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See, Hair's The Thing....

 

 

 

 

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.


  • November 2008 1 of 27
    November 2008
    SICK! I was hospitalized for three days with asthmatic bronchitis. Never too sick to take photos of myself, however.
  • November 2008: 2 of 27
    November 2008:
    Damage! This was about a week after I was released from the hospital and a few days after the ill-fated visit to the hair salon. My hair was thin, dry, and breaking off in clumps.
  • December 2008 3 of 27
    December 2008
    Transition.. After I decided to go natural, I went through a transition period where I stopped the chemicals and tried to heal my hair. This is a tricky time as the hair is weak where the natural hair meets the relaxed hair so I wore a lot of hats and scarves. I thought I was pretty bad ass.
  • January 2009 4 of 27
    January 2009
    I covered the Presidential Inauguration for BET and it was one of the few times I styled my hair during my transition. I couldn't believe how short and thin it was.
  • February 2009: 5 of 27
    February 2009:
    Mini-Chop! I did my Big Chop (where the last of the chemically relaxed air is cut off) in two phases. My hairdresser warned me it was going to be short so she tried to be conservative. Instead, since the new growth made the old, relaxed hair stand on end, I ended up looking like a sunflower.
  • March 2009 6 of 27
    March 2009
    FREEDOM! It's impossible for me to describe the joy and relief of being released from a lifetime of chemicals. I love how well this hair "fit" my face and made me look younger!
  • June 2009 7 of 27
    June 2009
    For the first time, I was starting to see real growth. Right around this time I gave up shampoo and started cleansing with conditioner only. Conditioner has enough cleansing properties to get hair clean without stripping it of its natural oils. Sulfates=curl killers.
  • 2007 8 of 27
    2007
    This was my CBS anchor hair. My hairdresser would blow dry and hot curl it every.single. day. When they fired me, my hair breathed a sigh of relief.
  • December 2009 9 of 27
    December 2009
    My hair was long enough now to put into Afro Puffs. I felt very 70's-ish.
  • March 2010 10 of 27
    March 2010
    Because I avoid potentially curl-killing heat, I rarely straighten my hair. Here I did a roller set and finished with a light flat iron. Note the thickness between here and the relaxed hair one year earlier.
  • June 2010 11 of 27
    June 2010
    Here's me on vacation in Florida. I started really taking care of my hair, protecting it from the sun and chlorine in the pool. I learned how to clarify using Apple Cider Vinegar instead of harsh shampoos. My hair continued to show me the love.
  • October 2010 12 of 27
    October 2010
    Oh, you know, just me and my famous friends. That's Gabrielle Union and me after shooting the Mo'Nique show in October, 2010. By now my hair is growing steadily at about 1/2 an inch a month however the back, which is a different curl pattern, is growing much faster.
  • November 2010 13 of 27
    November 2010
    By this time, I've developed a steady routine with my locks that includes sleeping on a satin pillow case or with satin cap, to keep my hair from getting dry. Dry hair is hair that breaks.
  • Undated 14 of 27
    Undated
    My daughter and hair idol, Casey. She was one of the big reasons I went natural. I want her to love her hair and herself as much as I do.
  • November 2010 15 of 27
    November 2010
    Me backstage before shooting "The Doctors". A professional did my make-up; I just fluffed my hair and spoke when the red light came on.
  • Undated 2010 16 of 27
    Undated 2010
    Undated 2010: Um, can you tell I love my big, black sunglasses? People ask me all the time if my hair is a lot of work. I hate to tell them, it's never been easier.
  • December 2010 17 of 27
    December 2010
    No bad hair days! That's me. Why? Because, for the first time in my life, I'm working WITH my hair, instead of against it.
  • January 2011 18 of 27
    January 2011
    Why is this woman smiling? Happy hair. That is all.
  • March 2011 19 of 27
    March 2011
    Here I am on stage at Disney Social Media Moms, doing my best impersonation of Mr. Ed.
  • June 2011 20 of 27
    June 2011
    I didn't do a very good job of protecting my hair from the sun so the color oxidized. I make sure to deep condition it a couple of times a month, more in the summer months.
  • September 2011 21 of 27
    September 2011
    This is from a photo shoot for a feature More magazine did on me. My curls were perfect, even if that front, bang area refused to grow
  • September 2011 22 of 27
    September 2011
    I was a model in a hair show and let them blow out my hair. One word. WHOA!
  • December 2011 23 of 27
    December 2011
    Why, hello sexy! I am loving the hair framing my face.
  • May 2012 24 of 27
    May 2012
    Speaking to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in Vancouver. I speak to a lot of groups and it's always funny to me that I get more gasps when I talk about losing my hair than losing my breasts.
  • June 2012 25 of 27
    June 2012
    The back of my hair is growing like mad and to my absolute horror, resembles a mullet. Time for a cut.
  • June 2012 26 of 27
    June 2012
    Despite my apprehension I let my hairdresser cut a few inches off the back to shape my hair and give it a more integrated look. For the first time in my life, I'm not too worried; I know it will grow back!
  • June 2012 27 of 27
    June 2012
    Here's me with actress, producer Karyn Parsons, also natural, at the CNN New Guard Reception. It was invigorating to see so many African American women there who were natural.

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?

 

 

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