Students share their natural-hair experience
1. What does natural hair mean to you?
“Black/natural hair to me means a lot. Patience, strength, self-love, power. Growing up, I used to get my hair relaxed until about my junior year in high school. Deciding to go natural was probably one of the best hair decisions I’ve made. Although dealing with my natural hair takes more time than what I was used to, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
“When I think about the all of chemicals that I used to put in my hair just to get it straight, it kind of makes me cringe. I love how natural hair is like a “thing” now (not saying it wasn’t before), but you definitely see black women embracing it more than I can ever remember. I love it so much because there are so many women who have little girls looking up to them & having them be their hair goals. I didn’t really have that when I was younger. It was all about having the straight/relaxed hair then. Every texture of black/natural hair is so beautiful to me, and I love that we’re able to do so many things with our hair!
“Honestly, I could go on and on but basically to reiterate what I said previously, black/natural hair is amazing and so beautiful and I love see other black women embracing it these days.”
– Ayomide Agunbiade, Accounting, University of Minnesota, St. Thomas
2. What are some offensive things people have done or said in regards to your hair?
“I feel like there’s a lot of hesitation when it comes to black women and our hair. Society has a way of making us feel guilty for the things that we are born with. I used to hate my hair, every aspect of it. I hated how unmanageable it was. I was always so envious of the girls with the soft curls, even if it wasn’t touching their backs.
“It wasn’t until senior year of high school that I started to see the beauty of my hair. I was sick of trying to tame it with perms, heat, and weave. By the time I did the big chop I was already armed with self-confidence that I thought I would need because of society. I had shed my old skin and was left with one that was glowing, and it came with a thick, kinky fro and a pep in my step. I was prepared for society’s ridicule and the disrespect that would try to strip away my beauty and also when my reflection would try to do the same.
“Now that I think back at it, I can’t help but laugh. I was literally mentally preparing like I was going to war because of my HAIR! The boys at school would laugh at the length of my shrinkage being about the length of their hair. I would get called “bald-headed” often and none of the girls stood up for me nor did they offer comforting words. I could hear their snickers, but again, I was already prepared so the insults slid off my skin. My hair was so foreign and alien to them.
“I received the annoying head pats but I could always see astonishment and hints of admiration on their faces. They would ask “how do you get your hair like that?” I’d try not to sound too sarcastic when I responded to them. “Water…water makes my hair curly.” What I didn’t anticipate was needing to put my bullet proof vest on for my family. I would watch the looks of disgust, yes disgust, from on the faces of my aunts’ as they touched their cheap wigs while staring at the little curly vines on my head. My favorite uncles would pull me aside and tell me to do my hair in a way that was “more lady like” as if my coils had the ability to generate a sex change.
“During family functions, comments like “a perm would do you some good,” “your hair is too nappy,” and “Rebecca (my mom), why would you let her walk out of the house like that?!” were constantly thrown at me.
“My bullet proof vest was nowhere in sight and I would always feel my self-confidence diminish when I was around them. I didn’t prepare a defense mechanism for my family because I didn’t think I needed to. It doesn’t bother me anymore but now I feel like I have to walk around with a shield at all times, protected. There are people who like my hair and some who don’t.
“Regardless of anyone’s opinion, every coiled strand that explodes out of my roots tells a story about where I’m from and the people who came before me. The thickness of it is my identity. When I look around at the other girls with the straighter hair, or curls looser than mines, they don’t have to defend the stories told by their hair, so why should I have to go to war for mine?”
– Naomi Kanswen, North Hennepin Community College, Nuclear Medicine Technology
3. What is the difference between weave, relaxed and natural?
“Since the age of nine, I have had a relaxer. Mainly because my mother thought that was the best solution for my hair. Little did I know, relaxers are actually very harmful for our hair. It made my hair very brittle and thin. As I grew older, I got tired of relaxers. I was curious to know what my natural hair looked like. I put all my baby pictures together and found out I had curly hair!
“August of 2014 is when I had my last relaxer. For about seven months I let the relaxed (dead) hair grow out. Using protective styles such as braids, twist outs, and buns were all I wore at that time. April of 2015 is when decided to do the “big chop.” That was one of the biggest/best decisions that I’ve made.
“Now,a complete year later I can fit my hair into a ponytail while it’s curly! Now that’s progress! My hair journey has been fun and I’m still learning new things every day. I genuinely encourage everyone to go natural! I’ve never had an actual weave, but I had used clip-ins for about two years, which just caused more damage to my hair. Literally the best thing you can do is just have natural hair. No heat, weave, clip-ins, really tight braids, or color. When your hair is natural, it has no choice but to grow!”
– Caelen Terrell, Nursing, North Hennepin Community College, MN
4. Name one natural hair do and don’t?
“To be honest I feel as if there shouldn’t be any natural hair do’s and don’ts because it’s NATURAL hair. We cannot help how our natural hair grows out of our scalp. Also, from my personal experience it was very hard for me to learn how to accept my natural curls because of how thick my hair is and I wasn’t comfortable with the short look because that was a style I’ve never tried or was forced to experience. But as time went on I learned to love my hair although many products didn’t work for my hair as much as it worked for others.
“One do that I will say is that every Naturalista should try their best to understand what their hair wants and needs. It is okay to experiment with different foods, oils, products but then it’s also important to find out what works for your mane. Another do is YouTube! YouTube has all of the answers! There are so many Naturalistas on YouTube here to help! There are so many different type of product reviews and different styles for different lengths to try. The only don’t I have is don’t be afraid to EMBRACE YOUR MANE! Love your mane and be good to your mane. Love makes your hair
grow, not products.”
– Charity Peprah, Clark Atlanta, business major with a concentration in Marketing.
5. What is the key to having healthy natural hair?
“I think the key to growing out black hair/natural is to have patience and stick to your own personal hair care regimen. I had to research products and hair types, watch a lot of YouTube videos, buy lots of products and figure out what really worked best with my hair texture. I use organic coconut oil, Jamaican black castor oil, products from the OGX line, and the list goes on and on.
“Another key is to stay completely natural! Also, avoid putting heat on your hair. Instead of using heat, it’s best to try natural styles like braid outs, twists, and ponytails/buns. I trim my hair all the time and I keep it moisturized.”
– Alasha Pryor, Corrections, University of Minnesota, Mankato
Photo: (CC BY-NC 2.0) by devintrentphotography