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Rene Syler is a former news anchor for The Early Show on CBS, where she interviewed celebrities and politicians. She published Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting in March 2007 and continues with her television work. She is also the daughter of two breast cancer survivors and is now the ambassador for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. She lives in Westchester, New York with her husband, Buff Parham, children Casey and Cole and their yellow Lab Olivia.

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See, Hair’s The Thing….

By Rene Syler |

 

 

 

 

Solange Knowles, you know her. Young, stylish, hip baby sister to Beyonce. Yeah her. What could she and I possibly have in common? Quite a bit, it turns out. See, we both know what it’s like to be trashed over your hair.

Solange was interviewed by Essence magazine recently and she talked about her natural hair. Apparently it opened the floodgates for those who thought she wasn’t doing a very good job as ambassador for all those natural heads out there. She was excoriated for having hair that critics claimed was dry, unkempt and shapeless.

I know how she feels. I really do. After using chemicals for more than 30 years to straighten my naturally curly hair, I stopped. It was not by choice, at least initially. I stopped because, while on my book tour, I came down with a horrifying case of asthmatic bronchitis. I was hospitalized for three days and pumped full of medication as doctors worked to heal my lungs.

When I got out, I went right from the hospital to the hair salon to continue with the ritual I’d been doing every six weeks for years. But this time something went horribly wrong. The only thing I can think of is that the chemicals in the relaxer reacted horribly with the medication in my body and my hair was the loser in that fight. A week after the relaxer, it was like straw. Days later, it started coming out in my hands.

It was time for a change, but how? Where would I start? Here I was, a 40-ish woman who hadn’t seen her natural hair texture in years. I’d been straightening my hair for so long, trying to conform to the standard of beauty acceptable (at the time) for my job as a news anchor. My hair was short and straight like every other newswoman. Other than skin tone, we were all  just about interchangeable.

But there was more than unhealthy hair at play. I am the mother a teenage girl with an amazing head of curls; in fact she is one of my hair idols. It was troubling to me that I was telling her to love herself as she was, yet I wasn’t doing that.

So that was it. I decided no more chemicals and started on my natural journey. It’s been nearly four years since I decided to go natural, 3 ½ since I did the “Big Chop (cutting off the remaining chemicals) and I have learned so much about myself. Like Solange, my curls have garnered comments, like the guy who saw me on TV and told me to do something about my “mangy Afro.” But also like Solange, I really couldn’t care any less about what other people think.

You see,  that’s really what this is about. Going natural wasn’t about fitting in with a style or fad. It was about growing comfortable. accepting and loving, I mean truly loving me. For a woman who spent the majority of her life fighting her hair, I now embrace it. I never have a bad hair day, because I let my hair do what it wants to do. And never in my life has what the world sees on the outside, matched the me on the inside so perfectly.

I made a decision a while back that I would never, ever put another chemical on my hair again. If that means never having another TV job, so be it. But I’m done trying to fit into someone else’s narrow definition of beauty. This is me. And I am beautiful.

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Why I stopped straightening my curly African American hair

November 2008

SICK! I was hospitalized for three days with asthmatic bronchitis. Never too sick to take photos of myself, however.

Yo! Nice to meet you! You can find out more about me on my blog, Good Enough Mother.

Check me out on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest too.

Other posts by Rene:

The Slippery, Sugary Slope

Plastic Surgery… Can We Talk?

 

 

More on Babble

About Rene Syler

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Rene Syler

Rene Syler is a former news anchor for The Early Show on CBS, where she interviewed celebrities and politicians. She published Good Enough Mother: The Perfectly Imperfect Book of Parenting in March 2007 and continues with her television work. She lives in Westchester, New York with her husband and two children. Read bio and latest posts → Read Rene's latest posts →

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31 thoughts on “See, Hair’s The Thing….

  1. Becky Miller says:

    Beyond being bad for your hair, studies are now coming out that point out the dangers of these chemicals being absorbed into your skin, into your bloodstream and wreaking all kinds of havoc including asthma (like with you, Rene), chest pain, memory loss, severe skin rashes, chronic fatigue, acne and even cancer. I no longer even use shampoo or soap with sodium laurel sulfate or any chemicals. Organics all the way :) Plus, Rene, your hair LOOKS a bazillion times better!

  2. Gayle Mahoney says:

    Hey Rene
    You are such an inspiration to me, for so many reasons- but most of all, you have found a way to reach inside for your own acceptance and standards as far as beauty is concerned. A coworker recently mentioned the phrase “locus of power” to me- he meant it in the context of where teens find their biggest influence- is it seated in the values of their parents? What their peers think? Popular culture? Or do they find their “locus of power” within their own inner “drum beat”? You have found your beauty “locus of power” in yourself- by being the beautiful woman you are, naturally! Thank you for sharing your story!

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @Gayle: THX! You’re a doll. There is amazing power in letting go. I think that’s what I found and was rewarded with a head full of thick, healthy hair and a peace within.

  3. ella says:

    I’m kind of against the big chop because it sounds so scary and can be done by gradually going natural (as I did over three years chopping intermittently), but I do agree that it is the best thing I ever did and don’t know if I will ever go back. I’ve never gotten so many compliments as I do with my locs.

    Continued success on your hair journey!

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @Ella: Thx! I did the BC because so much of my hair was broken and damaged. I wonder if I would have cut it had it not been? hmmm… Yeah. Yeah I would have. I’m impulsive that way :)

  4. DawnKA says:

    Great article. I too enjoy wearing my natural hair and of course there are those who may differ yet I am not concerned with their opinions – after all they don’t have to wear it, it is my hair. Over the years, I have chopped it all off, watch it grow back, throw on the chemicals and then watch it break off. Finally, I decided to let to cooperate with my hair. In fact, now I have many options, I can always wear any hair style whenever I want (wig). The greatest part is having a healthy head of hair that I can appreciate :-)

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @DawnKA: So true. It was amazing what happened when I stopped trying to mold and bend my hair to my will and just said, “Oh well, I guess you’re going to do this today.” LOL

  5. Dee K. says:

    Wow. Awesome testimony, one that many can relate to. What I love most about the idea of “natural,” is that you are truly free to be who God designed you to be. Who wouldn’t want that? I find it funny how some hidden force in society makes people criticize others for doing what is best for them. I’ve been natural for years now, but it wasn’t until recently that I decided to cut off over-straightened, lifeless looking hair, and truly embrace my natural hair. I love my texture, my curls and kinks, and I’m amazed @ how much more @ peace one becomes by waking up and not toying with different ways to change themselves. It’s okay to want to enhance your natural beauty, but when you have to “fix” your hair because you don’t think its good enough, that’s a travesty. Ms.Syler, you are beautiful, and I’m so happy you have gotten better physically. Most importantly, you have grown even more healthy and beautify inside and outside! God bless you :)

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @Dee K. Oh thank you! It has been a wild and wonderful ride. Tough at times but one I will not give up on :)

  6. Sabrina R Perkins says:

    I find those comments ignorant as well as showing they have a lack of creativity. Why must my hair be a certain shape or be even? Who says? Why can’t I rock a wild look and just be me? I think it’s being creative to wear my hair out and crazy and so do many others so if anyone feels the need to have their hair even and shaped just right then do you and I’ll do me!

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @Sabrina: I totally AGREE!

  7. Debra K says:

    Always an inspiration Rene. You are your hair and it becomes you very well!!! Keep doing you. Enjoyed the article as always.

  8. michelle says:

    You and your daughter are simply stunning!!! Everyone looks better when they are happy and confident, and truly being themselves. You are a wonderful role model for many, many reasons!!!

  9. Candy says:

    I just want to say you have BEAUTIFUL hair!

  10. Jessi says:

    Your hair is gorgeous and so are you.

  11. Melisa says:

    You AND your hair are gorgeous!!!

  12. Guajolote says:

    Great article. My daughter’s hair may end up different from mine – and I hope she owns it too!!

  13. howertons says:

    Good for you! Your hair is gorgeous.

  14. Val says:

    Rene,

    I love this article and it just reaffirms where I am. I was natural for 4 years. Did the big chop 3 time and in 2009 decided to go back to the “creamy crack”. Now in 2012 I am transitioning back to Natural. I realized my hair was the healthiest it had ever been without the chemicals and it was also more versatile. Plus, now I can admire all hair styles. Both you and your hair are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for letting us in on the journey. And for all of you hair haters on Solange, just remember she is in Essence and you are not. :)

  15. Sarah says:

    I love your hair, and wish my stick-straight hair was as beautiful as yours!

  16. Julianne Louise says:

    Beautiful. I’m a white woman with curl envy to the point that I regularly destroy my hair to make it curly. This inspires me to leave my hair the way it grows, even if what I want is what you have naturally.

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @Julianne: THX! Check out styling options on YouTube. The front of my hair doesn’t have the same curl pattern as the back so I twist it to make it appear more uniform. You might be able to achieve some wave/volume using product and twisting.. maybe?

  17. Kari says:

    Damaged, short, scarved, growing…you are a very beautiful woman who looks great no matter what the circumstance!! I would kill to have a hair experience such as yours!! It must suck to be so gorgeous no matter how your hair looks! It really is too bad that society, glamour mags, our mothers (?) make us think we all have to look a certain way. Embrace the new, old you because YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL GIRL!!!!!

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @Kari: Thank you so much! You made my night :)

  18. lightbrownis says:

    I know so many women who are “natural” wearing their straight, weaves and such but yet call themselves loving themselves. What does have straight or kinky hair have to do with loving yourself? NOTHING. Its just BS black women say to other black women . . . They mad cause straight hair gets more attn from men than kinky hair. Lets just keep it real ladies. If you want to be natural cool but don’t hate on the next woman.

    1. Rene Syler says:

      @lightbrownis: Would love to see your data on where straight hair gets more attention from men than kinky hair. But this is not about getting love and attention from others; it’s about loving yourself.

  19. John says:

    That’s such a great story. Cheers. My wife wears her hair naturally and I think it makes her even more beautiful.

  20. I think all those photos of you are beautiful, even the one in the hospital. Your spirit shines through them all. You look much happier now, though!

  21. Naturalhairluver says:

    I like Shea Moisture it really works well, but I recently
came across this product that a friend of mine recommended and I’ve been using it for the last three months and I have seen my hair go from dull, dry and shedding to having lots of sheen and moisture. The most amazing thing about this product is, it made my hair grow, so now I’m telling anyone that would listen… I think you can only get it online, it really works at least I was highly impressed with the results. I will keep you posted… The hair line is call
Voodoo Roots Organics, the website is http://www.voodooroots.com

    Good Luck With Your Hair Journey…
    -Naturalhairluver

  22. Maxine says:

    I am a white woman & was curious why women of colour would straighten their hair in the first place. Personally, I think Rene looks oh so much better with her naturally curly hair. I’ve quit dying my hair & letting it grow out white. In a similar way it is moving outside of what society says you ‘should’ do and embracing your natural self. Also when women en mass do this there will be fewer chemicals going down the drain to harm mother earth’s waters. Care for yourself by ditching the harmful hair straightening products AND be kinder to earth as well. Win-win !

  23. Michael says:

    In curly hair you looks so nice so thanks to share photos with us its awesome.curly hair suits you.

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