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12 Women Share What Their Natural Hair Journey Has Taught Them About Femininity
Beauty & Fashion

12 Women Share What Their Natural Hair Journey Has Taught Them About Femininity

I’m gonna be real with y’all — when all of those ladies came out on social media talking about they were in their “soft girl era” or “feminine era,” I couldn’t get my eyes to roll back into my head far enough. An era is a period of time, and to be, as a Black woman, thinking that femininity is temporary — well, to me, that sounds just about as ridiculous as thinking that being Black is. In other words, what era? Either you want to bask in your femininity all of the time, just because, or you’re a chameleon about it because you’ve got a cryptic agenda as it relates to what you think femininity can get you.


That latter part? Perhaps we’ll discuss it at another time. For now, though, as I was thinking about femininity and some of its synonyms, including gentle, soft, tender, delicate, ladylike, and nurturing, I thought about something that I heard years ago about Black hair and Black women overall. Someone once said that something that we have in common with our hair is we’re both like silk — strong and fragile at the same time. Not fragile in the sense of being weak; more like fragile in the sense of needing to be handled with great care.

That has always stayed with me. And so, in the effort to encourage as many women as possible to not want to treat their femininity as something that’s temporary or you can “put on and off” and instead, something that is purposeful, beautiful, and very much needed in our culture and this society at-large — I asked 12 women (middle names were used) to share their own natural hair journey; it along with what, in their opinion, their natural hair revealed to them about their own femininity throughout the process.

1. Renaye. 24. Been Natural for Three Years.

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“Once you get the hang of it, it’s so easy to just throw on a wig and go about your day. One summer, it was so hot outside that I couldn’t stand it, so I decided to go without and learn my hair. It was hard because I had never been taught before. I did a lot of online research, got my ends trimmed, and was determined to fall in love with my texture. Once I learned more about it, I wore wigs less. A lot of us are just ‘hair ignorant,’ which is a shame because our hair is really beautiful and worthy of being shown to the world in its natural state once you know how to properly take care of it.”

2. Noa. 41. Been Natural for 11 Years.

“Two things that I used to destroy were my hair and plants. They both require a lot of nurturing. And what I realized is I sucked at taking care of both because I had a very 'all or nothing' kind of attitude. One week, I was reading up on how to basically be a horticulturist and watching every natural hair care YouTube video I could find, the next week…nothing. Being consistent is what I had to come to, and then that ended up transferring into other areas — consistent spa days, consistent pampering, consistent bubble baths. Setting aside a good 20-30 minutes every day to do something for my hair — whether it’s a scalp massage, putting hair butter on my ends, or changing my style — has reminded me to have that mindset about treating myself as a woman, period.”

3. Belle. 25. Been Natural for Six Months.

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“I didn’t realize how disconnected I was from my hair until I decided to let this relaxer go. Is it kickin’ my ass? Yes. But it’s also teaching me to zone in on my being and ask my hair what it needs rather than just doing whatever is easy or convenient for me — and that has taught me a lot about femininity because I think a lot of us don’t ask ourselves what our authentic selves need. We just do whatever to get to the next day. As my roots are growing out, I’m getting to the rootof my womanhood. That’s crazy. I just thought about it that way.”

4. Crystal. 30. Been Natural for 10 Years.

“Hair is strong and fragile at the same time. So is femininity. I’m not knockin’ the sistahs who want to wear wigs and weaves because they are super convenient. But if you look at it all in a metaphor, 'covering up' is what we’re encouraged to do so much in society. Learning how to care for my hair, the way it was created, reminds me, and hopefully, those who see me, that Black femininity has a strength that is multidimensional — just like our hair. And it must be loved on and handled gently…just like our hair.”

5. Eleanor. 29. Been Natural for One Year.

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Going natural has not been easy; I won’t lie. I think that’s kind of the point. When you make an appointment to get a retouch, and you don’t really give your hair much thought until your next appointment, you don’t focus on giving yourself what you need. Going natural forces me to have conversations with this head of mine every day. The weather is one conversation. The protective style is another conversation. What my ends want vs. what my roots need is another conversation. And all of this is showing me how to tap into what makes me a woman. It’s a difficult journey but isn’t learning about how to be a complete woman? I would think so.”

6. Yvonne. 50. Been Natural for Eight Years.

“Being a woman is about being a nurturer. And if you want to learn how to master that, take care of your natural hair. It teaches you patience. It teaches you empathy. It teaches you how to handle things with care. It teaches you how to deal with disappointment. It teaches you how to be gentle."

"It’s amazing, but I’ve actually become a better wife, mother, and even friend since going natural. My tresses were a master class.”

7. Bryn. 30. Been Natural for Two years.

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“It is such a lie, a lie that we tell ourselves, that we can’t have long, thick, flourishing natural hair. It wasn’t until I went natural that my hair thrived in the way that it does now, and although there is something sexy about a sistah with a super short ‘do, there is also something so glamorous about being able to whip my hair around. It’s stretched-out cotton that’s soft to the touch and also elegant. Natural hair is amazingly feminine.”

8. Whitnee. 27. Been Natural for Five Years.

“The simplest way to put it is when you decide to embrace all of what makes you YOU, as a woman, nothing can be more empowering and affirming — that includes your hair, and Black hair must be seen as empowering and affirming and feminine. How could it not?

9. Nevin. 34. Been Natural for Three Years.

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“I decided to go natural, not really because I wanted to but because my scalp was getting damaged and my roots were becoming weak. All of the chemical processing from the relaxers and hair color was taking its toll. I had to get back to the foundation of who I am. Since doing that, I can teach a class on things like types and textures and which products work best. I can comment on things about being a woman that I used to leave up to my stylist — and that’s my ‘ah-ha moment’ about natural hair and femininity: I no longer rely on other people to tell me what works best for me. I have now learned for myself. Wow.”

10. Taaj. 42. Been Natural for Nine Years.

“The main thing that going natural has done for me is it’s made me a more gentle person. I used to see women with 4-type hair, and I couldn’t understand how it was so long and thick when I couldn’t get past my ears. And then I heard a woman say that if hair is growing from the scalp, you can have long hair; you have to learn how to take care of your ends. I used to be so rough with my hair, but when I started to treat my ends like they were a soft fabric, it changed everything. And as I learned to be kinder to my strands, I learned to be kinder, in general. As you can see, it’s almost at my bra strap now.”

11. Alyna. 29. Been Natural for Two Years.

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“I’m a product junkie. It’s because it has taken me a while to figure out what works best on this hair of mine. But when it comes to your question, going into stores and searching online for what will work on this head has turned into me exploring products that will pamper my skin, make me smell amazing, and amplify my femininity. Not sure that would’ve happened had I not decided to do the ‘big chop’ and go natural a couple of years back.”

12. Leeah. 45. Been Natural All of Her Life.

“Even though I absolutely have memories of hot combs burning my ears and blow-outs that seemed to take for-e-ver, to this day, I’ve never had any kind of relaxer in my hair. You know how they say that children should be trained in the way that they should go? That’s my hair journey in a nutshell.

"My mom — really both of my parents — always wanted me to feel secure in what I was born with, and because she devoted so much time into caring for my hair, I’ve always had the right products, hair tools, and techniques to bring out the best in it. And what I love about that is, it’s made me a very confident woman and taught me that, just like one day my hair’s in a twist-out, then some cornrows, then some braids, and then big and fabulous, femininity has many facets to it. None of them should be hidden. All of them should be boldly displayed.”

_____

Hmph. Couldn’t have said it better, sis. Now pardon me, y’all, as I pull out my scalp massager and Chebe hair butter and toast to my own locks and femininity. Amen? Amen.

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Featured image by Olga Rolenko/Getty Images

 

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