Being naturally curly: My relationship with my hair

My whole life I’ve either worn my hair straight, or wanted to wear my hair straight. I grew up hating the two stranded twists my mom would put in my hair when all of the girls around me had beautiful straight hair. That’s what I saw. Pretty straight hair that was easy to slide their fingers though. Pretty hair that blew in the wind, and didn’t need a half-dozen barrettes and a bottle of hair creme to keep it in place. I had such a distaste for my naturally curly hair I didn’t realize what I was willing to do to change it.

little girl two strand twists hairWhen I was ten, my parents signed me up for acting classes.–I was very dramatic but didn’t have an ounce of talent–Anyway, my instructor was passing out roles for our end-of-session play when she said: “And Jennifer, since you wear your hair in pig tails, I thought you’d be perfect for this part.”

She looked at me, waited for my elated responded when I did something probably no child before me had done…

“That’s ok, I’m wearing my hair down for the play.” “Down” meant going to the salon, and having my hair blowed dry, and pulled straight with a searing hot comb. I’d be at the salon for hours, bawling most of the way through from a tender head, but then so happy with the end result.

“So you don’t want the part?”

“No thank you, I’m wearing my hair down!”

And she passed the opportunity on to another girl my age who was more than happy to take on an additional role for our performance.

When my mom heard what I had done she was so livid, she made sure that my braided pigtails were exactly what I wore the day of the play.

long natural hair straightenedThroughout my life things hadn’t changed much. When I went off to college I promptly found someone who could straighten my hair for me every few weeks. Since I never had my hair chemically straightened (thank goodness my mom had the willpower to resist that temptation) I didn’t get it wet between salon visits. And the only time I ever saw my hair curly was right after a wash, just before getting it pulled straight again.

It’s pretty much been all I’ve known, and all I’ve understood to be accepted in my line of work. It was a battle getting some of my bosses to accept my long hair (which I refused to cut for the sake of TV) so I never even considered going a step further and wearing it curly.

Embarrassingly enough, it wasn’t until having my daughter, that I even considered options for occasionally wearing my natural curls.

naturally curly long hair I grew up hating my hair. But why wouldn’t I? All I ever saw were women with pretty straight hair. Even my mom had her hair chemical straightened. And then there was me. Even if my hair was adorably cute and unique… I felt like my hair was ugly. And I don’t want that for my daughter. Or my son for that matter. I won’t ever allow clippers near his sweet head of curls.

long natural hairThankfully, there’s been a HUGE movement recently where black women are going natural, cutting off their chemically straightened hair and rocking their natural curls. More and more I’ve been noticing beautiful naturally curly hairstyles, on TV, online, and passing by on the streets. I can’t help but admit that these beautiful women, posting YouTube videos, countless blog posts, and tutorials inspired me to give my curls another go, and for the first time in my 27 years of life, I LOVE my hair the way it is, naturally. And as I look at this photo I took yesterday in all its natural glory, I don’t see a “new me,” but a me that I’ve been suppressing the last 27 years. And she’s happy to be free.

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  1. I love your natural curls! So beautiful. I have naturally curly/wavy, very thick hair. I am trying to embrace the curls, but I always feel more ‘put together’ when I have my hair straight. And you are spot-on with the observation that women with straight silky hair can run their fingers through it. When my hair is straightened, I am constantly running my fingers through it because normally it’s impossible!

    Rock those beautiful curls, and think about how Lil’ J sees you embracing your natural self. Your confidence will help her self-esteem and appreciation of her curls as well.

  2. I love being natural. It does take a bit more time when it comes to styling, but I want to make sure I’m sending the right message to my kids. And that’s to love yourself the way you are. At this point, they need see me embracing myself the way God made me. That includes curly hair.

    This became a big deal for me after a conversation I had with Moo and she expressed her dislike for her curly hair because it wasn’t pretty. I asked her why she thought that and she said it was because I always wore my hair straight! Talk about a wake call. She said she felt different. And while I am teaching her that being different is not a bad thing, I need to prove that through example. So, here we are two naturally curly beauties on this journey together.

  3. I cut all of my hair off in November 2010 at a WalMart hair salon because I was exhausted from managing the upkeep of chemically straightened hair. It was exhilarating. It was liberating. It was beautiful. I have learned over that last few years that my confidence level has never been so high and my hair DOES NOT define me. When I have children, I want them to feel the exact same way. This post is perfect!

  4. Awww, I love it. I was the same way only I was getting relaxers every 4 weeks at the first sign of any wave or kink. In college I saw women sporting their afros with pride and I decided to go natural myself. There was definitely a learning curve, but I love my hair now. If God wanted me to have straight hair, then He would have given me straight hair. There’s nothing wrong with what He gave me so I sport it with pride.

  5. I love your curls. You are lucky you and your mom opted for the route of pressing instead of relaxing.

    I didn’t grow up hating my hair. I had my hair natural until senior year in high school. I did go to the salon on random occasions to get it pressed during high school but it was just another thing I did. I got it relaxed because I didn’t want to deal with all the maintenance of it in college. Now I wish I had known more of the flat irons and the sort back then because thinking of transitioning is daunting but I am also lucky that I never really had hair issues – good hair vs bad hair, just don’t want hair that takes a lot of time!

  6. Jen, you’re beautiful! No matter how you wear your hair.

    This is so interesting because I felt like my curly hair was my best feature. Maybe it’s because curls are unique in mostly Scandinavian Minnesota, but people always complemented me on it. It was how people recognized me and a definite conversation starter. I think because I grew up mixed I knew that I was going to be different no matter what. I wouldn’t “fit in” with the blond girls or the black girls. Maybe that made accepting my curls easier?

    Once I got older I resisted straghtening my hair. My attitude was “this is how God made me.” Not a very good one considering I get my eyebrows threaded, wear clothes and shave my legs 🙂 Eventually I decided to get it blown out on a whim and loved the result.

    Now days I wear my hair both curly and straight. I love how it completely changes my look and alters everything from makeup to how my clothes look. I love having options.

    However… I love that curls are being embraced! The majority of women on this earth have curly hair… stick straight hair is really only found in a very small percentage of the population. So, I say, embrace it!

  7. Told you you should blog about this. 😉 Everyone loves your hair, girl! I think you look amazing! It’s a very beautiful, womanly look. But it makes you look younger too. I hope your journey to embracing it is an easy one. 🙂

  8. Isn’t it funny that we women almost always wish for the exact opposite of what we have when it comes to hair? I have always been so jealous of girls/women whose hair curls like yours or is stick straight, because mine is somewhere in the middle–just enough natural curl to make it hard to wear straight but not enough to wear it curly without a lot of extra effort. I’m glad that you talked about how having a daughter has helped you embrace your hair for what it is. I’m having my first daughter in a little more than a month, and I’m starting to realize just how many of my self-esteem demons I’m going to have to face head-on because I want to be a good example for her. Thank you for a thought-provoking post!

  9. Im back and forth between going natural and relaxing my hair. When it’s in its natural straight, talk about a tangled mess. But then when I relax it, its so straight that when I curl it, the curls will not stay. For the most part, I wear a wig when Im out and about cause I absolutely dislike dealing with my hair.

  10. I love the fact that you are embracing your curls. My daughter has an awesome head of curls too and, similar to your experience, I tried to embrace my curls to show my daughter that curly hair is beautiful. I gave it a try for a few years, but my curls were never bold and beautiful and defined, like yours are. Instead, my curls looks like a bad jheri curl so I went back to the straight look.

    At any rate, I love that you wrote about your experience. Do you think your employer would have gone for the curly look if you were still anchoring?

  11. I LOVE your curls. I have Irish girl curls (or so my husband says). They’re frizzy, wild, and go with freckles.
    I’m fairly comfortable with them, but only because I’m too lazy to straighten them regularly and my hair can hold a curl (win). Awesomely enough, my husband prefers my hair curly. He thinks I look “weird” with straight hair, trendy or not.

  12. I’m glad you are embracing your curls!!! It’s so funny. I wore my hair curly/natural braided/twisted etc when I was a kid and saw my mom and aunts all with straightened hair. I never thought my hair was ugly, I always thought straight hair was for when you’re a teenager or grown up LOL So I’d just patiently wait my turn. Glad I never hated my curls. Sorry to hear that you did but so happy that you’re learning to love them now!

    1. I’m so glad you never hated yours either. I don’t know what my deal was. I’m curious, what type of area did you grow up in? I’m sure my daughter will have an entirely different experience than me, but I’m hoping to be more aware than my parents were.

  13. I love your curls. I am very white with naturally wavy hair. I wish I either had more straight in it or more curl. It would be easier. I do it curly every so often but mostly I straighten it. I have the same issue of seeing women with straight hair and thinking that’s the only way I should have mine.
    I need to learn how to better care for my wavy hair, especially in dry Utah. My hair gets so stiff and weird and it’s just frustrating to deal with sometimes.

  14. cute hair and necklace! I struggle with my HAIR so bad! it’s in the awkward stage of being sorta curly, really curly and straight. It’s hard for me to manage and living in Florida with all the humidity has not helped! Anyways, I understand the desire for pretty straight and might I ad easy to manage hair. Anyways, your hair looks fly! Keep it natural, I love it!

  15. Oooh, I just had to stop by and say hello. I was google image searching black natural hair, and came across your blog. I just wanted to say, that is the cutest little baby ever! He looks like my little nephew. Girl now you making me wanna have kids of my own. So cute.

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