Were you a slow transitioner or a Big Chopper & why?
I transitioned as well as big chopped. I decided to go natural back in July 2010 after discovering your site, CurlyNikki.com, as well as one of my biggest hair idols Corinne Bailey Rae who reemerged on the scene with massive and luxurious hair. All my life, my hair was a huge part of my identity and often dictated my self-esteem. Fortunately, my mother never relaxed my hair but years of flat irons and blow dryers completely destroyed my natural hair texture, similar to a chemical relaxer. I became tired of trying to conform to society’s biased standard of beauty. That’s when I made the decision to deviate from the homogeneous fray and go natural. I transitioned a little over a year before officially big chopping on December 10, 2011. It was the scariest but bravest and most rewarding decision I’ve ever made.
Had you always embraced your texture?
Honestly, I had no idea what my true hair texture was until I big chopped. My hair during my childhood years was heavily pressed, curled and greased down with bows and barrettes LOL But once I big chopped, there was a period in which I had to adjust and even learn to accept my hair texture for what it was. I didn’t have silky, loose curls that were easily manageable. My hair was thick, unruly at times, and even fro- like. But those were characteristics that I learned to embrace and are what makes my hair authentically beautiful.
My family for the most part was very supportive and positive. My mother was especially my biggest advocate and often said she lived vicariously through my hair journey until she gave up the “creamy crack” and big chopped herself this past December. A few of my friends were not as supportive and thought it was just a “phase” I was going through. My best friend especially would always make comments like, “I like your hair better straight. You look much prettier!” Now he can’t keep his hands out my hair and absolutely loves it!
My hair is very thick and fro-like. My curl pattern tends to be looser and finer in the back and middle but the front can be temperamental and at times a diva, especially where my hair tends to be naturally lighter in color.
I usually start with a hot oil treatment, in which I use Lisa Hair Elixir by Carol’s Daughter that I absolutely LOVE! During the week that I shampoo, I’ll use a homemade avocado, banana, and yogurt deep treatment and sit under my steamer for about a half an hour for added penetration. I shampoo my hair once a month with a homemade mud wash recipe from Naptural85, who I absolutely adore! With the exception of shampooing, I co-wash once a week with Trader Joes Tea Tree Tingle Conditioner and follow that up by sealing in moisture with my homemade oil that contains Vitamin E, Castor, Avocado, Sweet Almond, Grape Seed, and Olive Oil. I style my hair with my homemade Shea butter twisting cream, and Flax Seed Gel. I then apply Curlformers and bun my hair for a couple of days- leaving my hair stretched for a perfect mid week twist-out later on. I also use Carols Daughter Black Vanilla Leave in Conditioning Spray for daily moisture and protection.
I maintain my hair at night by lightly moisturizing my hair with water and my hair oil mixture (especially towards the ends, which is the most drying) and pineapple it with a satin scarf, making sure my entire head is covered and all curls are tucked away underneath the scarf.
I maintain healthy length most importantly by daily moisturizing my hair with water! In the past, I never applied water to my hair everyday and as a result my ends became damaged, forcing me to cut almost 4 inches off because of my ignorance and irrational fear. Protective styling and low manipulation, such as buns, are also essential to my length retention, which I wear mostly during the week. I also take hair vitamins, such as Biotin and MSM vitamins, as well as drinking lots of water and eating (trying to) fruits and veggies. What goes into your body has a tremendous affect on your hair growth and health as well.
I love the versatility and how distinct it makes you look! Without sounding cliché or melodramatic, in discovering my natural hair I discovered myself. It’s allowed me to embrace the unique, eclectic, and even unconventional qualities about myself, and has completely transformed my overall image. I also love how I’m known for my hair, but in a positive way. For the most part, African Americans are the only race with our own distinctive texture of hair. Rather than view it as an abhorrence rooted in deep self-hatred it should be celebrated for its uniqueness and beauty!
I can be found on Facebook: Jewell Bell
And my style blog: stopdropclothe.blogspot.com