My name is Shantel but most just call me Elle. I am originally from Maryland, but now reside in Virginia with my 2 daughters, husband, and a little Shih Tzu named Lily. I am a freelance makeup artist.
How long have you been natural?
I will be natural for 4 years in October of this year! Time has really flown by!
What motivated you to transition? Were you a transitioner or a Big Chopper & why?
When I decided to go natural, it started because I just wanted curly hair, so I looked into perms. I found that you could not perm hair on top of relaxed hair, so I began doing more research. I found the real texture and the real meaning of being able to rock your natural hair. I had never given thought to natural hair or even what my own looked like. Relaxing my hair was natural to me and I never thought of maintaining it any other way.
So, I began my journey and I planned to BC after one year from my last relaxer. That DID NOT happen! I transitioned for about 3 months and then did my BC. After doing research and really defining what returning to natural really meant to me, I realized it meant more to me to stand behind my new found knowledge and respect of natural hair than transitioning just to have length. So in October 2009, I BC’ed and rocked my 1 1/2 inch of growth!
I would describe my hair as a big, mixed-up, and confused field of beauty! I have so many textures and curl patterns that I could never really fit into any hair typing category.
What do you love most about your hair?
What I love most about my hair is that it’s unique! It’s like fingerprints… no two prints are the same. It’s the same for natural hair; there are so many textures, curl patterns, and lengths… what’s mine is really mine!
What has been the most memorable part of your journey? Has it been easy or difficult or both?
The most memorable part of my journey would have to be noticing my strengths and even my occasional weakness throughout my journey have been inspirational to others. My YouTube subscribers became the push I needed and I thrived off their energy! There were times I wanted to give up and take the easy way out, but I thought of all of the people I would have let down. They became my strength when I couldn’t encourage myself. Once I noticed that I could strip away all of the “shine” about being natural and really tell people the truth about the ups and downs of the journey, I was able to look into other parts of my life and do the same. It hasn’t always been easy, but the journey has been well worth it.
What are some of your favorite hairstyles?
My favorite style would definitely be a big untamed fro! When I first went natural, I had to have curls in order to wear my hair out. I was uncomfortable if my hair was not defined. But now, an untamed fro to me says, “Look at me! I’m free and I’m wild!” I also love a high bun for days I want something more refined. But that fro… Chile let mine blow in the wind!
What have your experiences been as a ‘natural’? Any memorable reactions from family or others?
When I first decided to go natural I got so much negative feedback, but it fueled me. I wanted to prove people wrong. I didn’t allow them to define who and what I wanted to represent. I didn’t personally know anyone that had natural hair at the time, so I was alone to seek inspiration from other venues. But now, years later, everyone loves my hair! And if they don’t love it, they know not to speak on it (lol).
What is your hair regimen (including fav products)?
I am one of those naturals who really doesn’t have a set regimen. I do what my hair needs at the time and this has worked for me. I wash, moisturize, condition, and trim when my hair needs it. I have been able to retain my length by not over doing it. However, when my hair does call for moisture, my favorite products would definitely have to be Shea Moisture Curl and Style Milk.
What are some of your favorite natural hair YouTubers?
I am definitely a YouTube junkie! My favorite natural hair channels on Youtube are Naptural85, Africanexport, Curlychronicles (although she no longer makes videos, but her channel is still up with great videos), and MahoganyCurls.
Anything you want the readers to know? Inspirational words?
If I could tell fellow naturals/transitioners or just women in general one thing, it would have to be that you have to do what’s best for you. You can spend your entire life trying to please everyone around you, but in the end, you are the one suffering. Don’t allow anyone to define who you are or who you are becoming. Something so small and minuscule in many people’s eyes – hair – has taught me that if natural hair is what lights up your eyes and is what you want, then go for it! Be fierce, be strong, be free… but most of all be YOU honey!
Where can people find you for more information?
I always look forward to speaking with other naturals and people in general thinking about returning to natural. I can be reached anytime via the follow sites/email:
Email: [email protected]