You're Braver Than You Think | #DearBlackGirl


T'keeyah B, front desk receptionist.

  

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 yourself more than you do. Don’t aspire to be anything more than what you are. Don’t beat yourself up, don’t look at other people and find beauty.

--T'keeyah

I first met T'keeyah when we worked together at a spa during college. She was one of few black girls at our workplace, so we had that connection. You know, the we-in-this-together connection you have with peers who look like you in a predominantly white space. I loved her energy; she's such a fun person and her light radiates. We were both natural and bonded over our shared experiences as black women with natural hair in the south. We talked about everything from products, to methods, to discovering the definition of porosity. It's so cool to share that experience, and learn those things with someone who gets it. I wanted to learn more about her personal journey, so we sat down (over brunch, of course) to talk about it.

 

How long have you been natural?


Officially, I guess I did my big chop in 2012, but I didn't start wearing my hair by itself naturally until 2016. So almost two years!


What brought you to this journey?


 I did my chop in 2012 but I never really embraced my hair, I was wearing what I felt like were protective styles-- but they didn’t really help my hair. I felt like it was time for my hair to grow and I wanted my hair to grow. I wanted to see it in its best state possible. So I just stopped wearing weave, stopped wearing braids and took on this journey.


Did you always accept your 4c hair?


In all honesty, I don't think I truly knew my true hair type until I like fully went natural. Before and all throughout high school I had relaxers so, I would see my hair kind of wavy in between that relaxer period but I never really saw it as coily as I see it these days. So it wasn't until my hair was completely gone of that straight texture that I really saw how coily it was, and once I realized how pretty my curls were I was like, oh okay we can do this!


When you went natural what was the reaction from your family and friends? Were they supportive?


My friends werr very very supportive, and that's partly because a lot of my friends had already went natural and were wearing their hair. I had a lot of people around me that were natural. So my friends were supportive, some of my family looked at me like I was crazy at first and were like, what the hell are you doin? And it took them a while. I think also, I didn't know what to do with my hair at first, so I probably looked crazy. But now everyone is super accepting, they love my hair just as much as I love my hair.


How do people in your daily life respond to your hair (coworkers--we all get crazy comments, people in public etc)?


I did in the beginning, like when you and I used to work together, when I really started wearing it. Cause people weren't used to seeing my hair like that, so I mean, people wanted to touch it and were just, ultimately, fascinated by it. But now I get a lot of questions about it. This lady at work the other day asked me if my hair was a hair piece...and she was an African American lady. And it was actually [my boyfriend's] idea for me to wear it. He saw me natural one time and was like, Can you wear your hair like this? So I did it for like a week and then it became forever.


When you first started your natural hair journey, who did you look to for guidance?


My friends. And from my standpoint, at the time that I went natural, Youtube helped a little bit. As far as products to try, you know I would always ask you what do you use, and that’s how we kind of figured out the opposites work for our hair!
My best friend, she was natural. She looked out for me, she lived out of state at the time but I would call her and we would talk about different things we've tried, or wanna try, and help each other with different techniques--as far as twisting our hair, braiding our hair, conditioning. Anything we could give each other. I feel like I had a lot of support in that aspect, which was good. But I feel like I still had to do a lot of research on my own because there’s only so much that you can get from people without truly reading up. Once I figured out how my hair took to moisture and how it grew, and how it stayed moisturized the most, once I did that research and figured out what I needed to do it was easier to tame.


Exactly! I feel like the first six years of being natural I didn't know about my porosity or any of that.


It’s just a guessing game! I think it's a learning process more than anything. And I feel like it kind of sounds weird to say it was a learning process to learn your hair, but it’s true. Because personally, I had a relaxer all my life, so I really had no idea how to take care of my hair outside of it being straight, you know? Or outside of it being in braids. I mean, when I went natural I was gonna wash my own hair, condition my own hair and take care of it, make sure that it was maintained, and that I was actually going to have to do something to it everyday, I was so used to having weave and I’d straighten it. I went from heat every day to know heat at all. A 360! But I think now after finding out what worked best, I’ve totally, totally embraced it. Now when I wear wigs and stuff, I'm so ready to get back to my hair!



I feel that. So, what’s your regimen like?


Well every now and then I will pre poo my hair if I’m feeling real jazzy--cause it takes so much energy! I found out that if I pre poo my hair overnight, rather than doing it the day of, so much more moisture stays in my hair. So if I remember to do it, I’ll pre poo prior to actually washing it. If I don't, I will section my hair off and most of the time I wash in the shower because I can get the messiest in there--you know product goes everywhere when you’re doing your hair. So I'll get in there and co-wash. Oh, I found a shampoo--finally--that doesn’t leave my hair stripped. So once a month I’ll use a shampoo, but in between I’ll use a co-wash, and detangle it.
Then I rinse the co-wash out and then I’ll put conditioner in it. Then I’ll rinse that out and keep it sectioned off. When I get out [of the shower] I’ll put my deep conditioner in. Then I’ll twist it and put a plastic bag over my head, and let the deep conditioner sit for about 30-45 minutes, or an hour if i’m doing laundry or whatever. And once my deep conditioner is done I’ll rinse it out and I keep it sectioned off. I’ll moisturize with a leave-in, castor oil with rosemary, and (thanks to you) aloe vera is also my best friend now! So if my hair dries once I rinse the deep conditioner I’ll re moisturize with some aloe vera juice.
Or if I feel like need some extra definition, I will use a light gel, and then I will twist or I will do a wash n go, depending on if I have to go somewhere. If I have to go somewhere, the wash n go and diffuser become my best friend. I’ve only been using the diffuser for maybe 3- months, but I really, really like it. It’s enabled me to do a wash day and still go somewhere! I used to do a wash day and not be able to go anywhere because it was so much. I needed my hair to dry, and you know how long it takes your hair to dry! So the diffuser is great.
I think also with my regimen, I’m trying to cut down; I’m becoming a lazy natural, but still consistent. Consistent but a little less dramatic. In the beginning I wanted to do everything possible to make my hair grow, and now I’m learning I can still do little and maintain, but consistency is key. So I just do maintenance in between the week--section it with gel and add some extra moisture.

How often do you trim?


I try every three months or so. There’s this girl I let cut my hair, I try to stick to the same person. I don't trust myself, but I don't trust a lot of people. Some people get scissor happy and I don’t have time for that! But yeah I love her, she’s seen my hair grow and she doesn’t do too much chopping, just enough.


Why do you think it’s important for there to be natural hair representation in media?


I think it's important to have that representation because, well I personally wasn’t very confident in myself when I started wearing my natural hair. I was wearing all protective styles that, for whatever reason, gave me a sense of security. I felt very confident in myself. Whenever I had weave in, I felt extra confident. Whenever my braids were freshly done, I felt extra confident. So I’ve always taken a sense of pride in my hair. So when I felt like I stripped away, I peeled back back something of me, I exposed myself to the world knowing that people could be cruel and could be mean. And it's scary, I think, for girls who take a lot of pride in their hair. I think it's scary to present yourself like that and feeling vulnerable and exposed to the world.
So i think it's important that you have that representation so girls, especially young girls, know that there's someone who looks like you. Your hair doesn't have to be a certain type of way for you to be deemed acceptable to anybody, because nobody has one answer about what you should look like. So whatever you feel most confident in, whatever make you feel beautiful, you should be able to do. I feel like the only way for to girls to be able to do that, especially with media being as important as it is-- they look and their first impression about what the beauty standard is what they see in media. And if all you’re presenting is someone who is the opposite skin tone, and hair is totally opposite of them, they're gonna think that's what they need to look like, and that's not true. They shouldn't have to wait until they’re 18-22 years old to find this out about themselves, and that’s what’s happening with us. We’re getting to a certain age and just now finding ourselves. For me, I am. There’s nothing wrong with that, I don’t dislike the journey I had to go through to get in this space and feel this comfortable, but I feel like there’s another way that we can make it easier for girls to do that. It's becoming better. It's a lot better than it used to be, because we used to not see hardly any naturals anywhere, on any platform of social media. But now you have girls dedicating entire pages, entire blogs to natural hair, and you have tv commercials, tv shows, just anything you could think of there’s more now than there used to be. Even those monthly subscription boxes, I've seen a couple of those for black girls! So it's becoming better, and I think as time progresses, hopefully if we can keep this movement pushing, it will become larger.


What have you learned on your natural hair journey?


I feel like I’ve always been a strong person, but I learned that I can be braver than I allow myself to be at times. I think that I’ve learned that it's okay to expose yourself--like I said, it's hard to put yourself out there and be vulnerable. So I know I can be braver, and it's crazy that your hair can make you feel that way. But unless you've ever been in my body, and a body that is the same color as me, you know, only those people can attest to what that truly feels like. I’ve also learned that the world is more accepting than I thought it was going to be, because some people are embracing my hair, whereas before I felt like I was gonna get tons of judgment. And I was kind of nervous about that, about how I was going to handle that--because I thought I’d have to go off on somebody! But you can’t always do that. But people have been so accepting, so I’ve learned that I can just be myself and it's okay. And people are either gonna love it or hate it, and at the end of the day I can't change anybody’s mind. I can’t please everybody. So I just gotta be the best me I can be for myself.