My going natural process was actually not REALLY planned. I had watched a few videos on "big chops" and "going natural" and I also coincidentally hadn't gotten a relaxer in about 8 months (aka transitioned) and I big chopped. However, I had done such a terrible job in my bathroom with my raggedy kitchen scissors that I had cut my entire head of hair off into a wide variety of 2-5 inch pieces. I was completely mortified when I looked into the mirror and ran to my bed and cried. My mom forced me to go to the hair salon to get it "straightened up". Afterwards, when I had measured my hair I was left with hair that was no longer than 3 inches. So, I have been natural since my summer to 11th grade in July 2009 which would equal 3 and a half years.
Had you always embraced your texture?
I definitely have not always embraced my natural texture. I actually hated my texture when I was younger. I went to an all black elementary public school in the city and I was always looked at as, and treated, like an alien (being Half black and half white). I feel so ashamed of admitting it, but I actually used to be embarrassed when my Guatemalan father would come to visit me at school because my classmates would pick on me. In first grade, a girl actually spat in my face at the water fountain and a boy tried to cut my braid off with a knife... it was pretty bad. I felt that the reason that they were so mean to me was because I was different and most importantly, because my hair was different. In a school full of straight relaxed hair, I was the one kid who would walk around with big curly hair and I absolutely hated it. I would beg my mom for a relaxer so that I could be just like everyone else, but she would never give in. However, in 6th grade she finally gave me a relaxer, although I still had a slight curl to my hair, it just looked thinner and was not as big. And oh boy I LOVED it. I finally felt like I was just like everybody else and that I could straighten my hair and finally be normal. In high school, when I would complain about my new growth , my best friend Traniece would feel it and say that it was actually really soft and curly. I did not believe her at all until around 10th grade. I started noticing that my new growth was manageable and that the relaxed hair was actually the unmanageable hair that was thin and crunchy. And that was around the time that I started watching YouTube videos and stopped getting relaxers.
How did family and friends react to your decision to go natural? How did they react to the new you? What was your response to them?
My mom probably had the worst reaction out of everyone. I had tried to hide the fact that I had hacked my hair off by trying to SQUEEZE my hair into a ponytail using about 30 bobby pins. But after about 3 days she caught me "slipping" and asked me "what the heck I had done to my hair"? She accused me of wanting to have hair like the white girls in the magazines and that I didn't have hair like them (I guess she figured that I wanted a pixie type haircut and at the time, she was still getting her hair relaxed and didn't understand the whole "big chop" idea). Coincidentally, she is now my biggest natural hair supporter and even went natural after 40 years to reveal beautiful shiny coils.
The next most significant reactions were from school. Having had long hair my whole life, I got many reactions on the first day of school that were like "oh my gosh why did you cut your long pretty hair"? It was horrible having to smile to those people and act like I was happy with my decision and not cry because I had asked myself the same question over and over again. So needless to say, I was not prepared or happy with my decision to cut my hair. After cutting it in the bathroom, I immediately started to look up braid shops so that I could get extension braids put in. However, I never got them because of the extremely high cost. So for the first 2 months I wore my hair straightened, which I would straighten every 2 weeks. However as time grew on my best friend Traniece, who really helped me feel comfortable with my curly hair, encouraged me to wear my hair curly, which I did for about 7 straight months. However, it probably wasn't until 8 months being natural that I became comfortable with my hair curly.
Describe your hair.
I would describe my hair as having fine strands but A LOT of them. I have compared my hair strands up to my sister's hair strands (which are extremely thick) and my Hispanic cousin's hair, and it looked wispy thin in contrast. But because of the great deal of hairs I have on my head, I often have people tell me that I look like I have 5 heads of hair on my head or 5 packs of weave on it (which I am not sure I should take as a compliment). I would consider myself to have normal porosity hair, it doesn't lose moisture easily nor does it hold onto moisture too much. I would say that my hair retains moisture very well unless I wait too long to wash it, which I unfortunately do too often.
What's your current hair routine? How often do you wash, condition, and style? favorite products! Deets!
Well during my transitioning and up until the past few months, I strictly used just Aussie Moist (to detangle and leave-in), Shea Moisture Moisture Retention Shampoo, and VO5 as a second "shampoo." I did use coconut oil for a while until I realized that its use was correlated with the horrible pimples appearing on my face and on my back. However, for the past 3 months, due to the fact that I now have a job (money), I have been experimenting with some new products. I alternate my use of Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie and the Olive Oil EcoStyer. Note that I said alternate, because when I try to use the two products together I get horrible white flakes that look as if I shook my head in a box full of powdered donuts. I still use my Aussie Moist as I leave in, I just apply the Curl Enhancing Smoothie or EcoStyler over top of it (or just use Aussie Moist by itself). If my hair is extremely tangled, I'll detangle with a comb by Conair that's wide toothed (with double rows of teeth) and made for people with curly hair and then detangle with the Denman afterwards. All other times I just use the Denman by itself. And I cowash my hair every 7-12 days. During finals week, it can go on as long as 16 days. But I am trying to shorten the time in between my washes to around 4 days due to the knots and snarls that I get when I wait too long. My routine is pretty simple- no oil treatments, no henna, no deep conditioning treatments, no protein treatments, occasional twist outs, no braidouts, no braids, no bantu-knot outs... basically nothing fancy or that takes a lot of time since I'm pretty busy.
How do you maintain your hair at night?
I'll usually put it up in a high bun (which helps to loosen up my tightly curled hair at the back of my head while not really losing the looser front sections). A high bun also helps to keep the back section of my hair from getting extremely knotty or from being uncomfortable while sleeping since I sleep on my back. However, if I want to keep my hair neat and tightly curled all over, I will just pineapple it. I will place a scarf over my hair and then put a bonnet over top of it. Or if the scarf makes my hair hurt, I will just lay it on top of my pillow since I do not move that much while I sleep.
How do you maintain healthy length?
I maintain a healthy length by being extremely patient with my hair and not straightening it too often. If my hair needs two hours to be combed through (which it sometimes does) I will set aside the time to do it. I never yank the comb through my hair and if I have knots, I will set the comb down and focus on gently trying to get as many hairs out of the knots before grabbing a pair of scissors. I also do not flat iron my hair often, which I believe is the enemy of trying to grow long naturally curly hair. When I do feel like flat ironing my hair, I visualize the scorching hot flat iron plates melting away my cuticle and causing my cortex to become exposed to all sorts of wear and tear, leading to inevitable breakage (I know it may seem dramatic but it really helps). I have probably only flat ironed my hair 8-9 times since being natural and other than when I flat ironed my hair 2 months ago, I had not flat ironed it in over a year and a half. I also try to stay away from chemicals except for the 5-7 small highlights that I placed on my head 3 months ago.
What's the best thing about being curly?
What I love most about my naturally curly hair is that it is healthy and it actually doesn't stop growing. Before, I always had been able to attain relatively long lengths. However, it never ever grew past bra strap length. And when it did, I had to cut about 4-5 inches off because of split ends. However, with my naturally curly hair, I have been able to grow my hair close to (or at) hip length. And I am telling you, I NEVER thought that my hair could ever get this long. I also love that I get to meet many new people everyday because they like to tell me how my hair is so "big," "frizzy," "poofy" and "curly."
Where can folks find you on the web?
You can find me on Instagram at jewejewebee or as Jewellianna. And hopefully I'll make a YouTube channel one day since I love watching the other people's videos so much.
What advice would you give someone who is contemplating going natural and/or becoming discouraged with their natural journey?
I would say to not be obsessed with your length and to not compare your hair to others. The summer that I cut my hair I actually spent hours holding a 12 inch ruler to my head seeing how long my hair could get in 2 years. I LITERALLY had made a calendar documenting each month and the predicted length my hair would be. I became so engulfed with the length of my hair that I didn't actually get to enjoy it. I would envy all of the natural haired people that I would see on YouTube and wish that I had there hair length (even if it was only 2 inches longer than mine). I really do regret it. Now I envy the people who have shorter curly hair and how AMAZING their hair looks and the styles that they do with their hair. I suggest you to enjoy every length of your hair and to try out different styles and cuts to make you feel confident about your hair RIGHT NOW instead of wishing that it were longer. Oh, and PATIENCE IS KEY. Whether it’s with the length of your hair, the time it takes to detangle it, or the time that you are transitioning, patience is the answer to all.