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Curly Nikki

Natural Through the Eyes of Three Generations

By January 27th, 202114 Comments

Natural Through the Eyes of Three Generations
Shannon of writes:

There’s a picture that sits on the mantle at my parents’ home that attracts my grandmother’s attention every time she passes it.“Now THAT’S how I like your hair,” she’d tell me during every single visit. “You look so pretty that way.”

I don’t recognize the person looking back. She has my face, but her straight, silky and swinging locks in no way resemble the tight, kinky coils that are a distinct part of my current look.

The photo was taken in 2002, a year or so before I decided to start wearing my hair natural nearly all of the time. But to my grandmother, it represents a period in which I looked more “refined” and “beautiful.”

I’m not surprised. My grandmother was born in 1922 and grew up in the 1930s and 40s — a time when no woman would dare consider wearing her hair in its natural state. They might have been “natural” in the sense that they didn’t use chemicals to change their hair’s texture, but some kind of manipulation with a hot comb or styling with braids was always done to prevent any sign of kinky texture from making an unwanted appearance.

To see what happens, click HERE!

Then come back here and share your experiences with grandma and mama below!


  • shamigreen says:

    I purposefully straightened my hair right before I went to visit my grandma. Well, it was summer & she lives in Mobile, so the humidity did it's thing & I had a frizzy mess on my head. I grieved for a moment (all my hard work down the drain), then I snatched it back into a bun & kept it moving. Later that weekend she asked when I was gonna get a perm. I told her that I'm not. She shook her head & said she couldn't understand why anyone would wanna walk around with nappy hair. I just smiled & walk away to avoid any further confrontation. But I was thinking to myself… I can't understand why anyone would wanna be anything, black/white, short/tall, have a high/low pitched voice, be flat-footed/have a high arch. God made ALL those decisions for you, so just be you.

    MORAL OF THE STORY: Sometimes you just have to grow thicker skin, so that people's prickly words don't draw blood. I STILL LOVE MY GRANDMA! Lord willing, I'll be an opinionated old lady someday & I pray that people love me enough to look past it.

  • Juliette Samuel says:

    You and your grandmother are absolutely beautiful. I remember when I locked my hair how upset my mother was with me. She came up a generation after your grandmother and shared the same views on women of color and their natural hair.

  • Curly in the A says:

    in the A said…
    I am SOOOO glad to see more acceptance of natural hair but, unfortunately, many of our elders are stuck in their way of thinking.

    I always had long hair (mid-back) and did the bold step of chopping it all off in 2006. Not a big chop, since I was a press and curl girl, but I wanted to feel what it was like to have short hair once in my life.

    Plus, my hair had broken off to various lengths over the years and I was tired of dealing with it).

    You'd have thought I killed five people. Relatives asked, "Why did you cut your pretty hair?" It's taken a while, but I realized that I was the one who always was identified by my hair (I was dark skinned, so people would pull thinking it was fake)and it's just how I saw myself. Plus, most of the women in my have long, thick hair. One aunt even asked me if my hair was fake with my wash and go, LOL!

    I told my relatives that I want something different and nothing else was said.

    My hair is back long again (my plan is to let it grow out for four years until I'm 40 and then revisit, cuz I love short styles!)

    Today, I would probaby have a different response, but I believe you can be polite yet firm and respectful: This is MY hair, I'm grown, you don't pay for it to get done or buy products, so let me DO ME! Or something like that!

  • Anonymous says:

    My grandparents are no longer with me, but my mother is the one who gives me grief! She was born in 1938. Her father's mother was a slave and his father was the owner. Her mother was part Cherokee. When I was born my mother didn't know what to with my hair. She had no idea how cornrow. She would have to pay someone to braid it for me. When I got older she would have it pressed. A cousin of mine first relaxed it when I was 12 because she said it was too hard to manage. Since I've chosen to go natural my mother will make comments in regards to my hair. She doesn't like it when its out and wild, but of course that's how I like it best! I can't say I blame her though, it was the time she grew up in. Many of her family members survived by passing as white. I guess they figured keeping your hair straight would make life easier.

  • Skillsgill says:

    You know, my maternal grandmother has never commented on my hair one way or the other, straight or curly. She never seems to give it a thought. She just smiles and kisses me and we talk about other things! I don't even know if she has a relaxer as she, my mom and few aunts are of fairer complexion and have very soft hair (though different curl types). My mom wore a short, tapered jerri curl (of all things) for all of formative years and my sisters and I would constantly ask her why because the hair that was tapered short would come in in curls!! It didn't make sense to us even back then (I'm 38). I was the first to go natural 10 years ago, then my youngest sister went natural a couple of years later and then my mother a couple after that! I think that my going natural is what made them contemplate and do it and that makes me proud and happy=). As to my paternal grandmother, she was not very happy when I BC'd. I probably had about 6 inches of virgin hair. I only relaxed twice a year anyway, so instead of relaxing at the 6 month point, I chopped! With me, I think my grandmother was more stunned about the length than the texture. However, I'd cut my hair to short lengths multiple times in my life. All times she would say, "Why did you cut your pretty hair?" My paternal grandmother was also fairer complexioned and her great grandmother was a full-blood Native American (unfortunately, my grandmother doesn't know what tribe). So, I think her fascination with hair was related to having daughters with short, coarse hair that was very different from hers and that struggle. So, given that my texture was more similar to hers and grew long, she loved it. Now, my grandmother seems to like my hair, but I have a looser curl that is BSL stretched and doesn't shrink a whole bunch. My youngest sister has 3c/4a hair and my paternal grandmother and aunt are CONSTANTLY telling her how she needs to straighten her hair because that's what guys like and that it's more professional. That bothers me so much because it's so obviously about texture and my sister has GORGEOUS curls that I love and tell her I wish mine were more like. I envy those with tighter, denser, thicker strands as I LOVE big hair. Because mine is loose and barely wavy in some areas, I struggle with getting a uniform curl pattern and the big round, Curly Nikki shape that I desire. So, I always defend my sister and she just shakes her head and does her. She does straighten on occasion to please my grandmother though;-), because we LOVE my Mom-mom=).


  • Anonymous says:

    My grandmother hated it when I relaxed my hair. She would go on and on about how thick and pretty it was when I wore it naturally as a little girl, and she couldn't understand why I would want to get it relaxed, because the relaxer was breaking off all of my thick, pretty hair! Now that I've gone back to being natural, she couldn't be happier, lol. My mom is ecstatic, too. She started letting me get a relaxer when I was a teenager, but she never really liked my hair relaxed.

  • Anonymous says:

    What a wonderful piece and great photo. Earlier this week I saw my maternal grandmother. After asking her to touch my hair, (which she agreed was soft), she asked me when I was going to press it. Gotta love granny!

  • battlekat says:

    My grandmother raised me but she is not with me anymore. I know she would not like my natural. Growing up I watched her do everything to her hair which left her with major damage. But she would still want me to straighten my hair.

  • Anonymous says:

    I'm blessed to have both great-grandmothers alive and my mother's maternal grandmother (99 years of blessings) hasn't said much about my natural transformation but how much I resemble one of her Native American elders. My fondest memories of my late maternal grandmother was her reaction of my hair whenever I removed a weave install. She was hilarious!

  • hiphopmuse says:

    I'm blessed that both my grandmothers are still living. They both love my natural hair, which is interesting because of their conservative southern roots. I think they admire that I have the audacity to wear my own texture and not care what anyone thinks. Ironically my mom is the one who can't stand my natural hair, she was born in the 60s but very conservative about hair. Even though she doesn't embrace it I'm glad my grandmothers support my hair. My dad's mom even gives me hair tips and product suggestions! Lol

  • MissSian P says:

    My Granny is just the same. My family are from south africa, somewhere with even bigger identity issues than the USA for black women and their hair. Every other time I see my Granny she asks why I don't go and straighten my hair even though I've explained to her so many times that it damages it and that I like my curly hair. But she comes from a different age and a different and very warped culture – she's light skinned with very silky hair an when she married my granddad her mother told her her children would all be bossicop (which means bushy head in Afrikaans) – and she sure was right! My mama and aunts all had thick 3c/4 type hair! Much as I love my grandma I won't deny who I am in order to keep up the lies her generation was told about what was acceptable. I think she's gradually getting used to my hair and I hope that one day its significance will ring true to her. Besides, if I kept fighting the texture of my hair I'd end up bald, which is what I sometimes tell her! And that works, the only thing my granny would like less than big wild hair is no hair at all!!! LOL

  • Anonymous says:

    Ladies whether straight or natural regardless as to who likes or does not like your hair, I say, "do you."

  • Anonymous says:

    wow! this article is my life story! when i BCed, everyone in my family just thought i was going through a phase. there are a few licensed beauticians in my fam (including my mother), so there is never an excuse to not have your hair looking good. when it grew out and i would wear my curls, they now ooh and ahh at how soft/feminine/fragrant it is and how they are thinking of going natural. then, in comes my grandmother… and while she will my hair looks cute on me, she always follows it up with "but i like your hair straight better. it looks more neat." my younger cousin has looser curls and consistently my grandmother brushes them out into three neat plaits (two in the front, one in the back).

    over Thanksgiving dinner, we got into a heated convo about curls and natural hair which concluded with my grandmother screaming, "i just don't like it and i never will." swift to the rescue was my mother, who i grew up knowing at the cut and color specialist of her salon. my mother went on raving about how beautiful mine and my cousin's hair is. about how crazy it is that something that naturally comes from one's head should be masked and not appreciated. and about how she, too, was gonna go natural on her 50th. imagine my surprise and pride…

    so, this story is one that is very familiar to me.

  • socialitedreams says:

    i often wonder how my grandparents would take my hair right now….my maternal grandmother thought i was gorgeous no matter how crazy i looked at the time (jacked teeth, braces, glasses, lol, hot mess!) but I know that my paternal side would give me grief. Well meaning grief, but definitely grief!


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