I chatted with Monique for an hour and immediately I felt like we were long time friends. We had a lot in common. And our journeys to going natural were alike, in that, they were a natural progression--just another step on a path we both already seemed to be taking--as opposed to the result of a tragic affair with a relaxer. The conversation flowed in the same organic way: from the jolt of going from long hair to a cropped-top natural to how exposure to Rasta culture nurtured a natural journey already in motion. See how it unfolded after the jump.
SH: What made you decide to go natural?
I did it once before in 2007, right after I graduated from college. This is actually the second time around for me. I wanted a fresh break because I’ve always been known as the tall girl with the long hair. And I’ve been treated favorably for it, maybe because of how Jamaican culture is--you know the song, “Love Me Browning.” So, I wanted to enter the working world as just me. I cut it all off and I cried like a baby. I cried for 3 days, actually.
SH: Oh no! Are you serious?
MR: Yes! [laughs] And I kept it short for a good while, not having any information on what to do with it. I ended up relaxing again because it became too much for me. I grew a full head of hair again, down to my shoulders--almost to bra-strap length. When I got there, I said, "I’m not feeling this.” To me, relaxed hair is like a uniform. There’s only so many ways you can wear it. And I was over being in the hairdresser for 5 hours on a Saturday.
SH: You said you wanted to go into the working world as yourself. How were you received?
MR: The workplace was good. I was seen for who I was but my friends and family were so confused. They were like, “You going through something? Did your boyfriend break up with you?... You look so much better with your long hair!” And I just couldn’t explain to them because I didn’t really know what I was doing either.
SH: Did anyone have negative reactions after cutting your hair?
MR: If they did, they kept it to themselves. But I knew people weren’t really feeling the TWA. I'm just remembering, my mother went through the roof. She was on top of her lungs screaming because the hair was kind of her baby. She nurtured it all along, you know. Then, when I relaxed it again the second time, she was like, “You so confused. I’m over you!” [laughs]
I’ve had long hair all my life. So to go from bra-strap to no hair, it jolted some people to say the least.
SH: Did you find that people treated you differently?
MR: Yeah. One thing that sticks out in my mind is, when I had a perm, there’s a bank that I always go to. And there’s a guy, I guess he was sweet on me. He would always help me when I get to the bank, you know--put me to the front of the line, that kind of thing. And the day that I cut my hair, he walked straight past me...And then, when he heard that I was in a video [Protoje & Kymani Marley's "Rasta Love"] ...
SH: He came back.
MR: Yeah. [laughs]
SH: Did it take you a while to accept your hair?
MR: The first time around I hated it. The second time around, I was like, “Why didn’t I do this before?” It was a growing process for me to see if this is really for me.
SH: How do you maintain your hair now?
MR: Every new natural tries everything under the sun. I went through that product junkie phase. But now, I do a simple wash day on Sunday. And, usually, I twist after I wash. That twist-out will last for the whole week.
SH: Do you use any specific products?
MR: I buy shea butter and oils and whip that up and I use that. I always use Kinky Curly Knot Today Leave-In. My hair loves that stuff. I try to keep very natural because I think less is more.
SH: How would you describe your personal style? Do you have a go-to hairstyle?
MR: I like soft fabrics and I always have a piece that carries the outfit. Maybe "street-preppy" is the term. My go-to hairstyle is a puff that I wear at the complete top of my head, so that it forms a bang. I wear that 50 percent of the time. When I’m having a bad hair day, no matter if the curls are defined or not, the puff always works for me.
SH: Did going natural inspire you in any way to make other changes in your life?
MR: Soon after I did my second big chop, I got asked to do the video. Just being around that crowd, I had to be around more people that were into Rasta and yoga, then came the natural...that’s why I tell you I try to keep to natural products. So, I eat natural as well. I completely cut out meat, although, I eat fish sometimes. And those are the steps... I feel kind of weird talking about it because it’s been so natural. I haven’t thought about it. I’ve been making steps that have just been so natural and intuitive to me.
SH: It makes sense. It was just a natural progression... So, what is your favorite thing about living in Jamaica. One place that people should visit?
MR: I love that you don’t have to travel far to get to the beach. We have water all around us. And visit "Jack Sprat" in St. Elizabeth. It's on the water and the people are nice. It’s just Jamaica in a nice little pocket.