natural hair

No, You Cannot Touch My Hair

I cannot tell you how many times—on the CTA in Chicago, while waiting in line at the Walmart pharmacy, and on the street— I’ve had someone ask to touch my hair. Friends, classmates, church members, and complete strangers always seem so comfortable touching my hair, with our without permission. These interactions often leave me feeling violated, angry, and frustrated. You’re probably wondering what’s so special, so absolutely extraordinary about my hair that magically turns the average pair of mitts into magnets. To be perfectly honest, nothing at all. Just your typical head of Black hair.

Non-black people don’t seem to understand why these social dealings evoke such high emotions for Black women, so I’ll explain why. But first I’ll give you the somewhat complicated history between my hair and I. For as long as I can remember I’ve always hated my hair. Now I know this seems a little counterproductive with me being a proud natural woman, but it’s the honest truth. I hated how thick it is, the curliness, and it’s rebellious and unruly nature. I hated the childish ponytails I sported day in and day out, plaited down to the tips and secured with a barrette. I hated how unpleasant life became every time I got it wet. And attempting to detangle it after a shampoo? Yeah, right! I remember sitting in between my mom’s legs every night before bed while she got me ready for the next day thinking to myself, “You know what? This is some bull!’

Different cultures have their own ceremonies that become a defining moment in a youngster’s life.  Young Jewish boys celebrate their transition into manhood with a Bar Mitzvah, while girls in parts of Latin America mark their journey into womanhood with a Quinceañera. Adolescent Black girls get perms and this is a monumental occasion, a right of passage. For us it means that we finally get to look like what’s been considered “normal”; “normal” meaning having straight hair. At age eleven my entire world changed, and my mom finally allowed me to get one of these coveted perms. I had lost all feeling in my scalp but I’d finally made it to the Promised Land.

My decision to go natural was an organic one, and about a year after I did the movie Good Hair came out and it had Black people, primarily women, in a tizzy. In the Black community the term “good hair” always reserved for biracial kids or the ones who claimed to have “Indian in their family” (growing up, the number of times I heard someone claim to be part Cherokee were too many to count). Their hair was considered “almost white” but it had an edge to it, the edge being the frustratingly perfect curl pattern that I could never seem to achieve. And then there was this myth going around that relaxing your hair made you a sell-out, that it’s a Black woman’s subconscious attempt to adapt her appearance to look like a White girl. That’s unfair. Yes, the standard of beauty has mainly (and some might say solely) highlighted European features for some time, but wanting super straight hair does not mean you inherently want to look or be White, that’s crazy. And that’s not to say looking or being White is somehow evil, but for so long the ideal beauty has always had blonde hair and blue eyes. So my decision to say no to the creamy crack and abandon everything I’ve ever know to be true about my hair was a pretty big deal. And I’ll have to say it was one of the best decisions I ever made, because with that giant leap of faith came an outpouring of self-acceptance.

From that day on my hair struggles became a cakewalk. I was flyer than ever, my life became full of glamorous selfies, and the lack of lye led me to discover unicorn piss actually cures cramps. Okay, not really. Trying to figure out the best products and regime was pretty difficult. I had to do a lot of research in order to figure out what works for me, all naturals are not the same. It took me a while to get my hair to cooperate and do what I wanted it to, so for someone to come up to me and stick their hands in my hair really pissed me off. The things I have to do to finesse my fro—washing it, detangling it, styling it—all take a lot of time; so yeah, the hands of a stranger aren’t welcomed. My journey as a natural has been a beautiful experience, but every time I encounter someone that’s a little too touchy feely I feel like a Pomeranian puppy. Once I was at work and I was discussing hair with a coworker who is also natural, we were exchanging thoughts on different products we use, and another coworker (a Caucasian woman) jumped in. “Do y’all spend a lot of money on your hair?” We both looked at each other like “Girl! Did she just…?” Now I love this girl I really do, she’s very sweet, and I know she didn’t mean anything by it but I just couldn’t believe she said that out loud. I was about to go all the way in on her, but I realized non-Black individuals really don’t know much about Black hair. I said, “Do you spend a lot of money on your hair?” and that question was met with silence. Instead of that snarky remark I should’ve taken that opportunity to explain to her just how different our hair is from everyone else’s.

We, Black women, are very sensitive when it comes to our hair; we always seem to find ourselves defending it, even amongst Black men. If you wear your natural texture it’s nappy, if you get a relaxer you’re a sellout, and if you wear wigs or weaves you “want to look/be White”, there’s absolutely no middle ground at all. In many companies, wearing a fro is a dress code violation; I remember my best friend recalling an incident at a former job involving this. She worked at a rather large car washing company, and one day she was secret shopped by the higher ups at corporate. She did pretty well, they said she was very polite and knowledgeable when it came to company policy, but when it came to her appearance they said she looked “unkempt”; she was wearing her fro out that day. I think “unkempt” was a politically correct way to say her hair looked nappy.

Once, in light of my mother’s burning desire to have grand kids, I folded under the pressure and decided to give online dating a try. This really handsome White gentleman sent me a message expressing his interest, and soon we exchanged numbers. Upon texting him I was flooded with a bunch of stereotypical Black girl question. Among “Can you twerk?” and “Is your booty big?” he asked “Is that your real hair?” As if he hadn’t offended me enough. So because my hair is long and curly it automatically has to be weave? This is an everyday struggle for naturals. I can’t tell you exactly what I said to him, but just know it was littered with some very colorful language. Why the anger, you ask? I’ll tell you why, take a trip with me back to the 1800s. I’d like you to meet Saartije “Sarah” Baartman

Sarah was a South African woman who, after being sold into slavery by the Dutch, was trotted around Europe for exhibition. She was fooled into believing that she would find riches and fame, but instead was put on display in both England and France because her large buttocks, big hips, lips and elongated labia were curiosities that Europeans had never seen before. In 1810 she became a freak show attraction, given the name Hottentot Venus. Surely she couldn’t be human because she didn’t look like a White woman, so therefore she was considered inferior and made to dance for the entertainment of White people. She was poked and prodded, absolutely humiliated. After the circus no longer wanted her she became a prostitute and later died from disease in 1815, she’d only been in Europe for five years and was 25 when she died. Even after her death she wasn’t allowed dignity; when she died they cut out her vagina, her brain, and her skeleton, preserved them in jars, and placed them all on display along with a plaster of her actual body. For one hundred and sixty years people could walk into a museum, look at Sarah Baartman’s vagina, brain and skeleton and see what she looked like naked. In 1974 they took down the display, but still kept her remains. It wasn’t until 2002 that they were finally sent back to her home in South Africa and she was given the proper burial.

History records that Sarah was a highly intelligent woman with an excellent memory, she had a particular knack for remembering faces. In addition to her native tongue she spoke fluent Dutch, passable English, and a little French. Aside from her large breasts and buttocks she was described as having graceful shoulders, slender arms, and charming hands and feet. She was also very skilled at playing the Jew’s harp, could dance according to her country’s traditions, and had a lively personality. If reading about Sarah made you uncomfortable it should, and I’m glad it did because that means we’re getting somewhere. Every time you reach out to touch a Black woman’s hair or make an offensive remark about it, whether knowingly or unbeknownst to you, you awaken the hurt and pain that comes with Sarah’s story; we become Sarah Baartman and we have no say so in the matter. Please don’t mistake my desire to want you to know how we feel as an opportunity to point the finger at White or other non-Black people as if to say, “Look at what you did to us!” I just want this to resonate with you.

Curiosity about Black hair isn’t a bad thing, and I’m sure many well-meaning people don’t mean to offend me in these situations. But there is a fine line between interest and treating Black women like urban zoo animals. If you have questions about natural hair or the Black experience that’s great, ask away! You can approach a close Black friend or coworker but tread lightly, remember we’re sensitive creatures. If you don’t have any Black friends you should seriously think about diversifying your circle. But if you feel compelled to reach out and touch, just remember it’s best you keep your hands to yourself.

How To Grow Long, Beautiful Black Hair That Makes Everyone Jealous

One of the biggest myths out is that African American hair doesn’t have the ability to grow as much  as other ethnicities. WOMP! So untrue. Any hair can grow easily with the proper care. As a natural girl, I’ve experienced so much growth just by cutting out harsh chemicals in my hair care regimen alone. The natural, coily texture of black hair is fragile and not many people know what it takes for our hair to thrive (shoutout to all the natural vloggers on YouTube, y’all the real MVPs). So if you’re interested in learning how to grow long, luscious locks keep reading for some great tips.


PROTECTIVE STYLES

I love wearing my fro out, especially now that my growth is way more noticeable, but doing so can keep you from getting closer to your desired length. As wonderful as a great curly fro is, it leaves your ends exposed and that can lead to trouble. While your curls are blowing in the wind as you channel your inner Diana Ross, they are tangling and dragging again car seats, coats, shirts, and sweaters. Or, if you’re like me, you constantly are running your fingers in your hair and that leads to breakage. The ends are the oldest and driest parts of your hair, which is why its so important to keep them safe. Protective styles do just that. Havana twists, box plats, wigs, and weaves (done properly by licensed professionals and not in a $50 weave shop *shade*) are all great ways to protect your hair. Wearing a silk or satin scarf or sleeping on a pillow case in either at night is equally as important.

AVOID DIRECT HEAT

Black hair tends to be drier than others, so overuse of blow dryers and straighteners definitely don’t do any good. Air drying is always the best option for your hair, but if you’re in the shop opt for the hood or bonnet drier instead. When you’re at home and you absolutely must use a blow dryer or flat iron be sure to coat your hair with some type of oil first (I love olive oil), and use a heat protectant for good measure.

CONDITION, CONDITION, CONDITION!

I used to be so afraid to shampoo my hair because I knew shampoos strip the hair of moisture, and I wasn’t trying to have all that drama (my hair was dry enough!). But there’s this great little thing called conditioner that settles all of that. Shampoos cleanse your scalp, while conditioners replenish the moisture that gets lost in the process. And, actually, if your scalp isn’t too dirty you can always co-wash your hair. What’s that? Co-washing is when you cleanse your hair using only a conditioner or cleansing conditioner. I like to do this in between washes because when my hair is properly conditioned it retains a lot more moisture, which is what you want. But be careful not to over condition. Also, make sure you’re utilizing a leave-in conditioner and a deep conditioner at least once a month.

NO MORE ALCOHOL

Products that contain alcohol strip the hair of excess oils, which is counterproductive. You can look at the ingredients of any given product and not physically see the word “alcohol”, but don’t be fooled. There are other products that can cause just as much damage. Steer clear of the following:

  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Propylene glycol
  • Mineral oil or petroleum
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate
  • Sodium laureth sulfate
  • Chlorine
  • Diethanolamine
  • Momoethnanolamine
  • Triethanolamin
  • Imidazolidinyl
  • Urea DMDM hydantoin

COMB CAUTIOUSLY

Thick hair can be tough to work with, you have to be patient with it. While combing your tresses always remember to be gentle. When you’re detangling treat your hair as you would a young child’s, carefully and gently. Divide your hair into sections, start at the ends, and work your way up to the root. Never, ever, ever comb from the roots, that causes major breakage. And don’t try to detangle dry hair, that also causes breakage.

RELAXED GROWTH

While the chemicals in relaxers can be damaging to hair, you still can achieve long hair with the proper regimen. Before using a relaxer always use a scalp protector, this shields your scalp and hair shaft from possible damage from the affect of the chemicals. Only put the relaxer on your roots, this keeps the rest of your hair from being over-processed. Don’t just sit in silence while your scalp burns, that’s insane. You’re edges will be way smoother than you’d hoped for once you’re bald. After you rinse, use a neutralizing shampoo to remove the relaxer. Before I was natural, I’d let the neutralizing shampoo sit in my hair for about five to six minutes just for safe measure.

Like I said before: it’s totally possible to grow your hair out with a relaxer, but it will be a little more challenging. It is so important for you to know your hair and not just trust what your beautician says; at the beginning, middle, and end of the day you’re the one that has to deal with it not them. Know when you need a relaxer, and when you can go without one. Try to stretch it out as long as possible. Some say you should only get them every 8-10 weeks, while others say every three months if you can wait that long.

MOISTURIZE!

Black hair needs moisture! Our natural, curly texture makes it difficult for oils to travel from the scalp throughout the hair shaft, so oiling your scalp is not enough. Pay super close attention to your ends and seal them with natural oils. When I wear my fro out, I make a point of making sure my hair is moisturized before I walk out the door. Before I retained the length I have now, I was hesitant to add water to my hair. The shrinkage is real in these streets! I’d just gone natural and hadn’t quite gotten used to my new shorter length (I felt like a bald eagle). Now all of that is behind me, I actually welcome my shrinkage. I’ll wake up, shower, unbraid or knot my hair, spray it with a little water, and add my oil and conditioner. Sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, I’ll un-do it right after I get out of bed, shake it out, hop in the shower, and add my oil and conditioner. The water from the shower lightly dampens my hair all over which I love, because when I’m using a spray bottle I may miss some spots. Adding the oil afterwards helps seal in the moisture really well; adding the water after the oil will only cause it to bead off the hair because oil and water don’t mix (#science). I love doing this in the summer; while my hair is air-drying the air feels so great on my scalp.

TRIM CAREFULLY

There’s a myth floating around that says you must trim your hair once a month, and to that I say WOOOMP! The key to growing long hair is to only trim it when you need to, and that will vary depending on how your hair grows. If you have hair that’s prone to splitting, that may mean every three months. If split ends are a non-factor for you, try to hold out to once or twice a year. And even if you do have to trim your ends often remember, you hair grows from your roots. It is way better to have healthy hair that’s a little shorter than you want at the moment, than having long hair that is completely dead at the ends. Not cute.

MANAGE YOUR STRESS

This one is a biggie for me because I live that stressful girl life. Work, school, family, and my relationship (with my awesome, amazingly stellar, sweet, supportive and devilishly handsome boyfriend) are all sources of stress. I often feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day; I’ll have to complete reports for work, do homework, find time to blog, wake up in time to make it to church, and try to spend quality time with my honey when we’re not both busy working or half past dead from doing so. My whole life is stress and that can be really bad for my hair growth; stress can cause significant hair loss, and I’ve been there. If you want hair like Rapunzel, you’ll have to find ways to alleviate your stress in a healthy way. Exercising, sitting a quiet place, reading a book, and listening to soothing music (with wine) are all great ways to stamp out the stress in your life.

Following all these tips are great, but they are no good if you’re not eating a healthy diet. You can’t expect to put junk in your body and get Erykah Badu hair. Your hair is mostly protein and needs it to grow, so make sure you include enough of it in your diet. Water is extremely important too and so is iron, vitamin E, and trace minerals like selenium and copper. These all keep your hair in good shape, and they’re great for your body too. I have an iron deficiency and at one point I experienced slight hair loss. You best source of iron in your diet is meat; clams, oyster, and lean meats are great sources of iron. For vegetarians: fortified cereals, soybeans, pumpkin seeds, white beans, lentils, and spinach are all great sources of iron. The problem with non-animal sourced iron is that the body absorbs iron less efficiently from plants. Its possible to eat a iron rich vegetarian diet and still not get enough of it. Talk to your doctor about your diet and ask for an iron test so they can check on whether you should consider taking an iron supplement. I hope these tips helped you guys, if you have any hair growing tips be sure to leave them in the comments below! Stay beautiful ❤ 🙂

Iconic Style: Janelle Monae

Janelle Monae has to be one of the entertainment industry’s most fascinating oddities. Here’s a girl, from Kansas City, Kansas, that has done the exact opposite of what’s been considered the norm and her career has excelled tremendously. I first heard of Ms. Monae after the release of her 2010 single “Tightrope”, and I’ve been a loyal fan ever since. Her music is a harmonic fuse of fantasy, funk, and soul. Her talent is unmistakable, her humble demeanor is intoxicating, and her vibrant spirit is the source of inspiration for many young women like myself. A few weeks ago, I was given the amazing opportunity to attend this year’s Trumpet Awards. Jamie Fox, Tommy Hilfiger, and the Isley Brothers were all honored for their career achievements. Janelle Monae was also an honoree, and when I found out she was going to be there I almost died from excitement. My she-ro, my icon, my source of inspiration was going to be sitting in the same room as me! I was going to see her onstage, hear her speak, and breathe the same air as her! I was literally in groupie-mode, and wasn’t ashamed one bit. That was such an awesome experience.

jm trumpet

One undeniable, and obvious, factor that sets Janelle apart from her peers is her appearance; she clearly isn’t drinking the kool-aid that most people in Hollywood are gorging themselves on. She’s modest. And sexy. Simultaneously. In an interview with Essence Magazine, she explained why she chooses to maintain such a demure sense of style. She says it’s her attempt to:

| “ redefine what it means to be sexy and what it means to be a woman. Showing my skin is not what makes me sexy… I like skirts and dresses just like everyone else, but I had a message I needed to put out there. It was up to me to show people and young girls there was another way.” |

JM1

Janelle Monae isn’t my style icon because, somehow, she’s managed to take two colors from the entire spectrum and created a style that is not only exquisite, but all her own. She isn’t my icon because she looks fabulous on the red carpet. And she isn’t my icon because her hair is bomb as hell (And natural. Natural girls say woop woop!). Janelle Monae is my icon because she does not, and will never, compromise her body image to fit in the world around her. She notices what her peers are doing, and she continues on with her message. She has proven, time and time again, that she can be trusted as a role model for this generation’s women and young girls. She’s true to herself, and she inspires millions of young women everywhere to do the same.

JM2

What sets her apart from her booty-baring constituents is her ability to garner the right kind of attention. Through her music, she encourages her listeners to be more socially aware; you will never catch her referencing male genitalia to various cold-blooded reptiles. *super shade to Anaconda* Her style is a regal execution driven by a love for mixing and matching interesting fabrics, all-over prints, and intricately constructed pieces that stop the show. Janelle Monae is a breath of fresh air in a business where sex sells and modesty is viewed as boring. With every public appearance and Instagram upload, she is tearing down the walls of warped ideals involving beauty and female sexuality. I personally invite you to hop on and ride the wave. And to Ms. Monae, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you for your excellent work and for inspiring an awkward, off-beat late bloomer like me.

Girl On The Move

Hello beautiful people!

I haven’t shot a YouTube video in a while, and I was getting ready to run some errands and I thought “Why not make a video?”. This is a compressed version of how I usually get ready when I’m just going to be out and about all day. I just ran to the grocery store, gassed my car up, and did some Christmas shopping. Nothing too fancy. Enjoy!

And don’t forget to subscribe to my channel! ❤