This is the final in our six-part series featuring real Black women and their thoughts about their natural hair. We’ve featured them each Monday to celebrate our natural Black hair and ALL that it means in our lives. We hope these stories help you to enjoy a feeling of empowerment about your coily, wavy, or curly hair no matter how you choose to wear it!
My Natural Hair Journey: Ohiozoje Okugbe’s Story
Before, Now, and Everything in Between.
I have felt differently about my hair at several points in my life. These feelings have ranged from dread, pain, and indifference to wonder, love, and pride – in that order.
The earliest memories of my natural hair are of wash days. How I dreaded those! I remember how my mum would make me squat and put my head forward while she washed and rinsed my hair. The combing that came after was an ordeal that made me wonder why something as basic as hair could cause so much stress and pain.
At the time, everyone around me, including my peers, already had their hair straightened with relaxers except for my grandmother, who lived with us at the time. But my grandmother had naturally soft hair. So I felt like I was the only one in the world with the curse of thick hair. I was less than five years old, so what did I know? I also thought my hair was too short. Now, I know that was largely due to shrinkage.
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One time, an aunt tried to comb my hair while my friend who had had her hair relaxed came to play at my house, and my friend remarked, “your hair is so stubborn.” For some reason, her words stung. Perhaps because she was my friend or because she was also a Black girl like me. And I learned that day that “stubborn” could be an adjective for hair.
I also thought my hair was too short. Now, I know that was largely due to shrinkage.
When I was eight, my mum passed, and no one else could pay the same attention to my hair that she did. So, the next Christmas, my friend’s mum had me get my first relaxer treatment done at a salon. What joy and relief I felt that day. I was finally free of pain, but I still dreaded the sting that sometimes came with relaxer treatments.
I got the big chop at age ten because my new school (high school) mandated it for junior students. I had just begun to get conscious of the beauty of my hair, so it was sad to see it go. I wore my hair short for the next 8 years and that is the most natural it has ever been.
I started growing out my hair in my 2nd year of University. At the time, I didn’t do a lot to take care of my hair – despite that it was relaxed. At some point, I began to learn how other Black girls had to have certain hair care routines to keep their hair healthy. I got away with it because my hair was quite resilient as it was always healthy despite doing the barest minimum.
I began to learn how other Black girls had to have certain hair care routines to keep their hair healthy.
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Now, I’m learning that my actions or inaction could have long-term effects on my hair. So, at the beginning of 2021, I started to care for my hair intentionally. I believe caring for hair means different things to different people, so it’s best to find what works for you depending on your hair type, resources available to you, and how much time you have.
The naturalista movement became popular when I was still in university and many girls started to get the big chop. I wasn’t about to do it because I’d just grown my hair out and wasn’t ready to chop it all off again.
Now, I’m learning that my actions or inaction could have long-term effects on my hair.
With Black women embracing their natural hair now more than ever, even non-Blacks are starting to get used to it – even if they still stare.
However, I believe that whether I choose to wear my hair as kinky as it is, straightened with relaxers or hot combs, or with extensions and weaves, it should be a function of my choice alone. It shouldn’t be about external opinions like what’s acceptable in the workplace, what non-Blacks think, or even what happens on social media.
In professional settings, the natural Black hair is still largely seen as informal. I believe that this is mostly due to the fact that we have conformed to the western way of wearing hair for too long. As we keep emphasizing the beauty and versatility of our natural hair, people will gradually adjust their perspectives as well.
…we have conformed to the western way of wearing hair for too long.
That said, a true natural hair journey starts with embracing our natural hair, getting to know what care routine works and what doesn’t, and wearing it the way we choose for the right reasons.
Today, I’m proud of my 4C hair and wouldn’t trade it for any other. It’s also great to know that many Black women today do, too.
Ohiozoje is a creative who loves to write and explore fashion and tech. When she’s not at work, you’ll find her reading, listening to her favorite playlist, or working on a DIY project.
Are you on your own natural hair journey? Or, are you wondering how to start a natural hair journey? Here are a few CurlyNikki articles with tons of information and inspiration for you!