These natural hair stories many of us naturals can identify with. Read and see if you can relate. I related to at least 3 similar experiences.
“Growing up without my mom and in a predominantly white area, I always felt different than other girls. My hair became one of my biggest insecurities. My dad would bring me to the African hair braiders in Brooklyn to get box braids as a protective style—that made me feel like a such an individual. It was that one thing that no one else had. As a former ballerina, it is standard and expected to have your hair brushed back in a tight bun. One day before class, my babysitter put my tiny individual braids in a bun and what happened next stayed with me forever. My ballet teacher, Ms. Sonya, questioned why my hair looked the way it did. She said I looked like Medusa, and I was barred from class until I took my braids out. I remember feeling embarrassed and sad that I was singled out for my hair being different despite it being in the parameters of a ballerina bun. I didn’t understand the extent of her insult until I looked up a photo on the family computer of Medusa. Medusa was a monster in Greek mythology and described as a winged woman with living venomous snakes in place of hair. I went home and told my dad what Ms. Sonya said, and he was livid. He immediately called the dance studio and schooled her on protective styles for black girls. Despite me being 9 years old, I was not going to let Ms. Sonya’s ignorance plague my view of box braids. Box braids are something I hold near and dear me. They represent originality, individuality, and black culture across the diaspora. For any little girls reading this that are made fun of for braids or feel different because of it, your style of choice binds you to all of the beautiful women across the diaspora for generations preceding you, and there is power in that.” — Darnelle Casimir
“My dreads were always viewed as different. We didn’t see a whole lot of other kids wearing them, and for so much of my elementary years, I remember kids making fun of me. They called my hair such nasty names. When my parents were going through a divorce in fifth grade, my dad cut my dreads, which became the start of my natural hair journey. I got a perm in the sixth grade and then decided that I didn’t like that my curls were dead when they were relaxed and straightened. So I grew it out by getting my hair pressed until all of my chemically relaxed roots were gone. By high school, I grew to love my hair. However, I don’t care what anyone has to say because my identity is not in my hair. I wear my crown of hair the way I do because it’s how He made me, and I won’t be ashamed of it. ” — Zuleika Spears
“I personally love changing my hairstyles up, from wearing it natural to having a weave. What I dread is the questions at work about the different changes. I don’t like to even come around my white co-workers the first day of a new hair style because they always overanalyze it as if black women’s hair isn’t as versatile as theirs. From the ‘Wow, new hair’ to the ‘So, what’d you do to get it like that?’ these questions take the joy away from a long-awaited silk press, a new long weave, or just a simple twist out. To be honest, it makes me hypersensitive about my hair and what style I choose.” — Kali Stewart
“The notion of wearing a protective style during summer gave me anxiety. I was afraid of being judged by the people I work with. For the first six months in my role, I wore my natural hair straight in a very sleek and tidy bob. At the time, I was the only black woman on my entire team, so I felt a responsibility to set the example for how ‘presentable’ black women can look. Silly, I know. The summer months approached, and I knew New York’s humidity would be no match for my hair. So, I decided green ombré box braids would be a great summer style. Worry immediately started to creep into my mind. Would I have to explain the style to my co-workers? Would people want to touch my hair? Would people misunderstand the style and label me ‘ghetto?’ I remember on my first day, one of my co-workers came around to my desk to get a closer look at my hair. She walked around and examined my hair like I was some strange object. She hovered over me and said: ‘It’s so cool, can I touch it?’ I kept it cute and gave her a stern no. Many weird comments and questions about my hair followed from my team. I left the office that day feeling like some kind of case study. It was really difficult to process the reactions. It was a bit disheartening, but I decided I wouldn’t let it stop me from expressing myself with my hair. I’ve changed my hair to two other braided styles since.” — Shelby Christie
“It was the third day of my junior year at SUNY Plattsburgh, which is a predominately white institute, and I was heading to work for my regular shift at the library. There happened to be two older white women on the elevator with me. Within two seconds, they began bombarding me with questions and comments about my hair. At the time, I had large jumbo braids as a way to maintain and protect my hair for the first quarter of the semester. They began with: ‘You’re so beautiful, honey. Where are you from?’ Then, they started to ask more invasive questions and finally began to actually touch my hair. ‘Your hair is beautiful, and so long. How long did it take you to do this?’ While it was happening, I was at a lost for words, so I just stood there awkwardly with a crooked smile on my face. In the inside I was angry, but it can be hard to express that without being labeled as ‘an angry black woman’ or ‘intimidating.’ I recited Solange’s ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’ song in my head the whole time. I felt as though I was some sort of exotic toy, and what made it all worse is that I couldn’t correct them in the moment. I was left voiceless, which upset me because I knew so many other black women have experienced the same thing.” — Chelsea Asare