that it would be OK for my hair to not be straight. Growing up I had always been made to believe that pretty hair was straight hair. But in that moment I decided to embrace my curls. What was amazing is that after embracing my natural hair I began to embrace my authentic personality as well. Accepting your hair is a great first step toward accepting yourself. 

Did you big chop or transition? 

I transitioned even though, as I mentioned, this is not terminology that I used. I just stopped getting a relaxer and stopped straightening my hair. And then I went to a local drug store and just started experimenting with hair care products. At one time I even used mousse! 

What advice do you wish you had but didn't at the start of your journey?

Any advice would have been helpful! There were no natural hair blogs or YouTube channels to help me back then, Fortunately, my cousin Tasha went natural at the same time so she was my support system and my partner in hair product experiments!

What's your favorite product, style, regimen, and/or tip? 

People who know me well know that I get bored very easily. I think this character trait has been transferred to my hair because after using a product for a long time one day it will just stop working on my hair. So I change products every year or so. That said, I am a walking, living, breathing advertisement for Shea Moisture. Even when my hair or I get bored with a product I just switch to another Shea Moisture product. Previously, I was all about their Coconut & Hibiscus line. I used the shampoo, conditioner, Curl & Style Milk, and Curl Enhancing Smoothie. Recently I've replaced Curl Enhancing Smoothie with the Superfruit Complex Hair Masque (which is supposed to be a deep conditioner, but I use it as a leave-in). I really like how my hair shines when I use that. And I've recently started using the Shea Moisture Manuka Honey & Mafura Oil Intensive Hydration Conditioner. It's great for dry hair and it smells so good I want to marry it!

The main tip that I would give to naturalistas is "Do you boo!" Seriously. Find the products, regimen, and styles that work best for you and don't worry about what everyone else is doing. I love Shea Moisture, but you may find that those products don't work for your hair at all. Yes, it's fun to get tips from friends and if their suggestions work for you -- great! If not, that's OK too. Going natural is about being authentic.  

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