For me, going natural was a part of growing up and growing into myself, not simply conforming to everyone else’s ideals, like I had done throughout my childhood and teenage years.
I’m mixed race, but my hair is definitely more towards an African texture than the ‘good hair’ that white mums cross their fingers for when their carrying a mixed baby – blame my Nigerian genes, I guess! My dad wasn’t around much when I was younger, and with a disabled mum, sitting for hours having my hair combed each week wasn’t an option. My hair ended up becoming matted and dry throughout primary school, simply because no one knew what to do with it.
Constantly walking into black and white hairdressers and having them turn their nose up at my ‘tough’ natural hair was humiliating, and I just dreamt of having silky hair like my white and asian friends. So by the time I was 11 I had my hair relaxed and finally felt like I fitted in with my peers.
It was only when I was 16 that I started to feel, well, different. I realised that I didn’t want to be ashamed or embarrassed by the hair God gave me anymore, OR conform to the ideals of ‘good hair.’ I was old enough to look after my own hair, and as it had grown pretty long when it was relaxed, I dreamt of the long flowing curls I could have if I let go of the tediously straight hair I had grown accustomed to. Some of my friends were particularly vocal about not liking my ‘new hair,’ but I stuck with it, and by doing so and not giving into the peer pressure of my friends and family, I became a much stronger person.
Its been a long journey, but I’m now so proud of my hair, and learning how to look after and care for it has been a beautiful, empowering – and admittedly expensive – experience. I think regardless of how ‘tough’ or ‘course’ or ‘unmanageable’ people want to make your hair out to be, you should embrace what you were born with. On reflection, the whole idea of putting a chemical on my hair and scalp that literally burnt away my flesh is preposterous. It falls in the same category as skin bleaching – changing our features to suit the white ideal of beauty when we should learn to love our own. Such an ideal doesn’t just effect me as a mixed race child. I have white friends and family that struggle endlessly with their hair to get is as straight and sleek as possible.
There are so many different types of curls, kinks and waves out there and its time we show the world who we REALLY are rather than placing ourselves in the media friendly box. I would advice every woman to attempt to embrace their natural hair at least once in their lives.
With love from London,