Contributing writer Tiffany Ezuma submitted this post as a Reader Submission for Gurl. We love hearing your stories! If you’d like to submit your writing to Gurl, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Your teens and your twenties are your best years for experimenting and playing with your personal style, which can mean anything from your clothes to your makeup to your hairstyle. I’ve been through a few different personal style changes, but one stands out the most: when I embraced my natural hair.
In high school, I was always fairly conservative with my clothing – jeans, cardigans and a t-shirt were my go-to style. By the time I reached my freshman year of college, I began to play around more with my clothing style. I kept the trusty jeans, but instead of boring denim, they became colored. I continued to wear cardigans, but now they included studs. My accessories began to match my rock-inspired style and I chose bright red glasses for my everyday look.
But one element of style I never changed was my hair. I had always worn my hair either relaxed, permed or chemically straightened – never natural. I’ve always had chin-length hair, worn straight and usually put up in a bun. Growing up, I was never the kind of girl who loved doing her hair and I was too afraid to cut it or do anything very drastic. Like a lot of black girls with relaxed hair, mine was always rebelling against the constant heat I applied to keep it straight. Moisture absolutely killed it and constant straightening with a flat iron was too harsh. My hair always looked nappy at the roots, making my overall hairdo look like I didn’t even care (which, trust me, I did).
In college, I began to notice a lot of black girls who were sporting natural hairdos. Their hair was all different lengths and I saw tons of ways to style it – but no matter what they did, the curly, thick texture was beautiful across the board. The more I saw girls who embraced their natural looks, the more I wanted to as well.
One problem stood in my way: I was scared. Terrified, in fact. I had spent a lot of time reading up on the transitioning process, which includes growing your hair out and cutting the ends off bit by bit until you’re ready for the BIG CHOP… AKA cutting off all the relaxed ends at once. Some girls don’t transition at all and go right for the big chop instead. I wasn’t quite ready for that, so my sophomore year of college, I tried to transition, slowly growing inch-by-inch. Pretty soon, my family began to comment on how bad my hair looked. They didn’t think that I was ready for natural hair, given my lack of interest in my hair in general. After about a month of their comments and my self-doubt, I stopped transitioning and straightened my new growth.
Unfortunately, I almost immediately regretted that. Truthfully, I wanted to give natural hair a shot! I had never seen what my natural hair looked like and I really wasn’t in love with my relaxed hair. By senior year, I decided to try transitioning again. It was not for me – I hated the two textures and wore ponytails as my only style. By the summer, I decided that I was ready for the big chop.
I went into the salon and let the stylist chop, chop, chop away. Initially, I didn’t want to like my baby Afro because I was so scared of what others would say – that it wasn’t professional, that it looked nappy or that it was a ’70s throwback. By the time I left the salon, I was braced for criticism.
But that’s the exact opposite of what I got! My friends were quick to tell me that they loved my new natural ‘do, as were my co-workers. I was more concerned with my family’s approval, though, since they were more conservative. To my surprise, the only thing my parents commented on was how thick my hair was. They even said they were glad I was happy with it. It wasn’t exactly a gushing, “I love it!” but I could tell they meant what they said.
By the time I had the approval of everyone around me, I had already realized that it didn’t really matter and I didn’t need it. I had done what I wanted to do, I had achieved the look that I wanted. I was proud of myself and it didn’t matter if anyone else wasn’t in love with it. All that mattered to me was that I liked it.
Cutting your hair may seem like a small thing to some, but it was a big fear for me because I was so scared of what others would say and think. Somehow, I managed to move past that fear of others not accepting my choices to pursue what I wanted. I know going natural isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad I gave myself the opportunity to experience it for myself. In the end, embracing my natural hair was about more than just trying a new look – it was about me accepting myself for who I am.
Have you ever gone natural with your hair? What was it like? Can you relate to Tiffany’s story? Have you ever done anything super different to your own hair? Tell us in the comments!