– As told to Un’ruly
I grew up in Miami, FL and if there is one thing that I learned from my mother, my grandmother and all of my aunts, that was engrained in my head from as early as I can remember, it was that every six weeks, it was time to get a RELAXER. That was it. There was no question about it. The thought of doing anything other than that was not even a possibility for me. It wasn’t until I went away to college at New York University (NYU) and was surrounded by a bunch of beautiful African American girls my age, rocking their natural hair, that that thought even crossed my mind as an option. Once I graduated from college, I decided it was time to start switching things up and start experimenting with my look. Follow me as I take you through my hair evolution.
September 2007: This picture was taken at a Labor Day party in the West Village in NYC. Hence the white. I was just starting my junior year at NYU. Up until that point, I loved my hair but I would be lying if I said it was anything but safe. Like I said, everybody in my family and most of my African American girlfriends in Miami all had their hair relaxed. For me, having my hair straight and just shoulder length was the norm.
June 2009: This was the summer of the year after I graduated from NYU. I had just cut my hair into this short mushroom cut. This was the biggest leap I had ever taken with my hair.
Who was my hair inspiration? None other than Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty herself. I saw a picture of her with this cute jet black mushroom cut and I was like “you know what? It’s time for a change!” So I went to my hairstylist at the time with that same picture of Rihanna that I had printed out and told her to cut it off. It took a while getting used to not pulling my hair back in a low ponytail but it was the summer time and it felt great to not have hair sticking to my neck in the heat.
May 2011: This was in London in May of 2011. That year I had decided to take my hair even shorter and rock a Halle Berry inspired pixie cut. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull it off, but my hairstylist Sidney, who I have been working with for over five years, was like, “let’s try it.” Halle Berry makes it look so easy, you know? It always looks like she just rolls out of bed and her hair is perfectly spiked. I can tell you that for me, this style took WORK to perfect. With the help of some good pomade, a great flat iron and regular relaxer touch ups, I was rocking this style for at least a year.
August 2012: In July of 2012 I had decided to get my first ever sew in weave. I wanted to grow out my hair without having to go through a REALLY awkward transition period and both Sidney and I felt this would be the best option. I left some of my own hair out at the top and around the edges to help with blending, so every six weeks I was still getting those parts relaxed. I loved my weave! I don’t know; it was something about having long and flowing hair that felt so glamorous.
June 2013: I had decided to take my weave out for about a month and rock some braids. I was going to Vegas and I wanted to 1) let my scalp breathe for a bit and 2) not worry about getting my hair/extensions wet when I jumped in the pool! I have always loved braids. I’ve always felt they are so versatile. You can pull them up in a high bun. You can rock a ponytail. You can wear them down. Immediately though, when I got them done, I was transported back to my childhood. There was a period in middle and in high school where all I wore was braids. So automatically, I thought I looked like a 12 year old. But after about a day or two I was like, “Man I had forgot how much fun this look is.” And how EASY too! Get up and GO!
Currently: In October 2013, I went natural. It was time for me to get my weave redone and instead, I decided I wanted to see what was actually growing underneath those tracks. Having had relaxers all my life, I was nervous to see what my natural hair texture would look like. Remember, I hadn’t had any relaxers on my head for about a year and a half (except for my leave out). Those first few months, I didn’t know what to do. I was on Youtube watching tutorials like a fiend. Constantly asking my friends who were natural for advice. Don’t get me started on all the products I purchased! But I stuck it out and have come to the understanding that it’s a process. It’s been 6 months and I’ve learned so much about my own hair AND about myself. My perception of my beauty for the longest time was wrapped up in the type of hair I THOUGHT was beautiful or the type of hair I had been CONDITIONED to think was beautiful. But now, and I know it might sound cliché, but I’ve been able to embrace my own beauty, one that is specific to only me, and it feels empowering. That isn’t to say you won’t ever see me rocking a Beyoncé inspired vacation weave or that I won’t ever cut it again, but now I know what my natural hair looks like and I’m not scared of it anymore.
Editor’s Note: If Chanel looks familiar, it’s because she notably did a parody of Beyoncé’s Partition video. Check it out below…