YouTuber Tanya Rogers documents her hair journey as a Black women in Israel (her channel is aptly and proudly titled “Black and Natural in Jerusalem”). She shares with us her go-to hair routines and how difficult it is to nurture her hair in the Israeli climate.
Tell us about your hair journey.
I went natural in 2005 before it became popular, so there was definitely some trial and error along the way. I went through the “nothing but natural products” phase for the first few years; however, after a while I shifted to store-bought products again. Now I use a comfortable combination of both. I have learned that in everything hair-related, you have to listen to what your hair likes and do what it wants, not what other people tell you is “best.”
Describe your hair in 5 words or less.
Ha! My hair is: kinky, coily, sensitive, delicate and fragile.
My Hair Through the Years
How did you wear your hair when you were younger?
When I was younger, my hair was often in two or three twisted pigtails. I was an extremely tender-headed child and dreaded getting my hair done. My hair was first “pressed” with a hot comb when I was about 10, and I got my first relaxer at about the age of 11.
My Go-to Style
The twist-out is my regular style. I wear twist-outs several weeks each month. I used to only rock protective two-strand twist up-dos, but after ending my length journey, I went whole hog into the out styles. The twist-out is my favorite. It’s easy to accomplish and maintain. I like how it frames my face and is big and fluffy. Twist outs are great for a full look. The only thing I don’t like is having to re-twist after a few nights.
Style you’ll never wear again?
The bantu-knot-out on single sections. My hair does NOT look cute when I rock that style, lol. At least I can’t get it to do what I’d like it to do. I prefer the bantu-knot out on already stretched twists.
I rocked this style during Easter 2015 and stretched it a few days longer so that I could wear it as an up-do to a friend’s wedding. I really loved it! I decided not to separate the sections, but instead wore them as spirals on Easter, then as a cascading spiral bang and side fringe to the wedding. The only thing I disliked about it was that it started to revert after a few days. But I loved the elegant look of the spirals and that it showcased the length of my hair well.
Wash and (Kinda) Go
Honestly, I’d wanted to try a wash and go for a while. I hadn’t done one in several years and wanted to see what one would look like with my hair at this length, so I tried it. I was really impressed with how it turned out. I found that at this length, the hair pulls itself down and hangs rather than going outward, so the style actually had some length and volume to it. I wasn’t crazy about the time and effort that went in to creating the look, but I did really like the end result.
What has been your favorite look so far?
Twist-outs are my favorite look of all. I like them big, juicy and fluffy (even though I don’t have that delicious thick hair that some naturals have. But I think I have figured out a way to make it look full and I love it.
Tell us a bit about your hair routine.
Well, the climate in Jerusalem is very specific. It’s bone-dry and arid in the summer months (roughly May-October) and rainy/humid in the winter months (November-April). So my basic routine is to wash twice a month (there is less manipulation of the hair this way). I do a pre-poo with oils, followed by a mild shampoo. After this, I deep condition. I’m a faithful deep conditioner (DC)—I do it with every wash. After rinsing out the DC, I apply a leave-in and moisturizer, then seal with an oil. Finding what I consider “clean” natural hair products (no petrolatum and no “cones”) in Israel has been a challenge to say the least. I use a combination of local finds and things I have purchased from overseas.
What products can’t you live without?
Coconut oil and Kinky Curly Knot Today leave-in.
My Hair Now
How do you feel about your hair right now?
I’m in a very happy place with my hair right now. I love the length, and I am happy with its health. I was on a length journey for years, but I stopped that about two years ago and just began enjoying loads of out styles. Before that I was a protective style queen, lol. After 10 years of being natural, I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job with it. I know what my hair likes and doesn’t like. I know when it’s telling me it needs some TLC and when it’s a happy camper. This hair does take a lot of time and effort, but I wouldn’t trade it!
Life in Israel
Is there a natural hair community in Israel? If so, how would you describe it?
Unfortunately there is not much of a natural hair community in Israel yet. There are many women of color here, and many of them actually are natural, but there is no cohesive community or movement to embrace their reality of natural hair for what it is. There are many Ethiopian women, and many do wear their hair in natural styles (curly wash and gos, braided styles, corn rows) while others flat iron, relax or wear weaves in their hair. There are many women of color who are not of Ethiopian descent but are rather from other African nations, and often they will rock braided styles, weaves, or relaxers. You can find a smaller minority of women who are here as students or foreign workers (like myself) who come from countries where there is a consciousness and discussion regarding natural hair. These women will often rock natural styles such as twist-outs, braid-outs, locs and TWAs. I suppose all of this just indicates that there’s a wide variety of natural styles being worn by black women in the country, and people enjoy these styles. Yet no community exists to support women in this endeavor. I think that the primary issue is that the black women who are citizens of this country are still struggling to establish their identity here, both within their own minds and within society at large. Hair has a way of defining who we are, at least externally, and may people don’t really have solid answers for that yet. So the people looking for and interested in natural hair as a community experience are foreigners like me, who have more of a context for it. There’s no natural hair industry here. Products are very hard to come by as the market is not recognized.
Your YouTube Channel is called Black and Natural in Jerusalem; how would you describe your experience as a Black woman in Jerusalem, a city that has a lot of importance to many people? How do you think your experience in Jerusalem compares to what Black women in other Israeli cities might be experiencing?
Great questions! I’ve actually done a video on this very topic called, “Being Black in Israel” (shameless plug–ahem). Check it out when you get a chance! My experience in Jerusalem has been very positive. As an ex-pat, my circumstances (and experiences) are in some ways different from those of citizens. Interestingly, many people assume when they see me that I am African because of my rich dark skin. There is a lot of tension and uncertainty in the country regarding the refugee/asylum seeker situation right now, people often don’t know if I am a member of this community or not. Once I speak I am generally placed into the “American” box, although some still persist in their position that I am from a nation in Africa. The reality is that there are some people who are just intrigued by the “otherness” of black skin (in their context) and they respond to it. I definitely receive a lot of attention and have had a few choice (food-related) nicknames thrown my way. I think the most amusing was ‘my sweet shokolad’. But I have not been called any derogatory names while living here with my family. I do, however, know people who have experienced this.
Jerusalem is a considered a holy city to many people, and the tone of the city is decidedly more serious than in the rest of the country. This has to do with the religious connection that the city has and the many religious inhabitants of various faiths who live here. I enjoy the energy here in Jerusalem, but you can definitely feel the difference when you’re in other parts of the country. While a greater number of race-related problems may happen in other cities, I think that the differences in experience come more from the community that one is a part of rather than their location in the country. For instance, as an ex-pat, my experience in Jerusalem is likely going to be different from that of a black woman who is here as a refugee, and her experience would be different from that of a black woman who is a citizen, such as an Ethiopian woman. Unfortunately, class considerations play into this here just as much as they do in other parts of the world. This is not to say that the overall experience of black women in Israel is bad. But I do know that my experiences as an ex-pat will not be the same as a local or a refugees experiences.