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