Imani writes:

Hi Curly Nikki Community,

Making the commitment to become completely natural was a work-in-progress for me, as I’m sure it is for other naturals. The negative influences that surround women who choose to wear their hair natural are hard to ignore. The media, strangers, and sometimes even our family members tell us that the best way to wear our hair is to coax it into a style that isn’t necessarily natural or healthy. During my initial journey, I wondered if going natural was really the best choice. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to get a job, a boyfriend, or be respected if I left the kinks in my hair.

Luckily, there is a great network of women with natural hair, here on the internet and across the globe that keep me inspired.

I’m convinced, Nikki, that if we keep affirming that our hair is beautiful and wearing it proudly then maybe, in the near future, people will accept natural hair completely.

For a while, I thought that flat and relaxed was the best way to wear my hair. I was relaxed for 12 years and for a very long time I was in deep denial. My hair would break into a million pieces on my shoulders and the bathroom floor when I styled it, yet my mom and I insisted on getting more relaxers from my stylist and putting heat to my new growth. My hair never grew past my shoulders.

Finally, after I graduated high school I made the commitment to stop relaxing. I put my hair in braids to transition and then cut off my relaxed ends in a moment of frustration in December 2009. At first I didn’t know what to do with my TWA and I put it in more braids until the end of the school year. I knew plenty of naturals at school and I knew nothing would happen there. But soon I’d be home for the summer and being from a small southern town, I didn’t know what reactions to expect from people.

This May, I finally started to embrace my hair for what it is. I took out my last set of braids and took it slow, leaving the house in puffs and twistouts to run short errands. Eventually I worked my way up to big events. I even rocked my natural hair in a conservative style in traffic court! I wore my new ‘do to the store, to church, even to attend the American Library Association conference in Washington DC. And guess what!?!? No one chased after me with pitch forks. No one teased me. No one kicked me out of that conference or out of court.

Even my mom, a self professed creamy crack addict, has admitted that my hair has never looked better. My little sister, a life-long natural, now occasionally opts for twistouts instead of always flat ironing her hair.

I recently saw my old stylist and when she saw me she said I should have worn my hair natural all along. I think that was the last bit of approval that I needed. Her praise comforted me and helped build my confidence even more.

Men still flirt with me, my family still loves me, people still respect me, and I can still look professional and have natural hair. I do get the occasional odd look but no one has outright said, “Imani, your hair is wrong.” I don’t think anyone ever will.

I had convinced myself that the universe would implode if I wore my hair in its natural state. That was ignorant of me. I was holding myself back because of my own fears. When I finally embraced my natural self, life became much more fulfilling.