Beauty, Lookbook

I was terrified of going natural in public

Black women know better than everyone that hair is never just hair.

When I first started to hear that the natural hair movement was gaining – or should I say regaining, mainstream popularity – let’s just say I was far from the first one to jump on the coily bandwagon. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled that black women were openly embracing their kinks and curls, but I never thought that I could too. In my head, I thought it was too political and too time consuming and that ultimately, it just wouldn’t suit my features. Looking back, I realize that I was right about two out of the three, but that didn’t stop me from ending up here still – which is happy and nappy.

[bctt tweet=”I didn’t even know exactly how to take care of my natural hair.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Many of us have heard the famous phrase “the political is personal” being thrown around from time to time, but let me tell you, it doesn’t get more personal than when the so-called politics grow out of your own head. Black women’s hair has a long history of being politicized that can be traced all the way back to slavery. The far too many reports of black girls being disciplined or sent home from school for how they wear their hair or women being denied employment or asked to “tame” their hair as a condition of employment prove that not much has changed since then.

More than that, I have often witnessed women who didn’t straighten their hair being ridiculed and called “nappy” – a term used in a largely derogatory way by the black community to describe natural hair, usually the tightest texture (4c), to being unkempt and unpresentable.

[bctt tweet=”I thought I would be ugly if my hair didn’t move when I walked.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Needless to say, it would be hard to choose to go this route knowing all the negative backlash I would set myself up to receive. So I continued to fuss with at-home relaxers, feared humidity like death itself, jumped at any sign of moisture, and even put plastic bags on my head if I was caught in the rain without an umbrella. Once I realized just how many hoops I had to go through to chemically straighten and maintain my hair, I began to think critically about the real reason I was putting myself through all this.

The truth was that I was scared.

I knew that in order to actually “go natural”, I’d have to cut off all my processed hair. I thought I would be ugly with my hair short; I thought I would be ugly if my hair didn’t fall down to my shoulders and move when I walked. I already knew that my hair would never match the natural hair propaganda that I would scroll through on Tumblr every day, because my hair is kinky instead of curly. I thought guys wouldn’t like me with my natural hair, because it’s not “sexy”, and you can’t run your hands through it. I had never seen a girl with kinky natural hair on TV or in movies unless it was a historical setting or she was meant to look broken down or homely.

I didn’t even know exactly how to take care of my natural hair.

I barely knew anything about it.

But that’s exactly when I realized that there was a problem.

[bctt tweet=”I deserved to stop treating my kinks like a dirty little secret.” username=”wearethetempest”]

It wasn’t fair that I didn’t know anything about my own hair simply because it was instilled in me that it was inferior. I deserved a chance to love the hair that I was gifted with at birth. I deserved to let my hair do what it does naturally rather than forcing it to do what it was never meant to do. I deserved to stop treating my kinks like a dirty little secret.

Getting to know my natural hair was like getting to know a part of myself that I was always trying to hide from the world.

I’ve only been natural for about a year and a half, and so far, what I learned is that I was right about my preconceived notions about being natural. It’s a super political move – as much as it shouldn’t have to be. No one expects your reason for going natural is because you actually like your natural hair, and in a way, even liking your natural hair can be a radical act of self-love. However, what I didn’t know is that as many people as there are who will question your decision and appearance, there are many people who will applaud you as well. I get compliments on my afro all the time while walking down the streets of New York City.

[bctt tweet=”The only thing I was wrong about was that my natural hair wouldn’t suit me.” username=”wearethetempest”]

Looking back, I also predicted that being natural is very time-consuming, which it most certainly is, but protective styles give you a lot of freedom.

The only thing I was wrong about was that my natural hair wouldn’t suit me.

But honestly, I’m more confident than I’ve ever been rocking the hair that was made for me.