Were you a transitioner or a Big Chopper? What was your journey like?
I was a big chopper. I actually big chopped twice, and the journey was hard. The first time was in 2012, and it wasn’t because I was down with the natural hair movement or anything like that. I actually had gotten lazy with my hair and stopped relaxing it for a while. During that period I decided to get senegalese twists to try something different. The senegalese twists were large and heavy and caused even more damage to my weak and fragile hair. When I took them out and washed my hair, my hair literally came out in clumps.
SO TRAUMATIC. I got it professionally cut to even it out which I liked for a little bit, but then after a while my natural hair mixed with my relaxed ends were becoming too much for me to bare. That’s what led to my first big chop, I wasn’t familiar with all the techniques that were out there for transitioners. One day I had become so frustrated that I chopped off all of my relaxed hair. It was liberating but I was so confused with what to do with my hair. I had been natural since I was 4 years old. Not to mention when my mom had seen all my hair cut off she nearly had a heart attack. At the time my cousin Courtney, you guys may now know her as @CurlsandCouture, had gone natural not too long before and had learned a lot about her natural texture. She was pretty much the reason why I actually tried to embrace my natural hair in the first place, and literally every product she was using I tried using on my hair. We didn’t have the same hair type though and I just automatically assumed that when you had natural hair everyone could use the same products with the same results. Boy was I wrong. Her hair would come out great and mine was super dry and brittle. I had no routine or anything. So after a few months of being natural I put my hair in a protective style, braids. I had those braids in for a couple of months, and when I took them out I could start to see my natural hair. I wore it out for a little bit but then I heard about texturizers. I saw how beautiful and loose the girl on the box’s curls were and wanted mine to be the same, so I decided to get it 5 months after my big chop. Big mistake. My hair just came out looking like one big poof ball. So then I relaxed it. 4 months after getting that relaxer I decided that I wanted to be natural again. I hated the way the relaxer made my hair texture look. It was so thin and flat, when I naturally had really thick hair. I decided that I was going to really embrace my natural hair this time. I was going to learn as much as possible and take care of it as best as I possibly could. I transitioned for about 3 months and then did my second big chop. My second big chop was two years ago now and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Had you always embraced your texture?
No, not at all. That’s why I got a texturizer and relaxer after being natural for a few months. I grew up hearing that my thick/ kinky hair was “nappy” and was frowned upon. No one in my family embraced it. My mother and grandmother made sure that I always got my relaxers on schedule because if I didn’t I apparently looked a mess. That’s what they were taught and they were just passing down what they thought was right. This is how many black households were, and it was pretty sad to be honest. I hated my kinky hair, and my short natural hair made me feel extremely insecure. My self esteem actually went down a lot after getting my first big chop because I felt that the girl that I saw in the mirror was exactly what society’s view of ugly was. It was honestly really bad in the beginning, I’m not even going to lie. Now I think back on how I used to feel about my hair and it makes me so sad that I ever felt that way. It makes me sad to know that there are so many other women out there feeling the same way and keeping it inside. I just want to say to them DON’T GIVE UP! Trust me I know it’s so hard in the beginning but try to be patient. Learn about what products work best for your hair, try different protective styles, just don’t give up on the journey and don’t ever think you aren’t beautiful. Use all the other naturalistas on social media as a source of inspiration and encouragement to continue your natural journey, not as a means to compare your hair to theirs. That’s how you become discouraged. I am now in LOVE with my hair texture because it’s an extension of who I am. I think it’s so beautiful, and I am so grateful for what God has given me. Of course I have my days like everyone else when I get really frustrated with my hair, but I wouldn’t ever want to trade my hair with anyone else’s.
How did family and friends react to your decision to go natural? What was your response to them?
I got a mix of responses when I first went natural. My grandmother hated it and thought I was crazy, point blank. She tried to pretend that she liked it but you could tell that she wasn’t a fan lol. My mother also thought I was crazy but started supporting my decision a few months after I went natural. The rest of my family was pretty mixed about the whole thing. My response to all of them was to just continue with my journey. I didn’t relax my hair after big chopping the first time because of them. It was because of myself. I’m pretty self motivated so it really doesn’t matter how much people tell me they like/don’t like something about me. If I don’t like it myself, that’s when I make a change. My friends were actually really supportive and thought it was cool that I actually had the guts to chop all my hair off.
Describe your hair (fine or coarse, thin or thick, highly porous, low, etc.)
My hair is coarse, I have a few fine strands here and there. Also my hair is EXTREMELY thick. I’m not really a fan of the whole hair typing thing, but if I had to use that to describe my hair I’d say I just have type 4 hair. (A mix of 4a, 4b, and 4c).
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to your hair?
I think I went through a phase where I loved coloring my hair, so I think the craziest thing I’ve done was dying my hair and then dying it again about a month and a half later. So grateful that my hair didn’t fall out.
What’s your biggest hair related regret?
Relaxing my hair 5 months after my first big chop.
What's your current hair routine? How often do you wash, condition, and style? Favorite products! Deets!
I’ve always been a fan of twist-outs. Sometimes I like wash and gos but I get so much shrinkage and I don’t want to put heat to my roots to stretch my hair. So I’ve just been sticking with twist-outs at the moment. Since my hair is short, at night I try to put it in mini pineapples with hair scrunchies to keep it stretched. I know some people can go longer without washing their hair but I wash it about every 3-4 days. Once a week I will clarify and deep condition, but mid week I’ll co wash my hair. I’ll style my hair about every two to three days. When I do refresh a twist-out I’ll spray my hair with a combination of water, leave-in conditioner, and aloe vera. My favorite products are the As I Am Coconut Co-Wash (my staple product!), Shea Moisture Superfruit Complex 10-in-1 Renewal System Hair Masque, Cantu Shea Butter Leave in Conditioning Repair Cream, Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Pure Castile Liquid Soap, and Trader Joe’s all natural Jojoba Oil.
What’s your favorite hairstyle? Where do you get hairstyle inspiration?
My favorite hairstyle is the puff. I’ll usually do a puff with my bangs out or a puff with my bangs pulled back creating a sort of bump in the front. My inspiration for my current favorite hairstyle is from Journeyto Waistlength.
Who is your curl crush?
I have a few curl crushes. Sunkissalba, Lipstickncurls, OwnbyFemme, NaturalNeiicey, JourneytoWaistlength, and of course my girl CurlsandCouture.
How do you maintain your hair at night?
I just do the mini pineapples and cover it with a satin bonnet.
How do you maintain healthy length?
I take biotin, I try to eat as healthy as possible, I make sure my hair is always being moisturized and I drink A LOT of water.
What's the best thing about being natural?
The journey that comes along with it. Not just learning about my hair, but about myself as well.
Where can folks find you on the web?
You can find me on my Instagram hairpage @naturallyrae_926 ! =)