The smell, the burn.. I will never forget the feeling on my scalp and the smell that was so strong while I sat in the chair at the hair salon. 15 minutes goes by so slowly when you have a chemical on your head that brings about a hot, tingling, blazing feeling. But it was worth the 15 minutes of pain because I knew that ultimately, my hair would be straight and beautiful.
Myself, and many of my friends who were also women of color, continued to get relaxers. I can’t speak for all of them, but for me, I loved the feeling of getting my hair done because it made me feel like I was “in” with all of my white friends. They had straight hair and always got compliments on how beautiful and shiny it was. Now that my hair was straight, I felt beautiful. My natural hair made me feel inadequate and I didn’t want anyone to see that.
Truth is, I thought my natural hair was unruly and ugly. Once I made the decision to stop getting relaxers because of the damage it was doing to my hair, the insecurities of wearing my hair were ever so present. I was caught in the challenging process of managing my hair on a daily basis; trying to figure out how to make my natural hair look just as pretty as my straight hair, but I wasn’t feeling as empowered as I thought I would.
I went through many trials trying to finding out what styles worked for me and spent copious amounts of money testing out every natural hair product I could find. Seven years later, I can say that my hair is benefiting from going natural. But the truth is, I still struggle with being happy with my hair at times.
The maintenance and upkeep can be grueling at times. More often than not, I find myself connecting my hair to identity, and when it’s doesn’t look good enough that must mean that I’m not. I wonder if people are judging me when my hair looks bad. Or if I am deemed unqualified or unprofessional when I wear my hair a certain style in formal settings. Am I giving people a reason to use my hair as a justification towards the stereotypes about black women that are constantly permeating in society? I know I am not the only person that has made this transition to natural hair who is feeling this way or has felt this was at some point.
As I was going down the rabbit hole and finding every negative thing about my hair as I was taming it before going to bed, I saw a trailer for a new film coming out on Netflix called Nappily Ever After, starring Sanaa Lathan. The title intrigued me and I continued to watch, curious as to what it could be about. Lathan, who plays the role of Victoria Jones, is a black woman who is striving to be in control and to be everything that she can be for everyone and maintain a perfect persona at work, for her friends and for her boyfriend. After getting her hopes up that her boyfriend is going to propose to her, she finds everything crumbling around her.
Once she realizes that she can’t do it all, she decides to cut her hair, the locks that she had grew out for so long. As crazy as it seems, she sees the empowerment that cutting her hair off and going natural has brought her.
— Sanaa Lathan (@justsanaa) September 5, 2018
After seeing the trailer for the movie, I was honestly moved. It brought up so many emotions and is extremely relevant to my life as I thought about how my hair has prohibited me from living freely.
It’s a reminder that natural is beautiful and that there isn’t a mold that all of us have to fit into in order to be classified at the top of the beauty pyramid. It’s also a reminder that it’s okay to start over and to embrace change after being stuck doing something for so long that wasn’t making you happy. Natural equals power. It gives us the right to choose who we want to be. Natural is a form of expression and freedom, and when you willingly choose to be free from whatever it is that was keeping you hostage or in bondage, you will experience the utmost strength that cannot be shaken.
See Nappily Ever After on Netflix on September 21, 2018.