Is Natural Hair Beautiful?
I was typing out an entirely different post altogether before I changed my mind and decided to write on this one instead.
I thought it was about time that I shared my thoughts on a question that many of naturalistas ask themselves over and over again: Is my hair beautiful enough to be worn in its natural state?
As a natural hair blogger, I still ask myself this question more often than I'd like to admit. In as much as I loooveee my natural hair, its been a journey with many ups and downs. And I think that's its okay for me to confess this to myself and to you as well.
Oftentimes when my readers write to me, I sign off by saying, "be encouraged in your journey!". I say this, because I know that behind all the seemingly-fearless selfies of our bomb twists outs that we flaunt on Facebook hair forums, embracing and celebrating our natural hair can be a real internal struggle.
And so today's post is on this: the lessons I've learned (and are still learning) when it comes to deeply loving myself - coils, curls, kinks and all! The encouragement that I speak of, and that I wish on you too, is one that leads to self-love/accceptance/respect.
Let's face it:
1. The media is choke-full of caucasian beauty standards - the straight, blonde bloke is the emblem of beauty. (Think Beyonce, and Serena in Gossip Girls). This standard is a faarrr cry from our kinky/coily/curly dark-tonned hair!!
2. Black female icons that many young black women look up to, hardly embrace their natural tresses. (Think back to Beyonce..! Not hating on Queen Bey, just stating!) Am I the only one who wonders how Beyonce's real hair looks like? Is it as kinky as her sister Solange's?
3. Black female icons that do embrace natural hair are overstated and exoticized. (Think Lupita Nyong'o - I appreciate all that she has done for black women worldwide, but why must she be so fetishized by Hollywood? Can she just be Lupita, not black-like-the-earth-natural-hair-in-a-bun-Lupita?)
4. Black female icons that vehemently embrace their natural hair are seen as social activists/thought leaders. (Think Chimamanda Adichie. Read this post here, to get a glimpse of her book, Americanah). Can black women with natural hair just be women, simply women? Not culturally-opposed, system-fighters, tree-hugging, earth-loving black women?
It boils down to this: whichever way black women wear their hair, they are either doing too much or too little.
Black women's hair cannot vacate politicization. It seems that a black woman's personna can almost be reduced to how she chooses to wear her hair. Her hair, as is now, speaks volumes, whether or not she likes it.
How does this affect you and me?
Well for those of us who aren't always in the limelight, it means that we are constantly being thrown between two (seemingly opposed) ideals as the media presents them to us. Should I be a "diva" / "fashionista" and rock 'em weaves and wigs or should I be "strong"/ "political" / "artsy" / "aware" and make a "statement" by wearing my hair naturally?
It's a daily struggle!!!
Here's what I am learning:
1. My hair has allowed me to encounter the truth about my beauty as a black woman.
When I decided to start my natural hair journey back in 2011, I came across 10's if not 100's of bloggers who were sharing their journeys online. For many of them, natural hair served to redeem them from a culture of caucasian beauty standards, of which they were obviously excluded. The creation of a natural hair "community" - the use of the term, very deliberate - was to create a sense of closeness/bonding among black women from which they could draw strength. Natural hair revealed to me the myths that have led many black women to alter their physical beauty in order to fit white/caucasian/eurocentric beauty standards.
2. Aside from reshaping my external perspective and cleaning the filter through which I determined my beauty standards, natural haircare has taught me to look inward.
I've learnt how to take care of my skin and body; I've learnt the value of eating healthy and exercising regularly. In moments in which I mastered the art of a twist out or simply just stepped out in my kinky tresses, I learnt self-confidence. In planning for my hair growth and in seeing results, I learnt patience and consistency. Natural hair, as many women can testify, has meant more than just hair. Natural hair has reshaped, revamped and rejuvenated many women's lifestyles for the better.
3. In encountering this truth, I came to realise too, that I am more than just my hair.
If the media serves to reduce black women to their physicality, natural hair has shown me that I am more than just the sum my physical appearance. I am a geeky-school lover, a writer, a sister, a cousin, a dreamer, an academic-to-be, a philosopher, a lover of fashion and travel and make-up..yes..I am more than just my hair. And so are you hunney!! :-)
Sigh. I could write a book about this topic. I know it's touchy for many of us. I know too that our ideas are still evolving and that each of us is somewhere along the spectrum of embracing our natural hair. I'd love to know your thoughts though..
Is natural hair beautiful?
How have you learnt to confidently wear your hair out? If you haven't yet, what's stopping you?
What has your journey been like? Have you always embraced the natural aesthetic or are you natural, but-only-under-your-brazilian-water-wave-22-inch-weave?
Feel free to leave me a line below!
Love and Sunshine!!!