A conversation between Ari, from Belle Bar, and Lily, College Counselor at Uplift Summit International Preparatory. Set to be studying Sociology and Education at the Teachers College at Columbia University this fall. Lily also wrote a children's book for young black girls to inspire them to love their hair. Coming soon!
We asked each woman to write a note to her younger self to share with her what she wishes she knew.
Dear black girl,
Love the hair and the body you are in more and be more open. You don’t have to try and be like the other girls. Just learn who you are and love yourself through every twist, curl, and kink.
I met Lily at an art show we were in together earlier this year. She had black faux locs with red pieces throughout, gold glitter that framed her face and a bold red lip. A total queen. Lily is the definition of one-of-a-kind. She's super talented, intelligent, and always remains true to herself, and I admire that. She's not afraid to switch up her hair and express herself through her style. Here's her experience as a woman with natural hair.
How long have you been natural?
I’ve been 100% natural since May of 2015. Before that I transitioned to becoming natural, cause I had braids for like 3-6 months, and then I cut off half my hair and then my hair was like, half relaxed, half natural and it looked really funny. And then when I felt like my natural hair was long enough, I cut off all the rest of it. The actual full chop was May 2015. I remember it aligned with our school Founder's Day! I was like, okay by Founder's Day I wanna be natural. And so two weeks before that my friend cut it, he’s the only one I trust to cut my hair. But he lives in New York, so I haven’t gotten a haircut since.
What brought you to this journey?
So, the movement was happening, and I was in college and I was like, “I don’t wanna be that college girl that goes natural in college because she’s trying to find herself. That’s too cliche.” But then I ended up being the cliche! So I thought about it, I thought about it really hard. I thought, do I want to do this because it’s a fad or do i wanna do this for me? And then the day I realized I want to do this for me was the day my friend was doing spoken word poetry. And he was talking about how he wanted to get his hair cornrowed by his aunt, and she told him to relax his hair if he wanted her to braid it. So he did, and in the poem he said something like “burning away the history from my roots” and I was like, damn that’s deep. That is what I’m doing. My family has had natural hair since forever, like that’s how I was born. And I don’t even know how i’m supposed to look with natural hair. I had been relaxed since I was like 3 or 4. When I was young my mom was like, not dealing with that mess. So I had my hair relaxed when I was really, really little. So I really didn’t know what my natural hair looked like, so part of me going natural was just to figure out, okay what do I look like? And then I figured okay I’ll go natural, if I like it i’ll keep it, but if not I can always go back to being relaxed. But I just wanted to know how i’m supposed to look and then be able to judge from there.
Did you always accept your 4c hair?
My friends were really supportive. But my mom was like, what’s that bush on your head? Like she was not that supportive about me going natural. I feel
When you first started your natural hair journey, who did you look to for guidance?
I had a friend that had gone natural the year before I did, so I basically just like followed in her footsteps. She showed me, “this how you need to wash your hair, these are the products you need to use.” She did my first twist out. It was really cute now that I’m looking back on it! We had a whole night where she washed my hair for me, she was like “okay here are the products you need to use, here’s some Shea Moisture, here’s how you do this, this is what you need to do for daily stuff, this is why this product doesn’t work”. It was really nice. She also taught me how to do my eyebrows, she’s a really good friend!
Can we get into your regimen?
For my regimen I wash my hair about every other week. I wash my hair with conditioner usually and once a month or every other month I’ll use shampoo or apple cider vinegar and deep condition. I try not to blow dry my hair (only for emergencies or if I’m feeling some type of way lol). So I use leave in conditioner (shea’s moisture because I bought a huge tub before I knew they were evil and I don’t want it to go to waste lol) and camilla rose moisture milk and do a twist out. As I twist out my hair I also detangle using my fingers. The whole process takes about 2-3 hours.
Yas co-wash! So are most of your peers natural?
Yeah, I don't think I have any black friends who have relaxed hair.
Why do you think it’s important for there to be natural hair representation in media? How do you feel about the representation we have now?
I think it’s growing, it's a good start. I think there’s still room to grow. There could be more 4c representation, cause there’s plenty of women that have 4c hair to go around, so it would be nice to have some of that. It's just good to be able to see yourself in the media and know, “okay there are other people who look like me and can do this." And I don’t feel limited to have to have a certain kind of hair style, or certain kind of hair texture. And that if I don’t have that, then i don’t know what to do with it, or that it can’t be the standard of beautiful.
What have you learned on your natural hair journey?
It's taught me to be very reflective and more in touch with myself. I know when I’m in a good place cause my hair is in a good place. I know when I’m in a bad place cause my hair is in a bad place. It's not necessarily that my hair is automatically gonna become dry and frizzy if I’m feeling sad, but it’s like I won’t be moisturizing it, I won’t sleep with a bonnet on, I won’t wash it every week or every other week. I’ll wait like three weeks and let it get matted. So its like, if I’m not willing to take care of myself, it’s because there’s something that I'm not dealing with with myself. So it’s kind of like your bedroom, you know? Your bedroom is a reflection of your state of mind and so is your hair. So it pushes me to be more reflective and to know, okay there’s something going on with me, I need to take some time to figure this out.