WHY I WENT NATURAL: A Tale Of Beyonce, Bleach & Blogs

bellejheanell_naturalhair

Beyoncé's "Dangerously In Love" album was the ultimate downfall of my hair! Yes, Beyoncé did it! Not really. When that album was released back when I was high school and Bey stomped those perfectly sculpted legs across my tv screen in the "Crazy In Love" video...I damn near lost it. My hair needed to be blonde and it needed to touch my waist! Immediately!

Let's rewind to when I was 7 years old. Like most little Black girls, I had thick hair that was time consuming and "hard to manage". I'm not sure at what age I began getting a texturizer, but it did soften up my hair a bit and made life a little easier for both myself and my mom. If memory serves correctly, they were far and few in between. Sometimes I'd have to sit in the kitchen and have my hair straightened with the dreaded hot comb. Burnt ears anyone? One day however, my mom dropped me off at my usual hair dresser promising to be right back. Without my moms supervision, the girl doing my hair accidently put a relaxer in my hair instead of the texturizer and when my mom returned all hell broke loose. As for me? You couldn't tell me anything when I stepped on to my school campus that Monday morning. My hair was straight, soft, it moved - I lived! Now I didn't have to dance in the mirror pretending that the towel was my hair anymore. I could whip my hair back and forth with no extra help.

From then on I began getting relaxers regularly, sew in's and sometimes glue in tracks (eeekkkk) entered when I was a teenager. Then came that epic album with an equally epic first video and just had to add color to my regimen. I'm not sure how many times I pleaded with my mom and told her that my hair needed to be blonde, but she finally caved as I entered my junior year of high school. She agreed that I could get highlights, but I returned home with practically an entire head of blonde tresses. All I needed was that Versace dress and huge fans to be on every time I left the house, and I'd be set! Sadly, I still don't have either of those things.

Over the next few years I was regularly getting relaxer touch ups, re-doing my color and adding "tracks" in my hair. There was a point in high school where I thought to myself that my hair needed to break and I tried to go natural twice under full sew in's. I knew nothing about natural hair and apparently neither did my hair stylists. Every time they washed my actual hair and combed it, it was so painful. They'd tug on my hair trying to detangle it and they certainly weren't using the right products. I gave up, tried again and gave up a second time. Admittedly, I was also very nervous about what people would think of me if I showed up to school with an afro. Or even worse, if I showed up with all my hair cut off!

By the freshman year of college my hair made the choice for me. After years of so many chemicals and the stress of the weaves, it all fell off. As a girl that loved to experiment with her hairstyles, placed so much value on its appearance and defined my beauty by what my hair looked like - I was devastated. I had no choice but to have it cut into a "Halle Berry-esque" style. It was cute for the first few days but I had no idea what do with short hair and I had nothing to hide my face behind. I just wanted it to hurry up and grow back to a decent length that I could start relaxing it again.

Now living in South Florida by this point I spent most of my time at the beach. I'll never forget the first time I went after my hair cut and I could just get in the water without even thinking twice about it. Another day I got caught in the rain on the way to my car and I just started laughing - I didn't have to shield my hair from the water. A few other things happened that made me feel free of some of the limitations that I'd put on myself because I didn't want to risk messing up my hair. Eventually it started curling up and fell in love with the look of it. Maybe I don't need a relaxer after all.

Once my hair grew to a certain length I had no idea what to do with it. I felt ugly and I was very frustrated with the maintenance. I wore a lot of wigs during that time but ultimately decided to cut it off again. I grew it out for a second time and ended up getting a relaxer for my aunts wedding because I had no idea what to do with it. My third and final attempt was in 2007! I decided that I was never going to relax my hair again. I started to transition mainly by wearing wigs and weaves, cutting off relaxed ends as I went along. I still had no clue what to do with my hair, but it was growing and getting thick.

In 2008 I started a blog, which led me to many other blogs of all genres. I discovered natural hair blogs and that's when everything turned around for me. Seeing these beautiful girls rocking their natural texture was so inspiring to me, as it certainly wasn't something I saw in the magazines or on tv. I also discovered the natural hair community on youtube and things began falling into place from there - it was almost like winning the lottery! I learned just about everything about my hair from that platform. I started experimenting with products that these ladies were recommending, mixing products in my kitchen and trying new hair styles. I had an equal amount of success and failures. At times, MopTop Maven's blog and Shea Moisture products were the only things that prevented me from giving up. There has been so much trial and error! Seriously it took way too long to realize that I couldn't do wash and go's after my particular hair texture hit a certain length. But I'd began to embrace my hair so much that I refused to believe that I wasn't cute, lol!

Now in 2013, things are much different. People are starting to realize that Black women going back to their natural state is not a fad, but a movement. Young Black women are cultivating businesses and becoming successful by launching natural hair care lines and other related services. Relaxer sales are falling. The huge black hair brands that I used when I had a relaxer have now tapped into the natural hair market. Some actresses are wearing their natural curls on red carpets and in movies! There's International Natural Hair Day! There are Natural Hair Meet Up/Support Groups around the world! Some of the natural Hair Youtube Guru's and Bloggers that helped me in my journey have become brands - and some are now my real life friends! And Solange....need I say more? As a community, we're steadily progressing and it's so exciting to watch. My hair has now become a conversation piece (sometimes an ice-breaker) as opposed to a source of self consciousness that it once was. I now get more questions from women curious to know how to go natural and what products to use as opposed to my former top question, "So when are you going to perm your hair again?".

It's crazy to think how a decision to step out of the norm with my hair, gave me to confidence to do the same in other areas of my life as well. I don't have to do what everyone is doing. I am Jhéanell - made perfectly in Gods image! It's taken me a while to become the confident woman that I am now, but I'm here!

Despite all the rude things people have said about my hair, all the un-couth questions I've been asked about it over the years - it was all worth it. One of the biggest rewards for me is my 13 year old sister choosing to stop having her hair relaxed so that she can rock her natural hair. I love that she came to that decision on her own and she's so fearless about it. If I had that courage as a teenager, I'd probably have a lot more hair than I do now.

Although I love the path I've chosen for myself, I don't force "going natural" on my loved ones - but it's been fun watching a lot of them take the plunge over the years. I've made many mistakes with my hair, I'm still learning as it seems to change as it gets longer or when I get pregnant - but I love it! This is the longest, thickest and most healthy my hair has ever been - minus a little postpartum hair loss which is typical for new moms. And no, I don't have issues with people who choose to relax their hair! Yes I do still believe in wigs and weaves - they're a great protective style to give your hair a break when done correctly.

...wow that got long really fast! So that's my story of how and why I went natural...this is actually the short version believe it or not. Now I can just share this post with the next person who asks me, ha!

Are you natural? What has been your experience?

Thinking about going natural? Not sure where to start?

Don't understand why someone would want to go natural?

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