I can still recall sitting between my mother’s legs as she struggled to comb my very tightly curled hair when I was 3 or 4 years old. Back then it was called nappy hair, and my mother was absolutely at odds with my naps. She herself had loose, curly hair and could manage her own quite easily with water and some type of conditioner.
It was at this young age that I learned the terms "good" and "bad" hair. Good hair meant your hair was closer to that of white people’s hair, while bad hair meant you had kinky and tightly curled ones, like black people. Concerned about my appearance, one day she took me to her Hollywood hairstylist and demanded that he put a perm in my hair to straighten it so that she can manage it more easily.
Since Madame CJ Walker perfected the hot comb to accommodate kinky hair, black women have been doing everything in their power to change their hair’s natural texture. In many circles it had been considered “too black,” unacceptable or even ugly for a black woman to don her natural mane. With the exception of the black power movement during the late '60s and '70s, when the Afro was popularized, the majority of black women and girls have gone through great extremes to make their hair straight and long. This commitment to our hair being straight is the root of many stereotypes about black women such as “black women don’t swim,” “black women can’t go out in the rain” and “black women don’t like anyone, including lovers, touching their hair.”
In an attempt to avert the cost and time commitment of hair grooming, I’ve worn my hair natural since I was in my 20s. Years of devoting a lot of money to weekly treatments, avoiding getting my hair wet and trying to work out without sweating just cramped my lifestyle. Other than when my supervisor at big law firm told me that my hairstyle was not “appropriate professional grooming,” I’ve never had any problems wearing my natural hair.
The best part of the movement toward natural hair is the self-acceptance and self-love that comes with a natural standard of beauty.
Lately I’m seeing a new trend among black women. It seems the days of long bone-straight hair down their backs are coming to an end and the kinky, curly, Afro-type styles are emerging on heads all over the country. A couple of years ago, Viola Davis rocked her short, stylish hair at the Oscars. And last year Lupita Nyong’o’s natural look was all we saw for months.
The trends set by celebrities, not to the mention all the press given to how deadly hair-straightening chemicals are, have created what I see as a natural-hair movement. Each day I see more and more black women with their natural kinky, tightly curled hair. And I can’t tell you how happy it makes me.
I’m most excited for the little black girls whose mothers will not feel compelled to put chemicals in their hair in order to make it more manageable. Although that definitely means sitting for long periods of time detangling, in the long-run natural hair is healthier. I’m also happy for all the women who no longer feel they need to wear weaves or wigs to fit in at work. And for the women who still perm, or wear weaves or wigs, choice is everything — and knowing they can choose natural hair is simply a weight lifted.
The best part of the movement toward natural hair is the self-acceptance and self-love that comes with a natural standard of beauty. There is nothing as freeing as accepting ourselves as we are without the need to make ourselves different. That is really beautiful!