Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hi! I’m Rella J. I was born and raised in London, England, but both my parents are Nigerian. I am a singer/songwriter/musician/university student/natural hair lover
What do you like most about your homeland?
I am a very proud Londoner. Mostly, I love the diversity. I have truly been spoilt growing up here and sometimes I forget that the London demographic isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of England. I love that there’s anything and everything to do and I love how many different cultures you experience by growing up here.
I wouldn’t really know how to describe London in a couple of pictures or sentences. It’s a really busy/bustling city, but then you have quiet residential areas and big parks all within 15 minutes of each other.
What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
I would say that relaxers and weaves are the norm, but natural hair isn’t shunned. It definitely is becoming more prevalent and I love that. I love walking down the road and seeing more fellow naturals. But, I also look forward to the time when I don’t use the term fellow natural, if you get what I mean?
What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
What was my hair like? I wouldn’t know. My childhood. I have very vivid memories of my mum calling me to sit between her thighs and get my hair done. The afro comb, the wooden parting comb and the tub of Dax or Blue Magic; weapons in the war that was doing my hair (lol). My hair was always hidden away in thread, single plaits and then canerows/cornrows. At 15, I graduated to weave and the only time I saw my hair was to take one weave down, wash and put the next one in. It was always something to be hidden away.
What prompted your decision to go natural?
At 17, I had been wearing weaves for two years and, one day, I was like, “So, am I gonna do this for the rest of my life?” I was sick of constantly being aware that the hair I was wearing wasn’t my own and feeling embarrassed if somebody touched it and felt tracks … when it was really windy outside, worrying if my parting was still covered. I was like, “I don’t want to live like this.”
Then, one day, I was on my way back from a performance and I was joking around with one of the musicians that had played for me. We started play cussing each other and I made a joke about his dreads, comparing him to another dude we know with dreads. And then, he was like, “But that’s not your hair.” That was the final push I needed. I went home and I was like, “I am never wearing weaves again, I want to wear my hair – however it is!”
What has your natural hair journey been like? How has your decision been received by family, friends and people in general?
It has been a journey, a learning process, and is ongoing. When I first told people that I was going to start wearing MY hair exclusively, some were completely supportive, some didn’t know why it was such a big deal and some didn’t think it was possible to do, because nobody really did unless they had more “manageable” hair. But, after a while, wearing my hair became completely normal to everyone.
What do you see as the challenges of being natural? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
At first, it was finding products and practices that worked for me and learning how my hair behaves. The accessibility of products was an issue, but now that natural hair is becoming more popular, more prouducts are available in the UK. And more product lines based in the UK are being created, which is great. I also found that once I trashed the mentality that I can only use “black” products on my hair, I had so many more options from which to choose. As for practices and learning how my hair behaves, that takes time, perseverance and trial and error. Also, once I stopped expecting my hair to do things it couldn’t, there was less disappointment!
What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
For the most part, I finger detangle, add my prepoo mix (coconut oil, honey and conditioner) then put my hair in twists. When I’m ready to wash my hair, I shampoo my scalp, rinse, take down a twist and condition, then retwist. Once out of the shower, I blot my hair with a cotton t shirt or a microfiber towel and finally I apply a leave in, seal with castor oil then braid. The next day, I take my braids down and normally do some kind of updo/ bun. If I can’t be bothered, I’ll wear a scarf or style the braids somehow.
I prefer natural products, because they tend to work better for me and I don’t really need to worry about what I’m putting in my hair. I get most of my products online. There are a few international products that I’d love to try, but shipping costs are crazy or the international price way more than the normal one. But, as demand increases, some products are becoming more accessible.
Are there salons that cater to natural hair where you live? Are stylists trained in handling natural hair? Do you go to a salon?
Specifically to natural hair? Not that I know of, but I haven’t really looked, because I do my hair myself. But, with London being the place that it is, I’m sure there is one somewhere.
What do you enjoy and/or love about being/going natural? Has the journey taught you anything about yourself?
I enjoy being able to take care of my hair myself and the independence it gives me. I love how completely my hair represents me. I love when black people say to me, “I didn’t know our hair could look like that” or could be worn out. Or, when a black girl sees my hair and feels better about hers. I love that when I have daughters, natural hair will be completely normal to them.
Do you have a Hair Crush?
Every natural that I see. I love natural hair that much lol!
Who do you follow online?
Who don’t I? To name a few, you (obviously).
Natural Belle: www.hairspiration.blogspot.co.uk
Curly Nikki: www.curlynikki.com
Healthy Hair and Body: www.hairandhealth.blogspot.co.u
YouTube: fusionofcultures, bronzeqt, MsVaughnTV, Girlsloveyourcurls, Naptural85, BlakIzBeautyful and many, many more (lol).
Anything else that you’d like to share?
Well, I guess if you want to hear any more about me, you can find me online.