There is this general sentiment that women who wear their natural hair, in a way, are simple minded. Perhaps that school of thought is based on the idea that if you’re not going to conform to the world’s hair beauty standards then you must be unable to grasp the simple concept of what beauty truly is.
What must be said, is that returning natural affects many other aspects of one’s life. A new natural finds themselves looking critically at not only what they apply on their hair and skin; but what they eat, how they keep fit and what kind of make up they use. Naturalistas also gravitate towards natural fabrics for clothing and tend to return to traditional/ethnic jewellery that reflect what is perceived as beauty symbols from one’s roots. I was recently admiring a lady’s matching neckpiece and bracelet. They were made from Maasai beads but not in the traditional Maasai colours. This showed me that what is considered traditional is now blending with modern fashion trends.
Yet instead of the world applauding this brave journey into self discovery, we get online conversations that make it look like returning Natural is a very simplistic decision. That the woman behind the natural hair doesn’t have great aspirations in her life. Case in point, is when the web was questioning how Aryn Drake (who was at the time married to Jesse Williams) was able to bag a hot man based on her natural looks. It didn’t seem to matter that Aryn already has achieved so many things on her own life (10 Incredible Facts About Jesse William’s Amazing Wife Aryn Drake-Lee). But because she has chosen the natural hair and natural make up look way, then she was suddenly not deserving to be on the arm of a good looking man.
As a woman who has had natural hair for over 10 years, I am here to say that Kenyan views are not any different. In a previous post I have shared how many different kinds of hairstyles I have sported over the years; and in each season I remember the comments that would come my way. When I had dreadlocks people felt that I had lost my way, that I was veering towards Rastafarianism (I almost bought into that and even started reading up on the religion but realised it wasn’t for me). They also decided that my morals, especially of the sexual kind, were up for grabs. I remember being told once that women with dreadlocks were like roasted maize cobs, to be shared among friends <insert seductive look>. When I cut my dreadlocks and had my rugged short hair, I’d be asked if money was a problem for me not to own a comb.
If only people knew what it took to return natural, how one struggles with understanding their own hair and body. Standing there in the shop, reading through product labels, trying to make sense of sulphates, silicones, parabens, formaldehyde and their distant poisonous cousins. Asking friends what works for them, trying the same products only to get negative results. Venturing into product D.I.Ying, confusing products that are for the kitchen pantry and those for the bathroom cabinet. Reading, reading and reading some more. Religiously attending the University of YouTube, determined to earn at least a basic Diploma in Natural Hair & Living. I actually don’t blame those who quit and get back on the relaxers. It is easier, all salons and stylists are studied up on what to do for you. You can actually get your hair done while asleep. Try that when you’re a Natural and you’re likely to wake up with your hair texturised because the stylist thinks you have no clue you poor, poor child.
If you don’t quit, the day comes when it all makes sense. All of it, from your hair, the products it loves, your regime, what you eat, how to keep fit, your wardrobe, your friends… your conversations, your beliefs and your mental state. Now you’re truly confident and you don’t care the comments and snickers that come your way as your hair is growing, it’s moisturised and it’s thriving. People occassionally stop you on the streets, asking how you do it, complimenting your entire look, calling your a fashionista, applauding your bravery and creativity in styling. Slowly but surely, they also come to find out that underneath that bush of God given hair is an intelligent woman who has thoughts, opinions, ambitions and a future mapped out. I am here to tell you, there is light at the end of the tunnel…just keep swimming.
So are Natural haired women simple minded? Is it just a trend/movement that everyone in it is following blindly? Might it be a little bit possible that those who’ve chosen to take this route in their life know what they are doing? Or if they don’t, they are slowly finding out? Don’t natural haired women deserve a seat at the corporate table with their ‘fro out there for all to see? In relation to the Aryn Drake-Lee’s of the world, doesn’t a Natural haired woman deserve the man she has stood with & by even before he became a Hollywood sensation? Is the journey simple? Is it easy? Heck no! It is not, no journey ever is… but is it worth it? 100% YASSSSS!