America's Next Natural Model & My Thoughts On Natural Hair

Flickr photo by Kicha
Isn't she beautiful? I love the vintage photos of black women that I found on Kicha's flickr stream. What a treasure! This photo was taken circa 1872. It looks like the twist out has been around for a very long time!

I stopped chemically straightening my hair around 1999. I didn't do a big chop, but transitioned over about a year. It started with a dream where I looked in the mirror and saw myself with short natural hair and loved it! In the dream, I couldn't stop smiling. When I woke up, I couldn't stop thinking about what my natural hair looked like and felt so curious. As it grew out, I didn't even recognize it. But my mother remembered the texture from when I was a child.

Like many black women, at least in the United States, we often start relaxing our hair when we are teenagers, if not younger. Many of us may go the rest of our lives not knowing what our natural hair looks like. Why? Because even if we were not told in actual words, there has been a feeling that in order to be accepted by society, we had to straighten our hair. And relaxers hurt. They burn. I'm so happy to be free from all that.

Since late last year, natural hair has been in the news. Television reporter Rochelle Ritchie did a story about her transition to natural hair. A Sesame Street muppet sang that she loved her hair. And Willow Smith whipped her hair back and forth.

In the past couple of years, I've discovered the world of natural hair blogs. So much information is available now that wasn't even five years ago. Anyone who has doubts about going natural should read these blogs and see how their mindset may change. One of the first that I discovered was Afrobella. But Patrice writes about more than just hair and is one the top bloggers out there in any category.

The blogs that really have changed my thinking about natural hair are Curly Nikki and Black Girl With Long Hair. After reading these blogs, I so regret ever putting a relaxer on my head. Never mind paying hard earned money to have it done to me! If only I had understood my hair better and seen the variety of styles available. If only I had appreciated what grew out of my head naturally. It makes me sad when I think about it. But at least I know now! Oh, and I cannot forget the tumblr blog le coil. Such cool styles!

One of the most interesting things about Curly Nikki is that she is a licensed psychotherapist, so when she writes about hair, she also addresses issues of self-esteem. When you read the stories and comments, you see how learning to not just accept, but love our natural hair is another way of truly learning to love ourselves. One naturally follows the other and allows for a journey of self-transformation and growth within.

Now I really notice women who have natural hair and feel such inspiration from their style. Did you see Lizz Wright on The Tonight Show? Her sound is awesome and she really rocks her twa (teeny weeny afro)!

Last month, I received an email from Mireille Liong, who wrote the much acclaimed book: Going-Natural: How to Fall in Love with Nappy Hair. Liong's website is another great natural hair resource.

Even more importantly, Liong is doing something very different by having an online annual pageant called America's Next Natural Model. Her goal is to raise awareness about black hair issues and to improve the image of Black women in the media. You can take a look at the models and vote online. I think what she's doing is amazing and am happy to support the cause!

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alessandra said…
Just love natural curly hair :)
Lisa Johnson said…
alessandra - Me too! I think more people are starting to appreciate it! :D
Tracy said…
I LOVE natural hair! And I admire woman who go natural. Life is too short... The more we our ourselves, the better! ;o) Happy Day, Lisa ((HUGS))
Lisa Johnson said…
tracy - Life is too short! It's a shame that sometimes it takes so long to figure out that being our true selves is the best thing. Happy day to you too my friend! ; )
Ruth L.~ said…
Natural is always better in most everything--hair included. :>)
Lisa Johnson said…
ruth d - Very true! Sometimes we need to leave well enough alone! ; )
Can-Can said…
I understand what you mean when you say "natural hair" but I must tell you that in my family - our textures of natural hair run from wooly & kinky to naturally straight and wavy. The genetic combinations mean that some sisters with the same mother and father have two very different textures growing out of their heads.
Also, women of all backgrounds manipulate their hair in some way. While Black women have had to fight against a narrowly definied vision of beauty, I do believe that particularly in this time when there are so many options one must be careful not to equate "natural" hair with self-esteem no more than one can assume that someone who has locks is particularly versant in African-American history.
Good post - glad that you feel good about the way you've chosen to wear your hair.
Lisa Johnson said…
can-can - There are so many things to learn about natural hair. One of the most surprising to me, which it shouldn't have been, is that there are not only so many different types of textures in one family, but on just one head. I thought I was the only one with multiple textures, but I guess it's quite common.

I hear what you're saying in terms of self-esteem. Just because someone chooses to straighten their hair, doesn't mean they hate themself. It's not that simple. But if you read the blogs, you will definitely see a running theme that there is a greater self-awareness, acceptance, and general opening of the mind and spirit that comes with embracing one's natural hair.

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