Hair is one of those things that black girls take very seriously–I'll admit that I've prioritized a style over schoolwork before. And I know everyone remembers a lesson (or a beating) they received while getting their hair done as a kid. Hair is an important part of black culture, and always has been–and though sometimes it can divide us (#endthenaturalvsrelaxedwar) it also has always been a huge aspect of my concept of blackness. The time and care that black hair requires fosters communities around itself in a way that I've always appreciated. Combine that with the social nature of the South, and there are few other things that create such specific and complex rituals. In fact, the thing I've missed most since going natural is that I haven't been able to participate in black salon culture, which means I haven't read a copy of Ebony in months.
I've had to replace that experience by making my own hair routine as special as possible—lately, I've been accomplishing this by making my hair regimen a part of my self care routine. Black women constantly undergo sexism, racism, and the general foolishness that this world puts us through, and self care is a necessary way to combat stress. I love to share this idea with other women in my community, both to teach self love and to establish relationships. So for our first Black GRIT profile, I wanted to feature a lovely friend of mine and highlight the important relationship between hair and sisterhood. A few weeks ago, my homegirl Jasmine and I had a fun night doing hair and talking trash, and I'm thankful that she was willing to share her experiences with both her hair and the South, as well as the bomb flat twist out I was able to give her. Read about her hair and why the South is important to a girl from Ohio.
What is your connection to the South?
I have a good amount of family in the South, so although I was born in Cleveland, OH, I spent 5 years of my life living in Georgia in a different culture than the North. From the food to the language, in some of my most delicate years of adolescence, I had to learn to adapt to the South.
What has your hair journey been like?
I began getting relaxers when I was about 6 or 7 years old, pretty frequently. Then, I started getting them less often when I was about 9 until I was 14. I had one relaxer from 14 to 15 and started to ease into the natural state. During my transition, I kept braids, weaves and other protective styles in my hair for about two years straight without heat. The only chemicals that I have used since I was 15 are bleach and hair dyes.
What does your hair mean to you?
As a child, I hated my hair because I didn't like getting it done. I always hated relaxers because they didn't take well or hold up in my hair, and because I found them painful. I also didn't like the feel of heat in my head, so I found myself appreciating my hair a lot more once I started going natural. Some of my family, my mother in particular, didn't respond well to the change and are constantly pressuring me to go back to the "creamy crack" but I began loving my hair a lot more when I decided to make the change.
What is your current hair routine?
I started actually wearing my hair out in the past 5-6 months, so I have been trying out a lot of things. Most often, I do wash and go's. I co-wash my hair about every 4-5 days and shampoo every 3 weeks to a month. I also deep condition when I shampoo. I also detangle my hair with every wash.
What makes you happiest about your hair? What frustrates you most?
The thing that makes me both happiest and most frustrated about my hair is the thickness. I appreciate how much hair I have and how thick it is because my head always is full, but it's so much to manage at the same time, and doing it takes a lot of time and patience.
How did you learn about your hair? Who taught you the most about your hair?
I began learning about my hair from my cousin, who is a cosmetologist. When I made the transition to being natural, she was more helpful with braiding my hair or doing sew-ins, and less helpful with actually doing natural hair. I partially watched YouTube videos, but a lot of things I just picked up on my own or asked friends, such as what products do you use and how did you do that to your hair.