So…I did it! I cut off my postpartum hair, and I LOVE it!
Before (my hi-lo, damaged afro)
After (my new short curly cut!), courtesy of Keina Morgan, Urban Curls Boutique
I was a little bit nervous because I have never gotten my hair cut (like, cut into a style) before!
(There was that one time in undergrad when I went to get my hair “laid” at a popular hair salon in Atlanta’s West End, and they literallyslayed my hair…because when I went to wash out the flat-ironed press, my hair refused to curl back- it was burnt! I had to cut off several inches off then, and I was DEVASTATED!)
I was tired of how it looked, tired of trying to cover it up, and tired of trying to take care of it. My son has a lot of energy and demands a lot of attention, which means I ain’t got no time to worry about my hair!
So, I told Keina to cut it off! Short enough, so that I could do minimal work to keep it looking good…and long enough, so that my husband wouldn’t have a heart attack, lol! And here’s what she came up with!
Voilà! New Decade, New Hair, New Me!
(Shout-out to my sister and natural hair stylist, Sarah-Naomi, for her recommendations on choosing the right style for me!)
Have you ever considered getting a short curly cut? What, if anything, is stopping you? Share below!
2019 was definitely one for the books! Our beautiful baby boy, Ethan, was born at the end of March, bringing us much joy…in addition to many sleepless nights and poopy diapers! Motherhood has been quite the transition for me; I would be lying if I said it was easy. Motherhood has changed me. It has changed the way I see the world, and it has certainly changed the way I see myself.
As for my hair, I went from a glorious prenatal ‘fro to postpartum bald patches along my hairline! My baby literally snatched my edges, y’all, lol! (And don’t be fooled by the photo below—with my bald patches growing in, my afro is two-tiered, so I have to cover up the short parts with a headband…sigh…)
Our 2019 Holiday Photo, featuring our bundle of joy, our ugly Christmas sweaters…and my two-tiered afro
Whether or not I decide to do a “big chop”, I do expect some big changes to happen in 2020. Why? Because it’s 2020. You know, like 20/20 vision—I think that’s significant. (The year hasn’t begun yet and I’m already seeing some major aspects of my life shift into alignment; I can’t help but be excited.) Though they say 20/20 vision is not perfect, it’s still pretty precise, and that’s what I’m going for: I want to execute my plans with precision to reach a particular result. And I am praying the same for all of you! So here’s to clear vision and precision in 2020!
I recently came across this video on Facebook from the “Back to Our Roots” episode of the talk show, Sister Circle.
***Please note: I do not endorse AfricanAncestry.com nor the validity of their DNA testing.***
After watching this clip, I really felt tempted to do the DNA test. I (like I’m sure many other members of the African Diaspora) would love to know exactly where my ancestors came from. However, I do have certain reservations about giving companies access to my genetic information, who may then, in turn, be selling that information to third parties; so I don’t know if I’ll ever do it.
Although I may not know the precise ethnic group I came from, my hair and my melanin-filled skin serve as constant and powerful reminders of my African ancestry. As stated by Dr. Gina Paige of AfricanAncestry.com in the clip: When we [displaced Africans] got [to the New World], we lost our names, our languages, everything. We are the original victims of identity theft, but we didn’t lose our DNA. Her statement really resonated with me: though the enslavers tried to strip us of our African culture and all of those practices that made us “human”, they could not erase our DNA. But for those particular elements which they could not destroy—our skin, our features, and our hair—they simply demeaned.
Try as they might, however, Africa is (and always has been) with us. Africa is in our hearts and in our souls, and more importantly, she’s inscribed in our genetic code. And the global spread of the Natural Hair Movement is a clear reflection of this: while we, members of the African Diaspora, may have various ethnocultural and linguistic differences, our unique hair texture is a distinct genetic marker, connecting us together and also linking us back to the Motherland. As noted by Byrd & Tharps in Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, ever since the Transatlantic Slave Trade, hair, rather than skin colour, has been used as the main identifier of “Blackness”, and this notion is evidenced by the way Black people around the globe can relate to each other’s experiences with their hair (and the politics of hair), no matter our geographic coordinates.
So, until I take the DNA test, I may never know exactly who my “people” are, but what I do know is that I belong to a resilient community of people of African descent, who not only share a common history of enslavement, resistance, perseverance, but also similar lived experiences, foods, music, artistic and cultural expressions, and of course, hair. And I think that’s good enough for me…for now, at least…
Would you trace your ancestry through DNA testing? Why or why not?
If you have not seen Childish Gambino’s thought-provoking video for his new single, “This Is America”, yet, please watch it:
***Warning: Violence and explicit language; viewer discretion is advised***
I myself have watched the video several times, and every time I watch it, I notice something else, from the minstrel movements to the fun-loving children dancing in the foreground while devastation unfolds in the background… With all of the analysis articles and commentaries that have surfaced since the video’s debut, it’s clear that every element of this masterpiece was intentional.And I don’t think that hairstyle choices were an exception.
In the video, Gambino dons a freeform Afro and a grown-out beard. Whether we like it or not, Black hair, in and of itself, tends to make a statement, and the Afro, in particular, makes a political one. As we know, Black/African hair is distinctive in comparison to other hair types; as such, it has been characterized as the most important feature to indicate one’s “Blackness”, even more so than skin complexion (Byrd & Tharps 17-18). As for the Afro, a result of the Black Power Movement in the 1960s and 1970s, the hairstyle is often conflated (and incorrectly so) with Black nationalist sentiments. Remember in 2008, when the Obamas were caricatured on the cover of the New Yorker? The Former U.S. President and FLOTUS were “supposed to be” depicted as “terrorists”; note that Mrs. Obama was depicted wearing an Afro to top off her paramilitary gear.
Ever since the Transatlantic Slave Trade, wearing African hair in its natural state has been an affront to Western society, and, as a result, Black hair has been sought to be policed for centuries. For instance, one of the first things that slave masters would do to the enslaved African people was to cut off their hair, which stripped them of their not only their cultural identity but also their dignity (Byrd & Tharps 10).Hair was (and still is) a big deal in African cultures: hairstyles provided important information about their wearers, such as their respective clans, social status, and religion. As such, cutting off the enslaved people’s hair robbed them of their humanity (Byrd & Tharps 11). To this day, in many ways, Black hair continues to be treated with disregard and disdain and is a cause for discrimination.
That’s why I think it’s no coincidence that Childish Gambino’s hair is in a freeform Afro: a style that is unapologetically and unmistakably “Black”.Yes, I do realize that Donald Glover/Childish Gambino tends to wear his hair on the longer side in his everyday life—whether in a TWA, a sculpted ‘fro, freeform locs, or a hard part ‘fro—but in the video, his hair clearly stood in contrast to the styling choices of the other Black cast members, whose hairdos ranged from bald to high-top fades, curly weaves to straight-backs, which could be viewed as options that are more in conformity with a European aesthetic.
Runaway Slave Ad (Public Domain)
Furthermore, in a society where men are socialized to err on the side of keeping their hair short and being clean shaven, when men—and Black men especially—grow their hair out, it has often served as a form of resistance or protest, and I don’t think that Childish Gambino missed that point. Keep in mind this is not a new concept.According to Tharps and Byrd in Black Hair in America, runaway slaves did the same thing:
“Even though unkempt hair went against the African aesthetic, some historians suggest that … unconventional styles [worn by runaway slaves] were a way for Black people to assert their individuality and humanity in the repressive slave culture. ‘Hair that was worn long and bushy,’ argue Shane and Graham White, authors of Stylin’: African American Expressive Culture from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit, ‘emphasized and even flaunted its distinctive texture [and] may have been an affirmation of difference and even of defiance, an attempt to revalorize a biological characteristic that White racism had sought to devalue’ (Byrd & Tharps 15).
And the same goes for Gambino’s beard.Though beards and beard care have become popular in men’s fashion lately, notice that Gambino’s facial hair is not manicured, but rather scruffy; it does not appear that he’s looking to make a “fashion” statement.As noted by Victoria Sherrow in The Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History, “[w]hen beards are in style, they may be regarded as a sign of manliness, health, and honor. In places where shaving is the norm, however, a beard might be a sign that something is amiss.Perhaps the man is in mourning, lacks time to spend on his appearance, or does not care about social conventions? He might even be signaling disregard for convention and conformity” (Sherrow 56). Perhaps Gambino was trying to send all of those messages at the same time.
Moreover, long facial hair for Black men, in particular, has been disapproved of, dating back to the Civil War era:
“It was considered best for Blacks, especially men, to keep a low profile.Anything that a Black person had or did in excess was subject to the White majority’s intense scrutiny. This was even true with regard to hair.In post-Civil War society, it was the fashion for White men to wear longer hair and beards, but when Black men allowed their hair to grow and stopped shaving off their facial hair (think Frederick Douglass), they were considered uppity and wild” (Byrd & Tharps 21-22).
Frederick Douglass, Abolitionist, Orator, Writer (Public Domain)
Taking all of this into consideration, I personally don’t think neither Gambino’s hairstyle choice nor his scruffy beard was an accident—I think he’s making an intentional statement: to be a Black man in America is an offencein and of itself, but it’s not one for which he is begging pardon.
Ayana D. Byrd & Lori L. Tharps, Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.
Victoria Sherrow, The Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History, Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006.
What are your thoughts on the symbolism in This Is America? Too deep or not deep enough?
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I’m sure at some point you’ve seen the crown of another naturalista and uttered to yourself “#HairGoals”. Whether it be for the length, health, shine, bounce, elasticity, manageability, or whatever it is, I’m sure it must have happened at least once, right? We all get a little bit of Hair Envy every now and then: for some reason, we tend to want what we don’t have. While I strongly believe it’s important to be content with your own hair, there is nothing wrong with trying techniques that can enhance what you’re already working with!
Part of how people become our “Hair Goals” is by finding and sticking with the techniques and ingredients that work for them. Plain and simple. And there’s a group of women located in the Huangluo Yao Village in China who are doing just that! They have found exactly what works for their hair, and in doing so have achieved body-length hair: hair that is longer than life! To learn more about the Red Yao Women, click here.
Red Yao Women: Front Ponytail
Red Yao Women: Styled
Red Yao Women: Styling
The secret to the Red Yao Women’s super-long hair is found within grains of rice, believe it or not! More specifically, the water that is left over from rice that has been cooked or soaked. Rice water, which contains vitamin B, C, and E,is said to add elasticity and shine to the hair, increase its manageability by serving as a conditioner, and also provides protein.
Yes, I do recognize that the Red Yao Women have straight hair- and at first, I myself thought that the effectiveness of this technique was probably specific to people with Asian hair- but after attending a Black hair workshop recently (Hair Inside Out, sponsored by Francine Francis, and hosted by Kym Niles of I Can and I Will), I found out that rice water is actually good for all types of hair, including African hair. So why not give it a shot? Rice Water Recipe:
1 Cup of Organic Rice (any kind brown, long grain, short grain etc)
4 and a 1/2 Cups of cold water
Mix the rice and water in a container.
Let mixture sit for half an hour, stirring occasionally.
After 30 minutes, strain, and transfer the water into a spray bottle.
Store in the fridge for no longer than 2 weeks.
Rice water works as a wash day/pre-poo treatment, so when the time comes, follow these instructions:
Saturate your strands with rice water and oils of your preference.
Cover your head with a plastic shower cap or bag for 30 to 60 minutes.
After the time has elapsed, take the cap/bag off, and continue on with your regular wash day routine.
And there you have it- the secret to length from the Red Yao Women of China is right in your pantry! And the best part is, it doesn’t cost a fortune!
Have you ever used rice water in your healthy hair journey? Tell us how and whether it worked for you in the comments!
Thank you for following the Phenomenal Professional Naturalistas series this Women’s Month! We hope that you feel empowered, affirmed, and inspired by this roster of PHENOMENAL women, who have not allowed society’s perceptions of their natural hair to stop them from thriving in their respective fields!
A BIG thank you to Racquel Brown, Shelby Wilson, Fana Gibson, Norah Dorcine, Natasha Patten, Janine Clarke, Shaneka Shaw Taylor, Kym Niles, Abigail Browne, Kimberley Tull, Kimberly Johnson, Sybil Thompson, and Kareena Elliston for sharing your hair-stories with us!
These women have truly proven that we are so much more than our hair and that true confidence as a naturalista comes from the inside out!
May you also find the confidence to let your natural glory shine in the classroom, boardroom, courtroom, or whatever space is graced daily with your presence!
Know that your natural hair is beautiful. It is doable. It is professional. And it is nothing short ofphenomenal!
Honours Bachelor of Arts in French, Spanish and Mandarin; Master’s of Business Administration, International MBA
How long have you been natural?
Why did you decide to “go” natural?
I decided to go natural when I was studying/living in a foreign country and the water was causing huge chunks of my hair to fall out. I figured that my hair was strongest in its natural state and had the best chance of not falling out if I went natural. Also, it would also be easier to take care of my hair by myself in its natural state, given that I was without access to black hair products or chemicals for long periods of time. My commitment to my studies meant going months at a time without access to hairdressers, hair product suppliers, and other black women. My hair would best survive if it was free!
What is your go-to natural hairstyle?
My go-to natural hairstyles are twist extensions and a natural twist out.
Have you ever experienced any challenges in the workplace due to your natural hair?
I was told early on in my career that my natural hair could affect my ability to get hired into certain banking departments or to be promoted. It may well be possible that certain doors closed for those reasons. However, others opened. I decided that if people were narrow-minded enough to have those thoughts about my appearance, then they wouldn’t be able to handle my intellectual contributions; thus, it would be better to look elsewhere for opportunities.
What do you love most about your natural hair?
What do I love the most about my hair? Its strength, versatility, and forgiveness. It can withstand my lifestyle: it’s willing to be manipulated into creative, sometimes arduous styles, and it’s forgiving of my ‘neglect’.
What have you found to be most challenging about being natural?
Honestly, for me, the most challenging part about having natural hair is that I am not as good to my hair as it is to me—I don’t have the time! I don’t explore new, more caring, ways to maintain and highlight its natural beauty. And it does require additional thinking for vacationing or long-term travel.
How do you maintain your “work-hair-life” balance?
The vast majority of my time, my hair is in twist extensions. I don’t wrap my hair at night and I don’t do it in the morning. Every few months, I replace the protective hairstyle with another set of twists. It’s easy to travel; to work late; to attend a wedding that I had forgotten about; and to care for a newborn!
What words of encouragement would you offer to someone who is considering going natural, but may have reservations due to their profession?
A few things come to mind in terms of advice for others: expand your mind on what is ‘beauty’, what is ‘acceptable’, what is ‘time-consuming’, and what compromises you are willing to make. Don’t underestimate your hair’s ability to grow! Finally, there are some really amazing new products out there that make natural hair so much easier to manage and celebrate. This is one of the best times to go natural—our hair is everywhere right now!