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Black Women And Their Hair

I love being a sistah! Like, I love being a black woman in America. We have our struggles but we are so free to be who we want to be here when you compare our lifestyle to some other cultures. I was blessed to be raised by powerful, motivated, black, female entrepreneurs. My mother named me Iyonna Hazel, after my Aunt Hazel, who treated me more like a grandchild than a great niece. My namesake, Aunt Hazel, was a black woman in the 60's who owned a salon. She owned the building and the business. The beauty industry generates billions of dollars in the United States and it was one of the first industries that allowed black women to partake in making millions. Madame C. J. Walker was the FIRST African-American woman millionaire turned philanthropist, self made in the beauty business selling hair products. I digress....

All of my family who lived in Baltimore worked in Aunt Hazel's salon. I think the name of it was Cosmos, but
Mama Fancy in her college days.
1970 something
we all called it "The Shop". Aunt Hazel's daughter worked at The Shop. My mother apprenticed at The Shop. She paid her way through college by working there as a stylist. My older cousins worked at The Shop, cleaning up, doing laundry, and running errands. Even I worked at The Shop, giving little $5 manicures at the tender age of 8 years old in the summers and on the weekends I spent with my beloved Aunt Hazel. So, I know the inner working of a salon. I grew up in one.

Aunt Hazel has since passed. But not before paying cash to build her retirement home from money made in The Shop and selling her business. I never really understood the advantages I had by growing around these things. I learned hustle and entrepreneurship. I got to listen in on mature conversations that taught me life lessons at an early age. My hair was always done. My hair was always healthy. My hair was always kind of long because of these things. It didn't hit me until I stopped relaxing my hair that black women have a "thing" with their hair.

When I was in graduate school, I worked part time in a salon doing natural hair, mostly braiding and loc maintenance. I was the only one. All the others specialized in "regular" hair styling. We had one stylist who was highly sought after for his weave and styling expertise. He was REALLY good and was usually booked. I was appalled when I would hear the receptionist getting cussed out because he did not have any appointments available. It was so crazy to me. I'd think "Is it that serious?" Apparently, it is. I just could never relate. I honestly felt like we have a serious problem in this society if people are enraged when they can't get a hair appointment or a pair of sneakers for that matter.

Styles Salons
One and only weave for my wedding by the
hair weave killah, Dariel
I got a relaxer when I was 11 because all my friends had relaxers and my mom was straightening my hair anyway, so what was the big deal? This made it easier, right? My mom has Indian in her family, literally. She was Pocahontas in her college years. Perfect brown skin and long flow-y hair down her back, no relaxer. Aunt Hazel churned out perfect bouffants and press & curls for years. That's just what black women did. We straightened and styled our hair. It seemed that a large majority of black women wanted long, flow-y hair and would stop at nothing to get it. Enduring chemical burns on the scalp, burned ears from curling iron or hot comb, hours under the dryer, pulling and tugging so much that the hairline recedes from the tension, and let's not forget the MONEY and TIME spent in the salon. Or basement. Or kitchen. All to achieve something that Jehovah never really intended for us.

If I were meant to have a brown complexion, I'd have a brown complexion. Other than tanning in the summer, I don't invest time and effort into making my skin looking like something it's not. If I were meant to be 6 feet tall, I'd be 6 feet tall. Other than wearing heels, which I do for style and not to look taller, I don't invest time and money in to trying to make myself taller. If my hair was meant to be long and flow-y, it would grow long and flow-y from my scalp. Why did I spend so much time trying to make my hair do something it was never intended to do?

As a "natural", I straighten my hair once a year in the winter. Just because. The rest of the year, I style my hair in it's natural texture. I know what styles work for me and my hair. Even with natural hair, I don't look to make my hair look like someone else's natural hair. I don't do much to my hair, I never did. Even when I had a relaxer, I did a wash and roller set once a week, if that roller set turned out kinda janky, oh well, I would have janky hair for the week. Same with my hair now, I style it bi-weekly and I just make adjustments to the hairstyle as the weeks go on. It's so funny to me that when I think my hair looks crazy, I still get compliments.

When I was 21, I told my mother I was going to stop getting a relaxer. She asked me why. I was a dumb 21 year old, I didn't have a legitimate answer other than I wanted big hair. LOL! So I continued to get relaxers
Wash and go "faux hawk"
After a year of transitioning
for 7 more years. Then I had a talk with my husband and we both decided it was time. Wearing my hair in it's natural texture is a personal choice. Even if you choose to wear your hair straight, with modern technology and advances in products, you don't have to straighten your hair with chemicals. We are all in a place of health consciousness. We are eating healthy, clean and organic. Why put chemicals on your body if you're making a conscious effort not to put them in your body? Just something to think about.

I hurt for black women who look at my hair with admiration and say "I wish I could wear my hair like that?" or "I wish I could go natural?" Who told them that they can't? The reasons I hear make me sad. They don't think they can wear their hair like that to work. Their hair is too nappy. They don't have time to style it. If your job has an issue with you wearing your hair the way it grows out of your head, you probably need to consider a new job. And if they fire you or limit your opportunities because of a choice of hairstyle, they know they will have some class action discrimination cases coming their way. What is nappy hair anyway? My hair seems nappy sometimes too. Usually when it's dry. Look at the products you're putting in your hair, there's probably some form of alcohol in it. Alcohol dries your hair out, making you think it's nappy and unmanageable when it's not. For those who really want to go without relaxers, take a good look in the mirror and be honest with yourself. What are you REALLY afraid of? And just how much time do you spend in the salon again? Oh.
Dry Twist Out after 3 years of being "natural"

All I'm saying is, you are beautiful just the way you are. Your hair is beautiful. Long and flow-y. Short and sleek. Loose curls. Tight curls aka *whispers* kinky. It's all beautiful because it's yours. Own it. Jehovah made you that way. Beautiful and in his image. Do what makes you feel beautiful but do it for you. Going through all those changes to alter your hair doesn't make you anymore beautiful than you already are.

Long, short, curly, kinky, or straight.....live your Fancy Life, embracing who you were meant to be.

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