For years, African-American women have strayed from their natural “roots” for relaxers (chemical straighteners) to have that manageable, European look that has been revered. In another instance this revered look has also sparked judgment towards other women who haven’t followed the perm movement. The overwhelming criticism that 2012 Olympics gymnast Gabby Douglas experienced made those outside the African-American community raised their eyebrows to such an intense vanity.
Just recently, CBS’s “The Talk” co-host/comedienne Sheryl Underwood has been under fire for her apparent disgust for natural hair in what many believe is self-hate. On the topic of Heidi Klum saving her children’s thick, coiled hair once it’s been cut, she responded by saying , “Why would you save afro hair?” and how no woman asks her stylist for “curly, nappy, beady hair.” This has and always will be the attitude towards natural hair, but the movement still is growing.
According to market research firm Mintel, the sales of relaxers used by African-American women for a century has surprisingly plummeted by 40 percent from 2007 to 2012 and is predicted to decrease further by 50 percent by the year 2017.
For me, the road to natural was unexpected, eye-opening and a little rough. I’ve had my first professional perm at the age of 13 and didn’t see an end to it anytime soon. There was always a disconnect whenever I saw the waves of new growth at my roots. Sure, it was pretty the way it curled, but it made me more anxious to hit the salon chair.
My hair was past my shoulders, almost to the middle of my back and soft to the touch. Whether straight, curled or with Rita Hayworth finger waves, it moved so beautifully and of course the complements came pouring in, especially from other women. My mom loved it so, often assisting me in styling it between salon visits and becoming visibly uneasy whenever I got it cut and distracting me from getting it dyed.
That dreaded day on Sept. 29, 2012, the day before heading to the Twilight convention in Novi, Mich., I got my hair dyed and boy, did it look gorgeous. Days after, my hair started to dwindle from thick and bouncy to thin and on life support. For months my stylist tried to make it work until I just said chop it off. The stares from people or the “Oh my God, you cut off your hair!” statements can get tiring and no, I didn’t thrive in my choice to be natural but it’s still growing on me.
What changed it for me was after washing my hair and it crawled (as my mother likes to describe it with a horrified expression) into a small, wet Afro – there were beautiful ringlets as I combed through it. I haven’t seen my hair this way since I was 12-years-old and quite frankly, it took my breath away.
I’m nearly a year into my transition and though there are days where it’s a headache to deal with or now when I dance or even walk and drop a bead of sweat, my hair poofs like a cotton ball – it’s all a process. Being in this position has made me have a new found respect for those who vowed to steer clear of the beloved creamy crack and for once see the beauty and not pass judgment.
Are you transitioning or contemplating to do so? Share your hair journey with me through stories and photos and create a natural hair movement here on campus. Submit your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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