Au Natural: My Personal Politics on Black Beauty

I remember the day when I handed my sister the scissors and I said “cut until you hit new growth”.  It had been several months since my last perm and my hair was separating out into two distinct textures: straight at the ends and kinky at the roots.  I had finally gained enough courage to trump my fear of of cutting and taken that plunge:  I was giving up chemical straightening my hair.  I was going natural.

At that point, I was the only one I knew who had done so.   I was about nineteen… I guess the natural revolution amongst young black women was just beginning to take root.  Though only five years later, it has now turned into a rights of passage for many women of color, especially educated women.  The shedding process even has a name: “Big Chop”: the removing of the indoctrination, lol, and the lie that permanently straight hair is better, prettier or easier to manage, in favor of embracing their hair as it grew naturally.

Though now more common and less stigmatized, many people still feel that natural hair is a novelty.  The ‘uniqueness’ of my natural hair has attracted many compliments from people of all backgrounds.  The only source of negativity, unfortunately, is homegrown: other black people who feel that it is inappropriate, unsightly and flat out unacceptable to leave their hair in such a state: its natural state.

I went natural as a statement of my personal politics: I am beautiful the way that I was made.  I didn’t wholly believe it for the better portion of my life, and I knew why: I was trying to live up to a standard of beauty that was not my own.  Those things that I obsessed over that made me “ugly” were things about myself that I could not change: therefore, I decided to take ownership of what it meant for me to be beautiful.  That meant embracing myself for me, stop comparing myself to what I was not, stop altering my native in the belief that doing so would make me look better.  I was black: that meant dark skin, wide nose, and kinky hair.  I was beautiful as is.  And so I put to rest my skin lightening products and the perm.  And it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Unfortunately, I was so unnerved by how short my hair was, that I immediately retreated into a braid hibernation, with periodic exposure of my growing ‘fro.  It was well received by some and disgusted others, but at the end of the day, it was what I had to work with, for better or worse.

I recently had a second big chop due to a bleaching fall out… but now that natural hair is much more common than it was five years ago, I’m taking another hybernation, but also taking time to learn the proper way to maintain my hair.  I hope that more black women will take this self-affirming journey with me.  I hope that the up and coming generation will embrace their natural hair more readily than the past ones have.  If I have children, I plan on educating my daughters about their hair and culture so that they can learn to see their hair and themselves as Nappy and Happy :-). 

Your beauty is what you make of it… don’t let anyone make you feel less beautiful.

This is sooo cute! I’m getting this book… like right now…
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