I’ve decided to document my natural hair journey because it has truly been a transformation from the inside out. Along with my new beliefs, awareness and raised consciousness, a brand new woman is emerging. She requires a different, bold, and more authentic exterior.
Strangely, after reading the racially charged “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison for my English class this past spring semester, I gained a new perspective on my perception of beauty. I actually related a lot to the main character’s journey, not for racial reasons, but how he truly found himself at the end of the book and became enlightened about his truth.
As I read the chapters that described his adventures, I related to the old beliefs he began to shed while embracing the new empowering ones. One detail in particular reached up from the pages and slapped me across the face! As the main character strolled down the New York City streets circa the 1940′s, he saw a sign that mentioned, “Find your true beauty with long straight hair and light skin.” That may not be the exact wording on the sign (I am attempting to recall details from a book I read 4 to 5 months ago) but that was the general idea. I distinctly remember the words “true beauty” being related to “long, straight hair and light skin.” This sign was posted in the predominantly black borough of Harlem. Now of course, this is just a book. But the reality is, it was an accurate depiction of the life and times of that era. This was no secret. I knew these details before I read this book.
Right now, I am at a point in my life where simple, or even common knowledge concepts, hit me as monumental revelations. They resonate differently and deeply within me. When this happens, I know there is a lesson and opportunity for growth in me. I learn things on a deeper level, with a new twist of knowledge that helps to further my transformation.
When I read the lines that described that sign about true beauty it hit me: This is how I’ve perceived my own true beauty for as long as I can remember! I’ve never really had issues with skin color. I’ve always loved and appreciated the chocolate brown, caramel brown and light brown array of complexions people are blessed with. I can honestly say, I’ve always seen true beauty in the full range of complexions. But my hair…oh my hair…. In that moment I realized I gave entirely too much importance to my hair when it came to my perception of my own beauty. I have always ONLY considered myself my MOST beautiful when my hair was as long and as straight as possible.
I got my first perm at age 11 and haven’t looked back since. For years I had a standing appointment at the hair salon. It was a ritual to have my stylist blow out the curls of my wash & set because my hair would come out too curly for my taste. Even when I would wear my hair in its natural state (meaning I would wet my permed hair in the summer and wear it wavy/curly) I felt I was not as attractive as when my hair was straight. I could not WAIT until September came so I could get my touch up because my hair would be WAY too thick by the end of the summer.
Although I thought my hair looked pretty, I never liked the way my face looked when my hair was curly vs. the way it looked when it was straight. I was just more attractive with straight hair. How crazy was that? Did my face change just because my hair did? I couldn’t even try on clothes if my hair wasn’t right. If I was at home trying on different outfits to see which one I was going to wear, I would have to take off the scarf I slept in and unwrap my hair so I could really see what I looked like in the outfit. That was the only way I could get a true picture of how attractive I looked in the outfit. When I think about things like that now, it sounds insane! How in the world could my hair determine how my body looked in the outfit?? I seriously had a warped sense of perspective!
In my mid to late twenties I started to branch out a little. I began to experiment with shorter and curlier hairstyles, but maintaining my perm was still top priority. My hair had to be straight from the roots with loose curls for me to be happy. When cutting it, I really enjoyed the layered look, but it couldn’t be too short. Even when I cut it shorter than it had ever been before, it was still considered long to most.
Yes, my hair may have looked pretty. The fact remains; I put entirely too much emphasis on the chemically altered state of my hair when it came to defining my own beauty – something I was born with.
Luckily the pages in that book slapped some sense into me! Soon after, I read a note my spiritual life coach wrote on facebook about the documentary “Good Hair” by Chris Rock. She shared her opinion on “creamy crack” and why she felt women should be more focused on their authenticity. That last word jumped up and smacked me too. At this point, my face started feeling a little sore from all of these reality slaps. (lol) I started to realize that the focus I put on my hair distracted me from the truth of my authenticity. God created me beautifully. Did I think He made a mistake? How could I possibly define my beauty with chemicals?
Those two important pieces of work really spoke to me. I know now that it’s time to redefine my beauty.
Lessons Learned: Love what you were born with. Acknowledge your natural beauty. Live authentically.
The beauty of these revelations and lessons learned is that they are so much bigger than racial issues. They are universal. It really doesn’t matter why I put so much emphasis on my chemically treated hair. The point is, I WOKE UP to my truth and in turn I’m learning to unconditionally love and accept myself from the inside out.
End of Perm Era and Beginning of Transition
I officially decided to grow out my perm and go natural in March of 2010. “Go natural” is an interesting term. I was born natural. So in essence, I’m going back to me, to express myself authentically.
I got my last touch up (perm on the roots) on Thanksgiving of 2009….
Stay tuned for more transition pictures, stories and lessons… This hair journey has ignited major changes inside and out in only a few months!
Share your thoughts in the comments: What revelations have you had on your journey to be more authentic?
Peace, Love & Hair Grease,