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Curly Nikki

On the Couch With Kea

By January 27th, 202130 Comments

Meet Kea… on her journey, she’s learned that she doesn’t need to shorten or straighten her hair to make others happy.

“I have always been embarrassed by my hair,” until now.

My earliest hair memories begin at 5, my mother washing out the “Just For Me” relaxer in the sink. I hated everything to do with hair. Point blank: IT HURT. But I’ve always had a soft spot for cornrows. Every summer, my mother would braid my hair in beautiful zig-zag designs, then plait it all the way down to the ends. With my hair beads jingling and braids swaying, I felt like a princess! And of course, my hair would grow like a beast. I absolutely LOVED the huge, wild effect I got right after taking my braids out. My family called me “Cousin It” of the Addams family. Lol. I secretly wanted my hair to be this BIG all the time.

Leading up to middle school, my mother was my only hairdresser: she meticulously cared for each strand. At the age of 8, my hair extended well past my shoulders, which was normal for me back then. But, boy did I catch hell for it, from all the other little girls at school! “You shouldn’t be allowed to wear fake hair,” “Is your Daddy white?” “You must be mixed!” No matter how much I assured them that I was black, and this was my real hair, they never believed and would taunt me. Hence, I started to become embarrassed by my hair and saw it as a rejection of my African American heritage. Society told me that if I wanted to “look black,” I couldn’t have long hair. One year, during a trip to New York, a black man actually stopped my mother on the street. After taking one look at my hair, he publicly berated her about biracial relationships! (he assumed my father wasn’t black). While this is wrong on many different levels, it left me wondering: Why isn’t my hair “black enough”?

During 8th grade, I received my first professional cut and relaxer. A devoted fan of Aaliyah since my childhood, I got a similar layered cut that framed my face. My hair became a shorter, “more reasonable” length for black hair and those hurtful comments melted away, into compliments. I figured I was doing something right. Not to mention, the stronger relaxer got ALL of the waves and kinks out of my hair that the “Just for Me” would have missed. My mother showed me baby pictures, and told me I used to have curly hair, but that scared me. Despite the length, people felt comfortable in the fact that I was relying solely on chemicals for my hair texture.

Upon high school graduation, I noticed my once fast-growing hair seemed to be getting shorter, without the aid of scissors. This inspired me to rock cornrows, my old “go-to” for hair growth. I was determined to reinvent myself to be a longer-haired college student who was more sophisticated. At the University of Florida, my long, relaxed hair was no longer an anomaly. Longer, silkier-haired constituents of all cultures constantly surrounded me: the race for long hair was on!

After a few semesters at UF, the importance of long hair seemed to slip away. I yearned for fashionable, trendy hair…spawning my quest for the perfect haircut. I progressed to a short, spiky bob, accompanied by shrieks of “why do you keep cutting your hair!” along the way. I loved seeing the old hair fall to the ground, the freshly clipped ends, and bouncy layers. At the same time, I was distancing myself from the “long-haired-thick-red-bone” stereotype (although sadly, I’ve never been considered “thick,” lol). During this time, I switched hair-stylists and began to see how damaged my ends were, vowing to clip away all the “weak” parts until they persisted no more. Problem being I always seemed to damage the “new” healthy hair, leading to another cut. Nothing was ever good enough for me to keep. And so, this led to my informal 5-month transition.

I call it an informal transition, because I somewhat stumbled into it. I received my last relaxer June 24, 2009. It started out as a financial experiment: I wanted to see if I could stretch my relaxer until Christmas, by blow-drying and flat-ironing once a week (dumb, I know…but ultimately saving money). I think the only reason my hair didn’t break-off, is because my mother raised me to deep condition and do hot oil treatments every time I wash my hair (thanks mom!) I really didn’t know anything about working with the two different hair textures, and never once thought to look for advice online. All I knew was that my hair seemed to thirst for, and CRAVE something…what could it be? I browsed my local beauty supply and picked up a jar of Cantu Shea Butter. With a touch of moisture, I saw my “new growth” happily curl up upon itself! I was intrigued. I had never seen my curl pattern before.

I decided to go natural then and there, but would tell no one other than my boyfriend. I abruptly BC’d a few weeks later in the bathroom mirror and it was invigorating! I have never felt more free, or comfortable in my own skin than I do now. The moment of truth was the first day attending class with my curls. Although I instantly loved my hair, I dreaded the ignorant comments. You know, the ones about having “good hair,” that I hadn’t been able to dissuade (even in the wake of my relaxers). This is what I had been running from my entire life, using chemical straighteners as my crutch. I now know that being proud of my culture has nothing to do with the texture of my hair; I don’t need to shorten or straighten it, to make others happy. However, I’m still looking for the most eye-opening response to people who say: “I’d go natural too, if I had good hair.” Any suggestions?

On the Couch With Kea
On the Couch With Kea

30 Comments

  • BKelz says:

    Oh my gosh! I hated those "do you have Indian in you" questions and others like that! I remember a couple of years ago someone at my college(UGA) asked me was I an international student one day when I was wearing my hair out! It gets really annoying. Maybe we should do a PSA: African Americans can have long, beautiful hair too! And the worst comments probably are when you are younger (b/c as kids we can be so unforgiving) and ppl compare your hair to white ppls hair and they make you feel like you aren't black enough (whatever that means lol).

  • KeepItMovingDotCom says:

    When people asked if I was "mixed with smonething" I would say yes. "I'm Colored on my Daddy's side and Negro on my momma's." Take that.

  • tpayne22 says:

    I can definitely relate to your story! I felt like you were telling mine as well. Every time someone saw my relaxed hair and how long it was the first question is "What are you mixed with?" As if a black person with long hair is abnormal! My hairdressers would ask me the same question once they started fiddling with my hair. One thing my great grandaddy used to say "What is good hair? Last I checked good hair is the hair you got on your head!" RIP he was a wise man!

  • JuneEllieJ says:

    OMG! I literally gasped out loud when I scrolled down and saw the pic of you rocking your curls! Gorgeous! It's so sad that many women are made to feel as you were made to feel, that there was somehow something wrong with their beautiful hair. And as for all that 'good hair, bad hair' foolishness, Anonymous Feb 22 has it straight. Ask them what they mean; ask them to describe what 'bad hair' and 'good hair' is, and why. My fave quote is: "What makes 'bad hair' bad? Does it jump off your scalp in the middle of the night and rob banks?" Lol…

  • Unknown says:

    Kea, you and your story and your hair is simply beautiful. I can truly relate to the 'long hair', 'good hair' comments. Never got the 'mixed race' comment, probably because of my complexion. But I have definitely heard everything from questions about what I put on my hair, to "you got good hair for a dark-skinned chick". WHAT?!? Grow up and get some culture and travels under your belt. Then you would learn that it's not anything more than being true to whomever YOU are and LOVING IT! I'm currently transitioning and haven't had a relaxer since around Labor Day 2009. And I hear the same thing you heard, "I would go natural, too, if I had good hair like yours". To the Anonymous poster from Feb 22nd, I hope you are considering leaving that man; or, at least reevaluating your relationship. I'm just being honest.

  • Anonymous says:

    My own husband told me I have "bad hair." When I asked him if his sisters or his daughters (we don't have any children together) had "bad hair," he said 'no." So then I asked him to describe bad hair to me. I personally haven't seen "bad hair" so I would be able to recognize it. He had NO MORE to say to me. It burns me up whenever those words come out of somebody's mouth.

  • Anonymous says:

    Oh my… I love your curls!!!
    What do you do?? What products do you use?

  • b. says:

    I just had a similar incident just last night! My hair is about as tightly coiled/nappy as I've ever seen anywhere, and someone told me that I had "good hair" and she couldn't wear hers natural b/c it wasn't good enough. I was like "what?"…I couldn't believe she said that. After explaining that I use conditioner and a little coconut oil to keep my hair soft, I finally told her that hair that God created couldn't be "bad". (Many women at my workplace — a college — are religious.) That shut the disagreement down fast on that front, and I hope it made her think a little about the deeper issue around our perception of our hair and appearance.

  • Kea::Curls says:

    Thanks everyone 🙂
    &&& GOOOOOOOOO GATORS!!!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, it is absolutely inspiring. I have seen you around campus (GO GATORS!) and your hair is absolutely A-MAZING!

    For all the people who talk about good hair/bad hair my response is usually "Any hair is good hair. Be good to it and it will be good to you."

  • Miss Dior says:

    So cute!

  • Keesha says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences. You are gorgeous! I guess we have to be patient with those who haven't found their own natural beauty while gently encouraging them to challenge their current beliefs about what "good hair" or beauty means. And, of course, point them to sites like CN.
    Go Gators (who knew there were so many of us here 🙂

  • curlyq145 says:

    Beautiful story Kea and cute hair!! Glad that you feel in love with being you just the way you are!

  • Anonymous says:

    How random is it that I've seen you (Kea) around the UF campus? lol But, yes, your hair is beautiful. And GO, GATORS!!! 🙂

  • robin says:

    your hair is so pretty! – and i'm with you on the whole, pointless "good hair" stuff! healthy hair is good hair!! sometimes, when i hear that and then followed by, "how do you get your hair to look like that? if mine did, i'd be natural too" i tell them, "styling product – which anyone can use; and a little patience while styling cuz i look CRAZY in the morning, just like everyone else!" LOL.

  • Ms. Griffin says:

    I struggle with that too! When I try to talk to my friends and family of my experience with going natural, I get that very same response, "I’d go natural too, if I had good hair". I don't take that as a compliment at all. I try to express that good hair= healthy hair and the reason my hair coils up is because I take the time to take care of it. But no one seems to get that. It's kind of disappointing to me because people credit my hair to mixed genes and dismiss the idea of 'going natural'. Even when i remind them just a year ago I was a getting a regular perm right alongside them.
    It is a bit disheartening because I have come to love my natural hair and I simply want others to love their selves as well.
    Im welcome to any responses as well.

  • M says:

    Nikea!!! Hey girl! 🙂 Gators stand up!!!

    We never got the chance to talk much while we were working together, but I always loved your hair and thought it was so pretty… I would have never known how you felt about it!!!

    I think that's crazy that people think you have to be mixed/bi-racial/not Black in order to have long hair… but sadly, it's a thought pattern that is passed down through the ages… I can remember seeing people with long/wavy/"good hair" (ugh, I hate this distinction), and hearing my mom say, "hmmm, they must be mixed with something." She, and many other people mean no harm in saying this, but they don't realize the mentality they are trapped within, and the mentality they are passing on to others.

    Your hair is gorgeous! But more than anything, I'm glad that you are comfortable with it!! I'm happy for you girl!

    <3,
    Malorie

  • Kea::Curls says:

    Hi ladies, thanks for all the positive comments & support! i'm especially lovin' the responses to the "good hair" thing. and i'm definitely thankful we have a site like this to come together and help each other grow (thanks Nikki!!!)

    @socialite: i think my mother & i were more in shock of what had just happened than anything. we couldn't believe what had occurred, and even more didn't have time to react!

  • Anonymous says:

    You are too cute!!!! I ADORE those fabulous curls. Keep doing what you're doing; thank u for sharing your story. 🙂

    candice/dancergirl

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm so proud of you cousin!!! Very entertaining tell of your hair. I never knew you felt this way about it…probably b/c I enjoyed treating you as my little doll baby 🙂 You and your hair are absolutely beautiful!!!

  • Jess says:

    i love your hair story, and your curls are awesome!

  • Anonymous says:

    Girl all you gotta do is say "You DO have good hair!" This challenges them because though its easy to say someone has good hair most AA's wont come straight out and say that kinky hair is BAD. Make them think!

  • Anonymous says:

    go gators! and goregous twist out.

    tnt

  • Ebony says:

    You have gorgeous hair btw. It is true that textures vary, but almost EVERY woman and young girl is capable of obtaining beautiful hair as a result of treating their hair uniquely…sadly many people can't grasp this because of this good hair/bad hair complex.

  • Cygnet says:

    Tell them, "If you do your homework, grow some patience, and practice healthy haircare habits, the hair you end up with will be good hair." Then point them to this site. If, after thoroughly researching here, they still come up with an excuse, then it may well be just that–an excuse, based on a fear of some sort. With that, you can't really help them.

  • Anonymous says:

    Beautiful lady! A very necessary story to tell. People of color can really be hurtful to one another, but websites like this one is putting an end to the cycle of B.S. I swear by Cantu Shea Butter. Love your style. Check it going girl.

  • Anonymous says:

    What a beautiful head full of big kurls u have girl, rock it then!!!!–Melinda.

  • Anonymous says:

    you look absolutely beautiful, kea. How did your mom NOT put her foot up the ass of the dude who stopped her to "lecture" her? Not only is it none of his business, but even if u WERE mixed, that's not a downgrade. And the kids at your school, wow, never had anyone berated for hair too LONG. What a life girl, what a life.

    http://socialitedreams.wordpress.com

  • Ambrrr says:

    Your hair is amazing! And I just tell people "Healthy hair is 'good hair!'"

  • ljkelly says:

    You look gorgeous! Thank you for sharing your story!

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