We asked each woman to write a note to her younger self to share with her what she wishes she knew.
DEAR BLACK GIRL,
Girl. Love yourself! Like? You're a queen, you're poppin, you're gorgeous! You're intelligent! Do your thing, love yourself. That's all that matters! Nothing else can really phase you if you have that foundation.
How long have you been natural?
Probably about...around four years maybe.
What made you decide to go natural?
My hair was really damaged from getting perms. I had been doing it since I was like probably eight, and then when I was about 17, 18, I had this really, really bad perm and this whole section of my hair just like, kind of broke off. It was like an inch long. I was like, Okay I think I've enough of this, you know? i think it's time to start doing something different. So a little bit later I big chopped.
See I didn't big chop at all, how was that? How did you feel?
Not really. I always wore my hair in braids and protective styles, and I didn't shave it, I trimmed for a couple months and then I cut my hair, so I had a little bit of growth and then I just wore it braids for a while. So I didn't really struggle that much with the beginning stage because it was always covered. It wasn't until probably like, six months to a year after that that anyone outside of my family saw my natural hair, because I would always get my hair done over a break or, you know..I wouldn't go to school with my natural hair out when it was that short.
Did you always accept your 4c hair? If not, what was that process like?
I always accepted it. But it was kind of hard to deal with it, I guess. The difference between permed hair and natural hair, even the loosest of natural hair--which I don't have, I have 4c hair--so it was just different, but I enjoyed it for sure. The thing I probably struggled with the most in the beginning was getting comfortable with the shrinkage and the length! But eventually I got more used to that. I never had a problem like.."Oh I hate my hair!" I just had to be patient with it, like when it doesn't want to cooperate.
When you went natural what was the reaction from your family and friends? Were they supportive?
When I first went natural...no. When I started to transition, I didn't have any black friends. I was still in Sarasota and there are like no black people there, so I didn't have anyone. And my mom and my sister both had permed hair, so I didn't have anyone in my life who was natural. Then by the time I big chopped I was living in Jacksonville, and I did have more black friends but none of them were natural! So I definitely had support from them, but no one really, especially out of my friends, [could relate]. A lot of them were like, "OH..you sure you wanna do that?" Yes? I don't know? I think I'm sure?
But my family was definitely supportive.
Who did you look to for guidance?
Natural85! That was my g, she was the first person I remember watching to get hair advice from. No one in my personal life had natural hair so it was pretty limited. Naptural85 definitely helped me get my foot in the door and figure out what worked for me and what didn't. It took a while, and I still watch her. I'm more independent in my choices these days, because back then I would just do literally anything she did. Like, okay girl let's do it! But now I'm like..I don't think that's going to work. I have more discernment when it comes to my hair.
Yeah, we've definitely talked about that, about how you can't do what everyone does. Everyone's process and products aren't going to work for your hair.
Right, everyone's hair is completely different! And I think when i first started I would really get discouraged when something didn't work for me. Like, it looked so good on her when she did it, she said it made her hair feel like butter! I hate it when people say that! I can not relate at all.
What’s your regimen like?
I try to wash weekly and I try to always deep condition. My hair always, always wants moisture. So I usually do that, I'll do a hot oil treatment at least once a month, if not more. And then I'll do another deep condition. On a day to day basis I'll use a leave in conditioner, and then some oil, whatever i have on hand. I go through oil so fast. Sometimes I'll do a twist out, sometimes I'll do protective styles, like having it in a low bun for a couple of days. Stuff like that!
Do you have any tips for people with 4c who are just starting out?
Don't give up! Be patient! It's a journey, but I've not known anyone who didn't eventually come back around to saying, Oh, I really love my natural hair. Anyone I know who has given up has always said, Wow, I kinda wanna have my hair natural again. It always ends up being what most people want. Everyone is different so, maybe it's not for you. But I would definitely try to stick it out. It's what you're born with! It grows out of your scalp, it's for you. just embrace it, be patient and it will work out.
Why do you think it’s important for there to be natural hair representation in media?
I think it's so, so, so important because, just like with anything, if you don't see what you have represented on the day-to-day basis you're not going to believe that what you have is normal or beautiful. I do feel like the more diversity that we have with race and hair texture, the more people will be able to appreciate themselves, especially with younger girls and boys.
When you see something that doesn't represent you, you just wonder, What's wrong with me? Why am I not what's being shown? So it's definitely important to show that, especially for younger, more impressionable people. All you see is slicked down lace fronts, and there's nothing wrong with that. If that's all you see that's all you'll think is acceptable or beautiful. And I definitely think you can never have enough diversity in media, so they need to step it up, you know? All around, all across the board.
What have you learned on your natural hair journey?
It's kinda funny because I have noticed that people do treat me differently based on how my hair looks. I've just had so many stages of my hair, I had a jheri curl at one point but we're not gonna talk about that! Like when I think about how many different ways people have treated me, at the end of the day, I really started to notice more people treating me with respect when I started respecting myself, as in accepting what I have. I went though phases when I wasn't sure the way certain things looked with my hair, but people are going to have their bias no matter what. But when you have that confidence in yourself and you know that you're worthy and you are beautiful, and it doesn't matter what anyone else says or thinks, I think that even people who hate you or are judging you are still gonna have to respect you. Because you're owning what you are, you're owning what you have, you know?
I've experienced so many people treating me differently. like when I have my little wig on, or some braids, or a short bob, I've noticed people at my job (not the people I work with, but customers) will treat me more respectfully, will come up to me. They'll be like, Hi ma'am, how are you? But 99% of the time when my natural hair is out they'll walk passed me and go to the white person next to me. But you know, live your life, do your thing sweetie. I'm not bothered but it's just funny! It's just very interesting that this is still going on in 2018. People are eventually going to change, but it's just going to take time and patience.