Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Newbie Natural: My 3 Basic Steps to Going Natural - Part 2

Last week, I took you through the first steps I'd recommend someone to take to go natural. For some women, the decision isn't one they make lightly. This is part 2 of the blog post. For part one, click here. 

3. Prepare (after preparing yourself first)
  • Your significant other: Everyone's relationship is different and the significance of that relationship in a woman's life is different. So please take the following as just my advice and opinion based on my own experience. I touched on this topic last year and I do feel strongly about not encouraging any woman to sacrifice such an important relationship because of hair. Whether it's to keep it relaxed 'against your will' or to chop it all off when he's already mentioned he's not in. But you at least want to try to get him in right? 

Once you've made up your mind, sit your man down and talk to him about it. Clearly explain the reasons why you've decided to go natural. The reason why I'd suggest you make your mind about it first is to make sure you have a clear objective and you can concisely explain your decision to your partner without leaving any room for doubt. You can even set the conversation up as an open one to make him feel like he's a part of the final decision, just to soften the potential blow. I think the key thing is to not make it seem like a rash decision and that you're 'just jumping on the band wagon'. Once he's more open to the idea, try and include him in your quest to finding out more about going and being natural. Keep him as updated as he allows on your journey. Some guys might just leave you to it because hair talk bores the hell out of them. Others might appreciate seeing the transformation and understanding why you now have to twist your hair every night or take a couple hours to detangle. When I was transitioning, I was obsessed with all blogs, websites and videos natural. It's almost all I could think and talk about so my man was very much included in that obsession and decision making. If it helps, you could also discuss the date in which you're planning on big chopping just so he's extra prepared.

  • Your family and friends: Similarly to your significant other, your family and friends will form your main support group. If they're not in, it could be quite hard for you as family is usually much more vocal with their opinions. A simple heads up should be enough but you may want to include a brief explanation as to why you're doing it. Make it clear that their support is really important to you. Keep in mind that everyone will have different opinions about your hair whatever its state. Some people tell me they prefer me in braids, while others loved my relaxed hair and didn't understand why I chopped it all off. Others are indifferent but most have now respected the fact that I choose to wear my hair the way I do. For some family members and friends who have known you for a long time, it could be just as simple as giving them time to get used to it. Once you rock it confidently and beautifully, they'll see that and follow suit. You never know, some might even be inspired by you and go natural themselves.
Please note that these posts are merely my advice and based on my own experience.

Have you jumped and survived being natural? Share your tips in the comments below. Sharing is caring!

Monday, 14 April 2014

Protective Style Review: Afro Weave

It's been six weeks since I installed my last protective style; the Big Bad Fro. And according to my protective styling calendar, it was time to remove it and set my own fro free!

Firstly, I LOVED this weave/braids combo. My regular readers will know the technique has fast become my favourite one. Time wise it's a life saver. As I detailed in an earlier post, the lady who does my hair took only two hours to install this. The first two weeks were fab. My afro weave was massive and awesome. It was such a different look, and attracted a lot of attention. What was great was the reason why I installed it to begin with; saves time. To maintain it, I would wrap my hair as usual with my satin scarf at night to help preserve the style. In the mornings I would unwrap, spritz either my own daily spritz on my scalp or a braid spray (I use Restore Plus Braid Spray). By week 3, I noticed the ends of the hair were starting to lock. I wouldn't go through the same thing as I would with my own hair by twisting it nightly. And a comb wouldn't go through it either. So it eventually began locking. To reduce the locking I had to quickly fluff and separate it in the mornings.

I have to say, I was strangely surprised when it was about 4 weeks in and I honestly began missing my own fro. As much of a time and lifesaver this stye was, there really isn't anything quite like feeling your scalp when you moisturise. I found it very interesting that although I had this massive fro on my head (ie. what I'd always imagined Fro would grown up to be) yet I still longed for my shorter, more modest (but own) fro! I also had to get creative and remix the ways I would style the hair.

So here are some pics I took 5 weeks in, featuring my lil' furry baby Cinnamon.


Well by week 5, the Big Bad Fro wasn't really that big and bad anymore. It  held up but I had to snip off most of it. What arose from that was a nice preview for a cute asymmetrical bob afro style I would love to try with my own hair sometime:


Six weeks was completed by this weekend and as the next couple of weeks will be hectic ones for me, I knew it had to come out either way. By last week, the extensions were looking much more raggedy than at first. I know that's normal but as I said on Facebook and Twitter, it really acted like a fro and began dread locking and that wasn't the look I was going for! Someone on Instagram asked me if I have done any braid outs on it and for it I was like, isn't this one of the points to have a weave in the first place? So I don't have to sit for hours prepping it like I would my own.

When this past weekend finally came, I was relieved to finally get to see my own hair again. But it didn't come quickly or as easily as I thought it would. I sat myself down on Saturday evening (around 5pm) thinking I was going to undo, wash, treat and detangle my hair by bed time. Ha! By 10pm, I had only undone about 1/3 of the braids in front. Yeah. I was so frustrated, I decided to sleep and continue the next day, making me miss a social commitment. After running some errands Sunday morning/afternoon, I finally finished removing the weave at around 9pm last night. I woke up in the early hours of this morning and washed, deep conditioned and detangled my hair before heading to work. I had to lightly blow dry it so not to get claimed by the bitter cold that's crept up on us. It's really hard seeing how much shedding your hair goes through in one go after keeping it away for so long. But anyways, here I am!


Rocking my own fro again :)

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Hair Issue by Miss Milli B

If you aren't following Miss Milli B's should.

I've been following her for awhile now but I was absolutely captivated the other week when I checked out her newly revamped blog. This month she's talking about hair. Her first article on the topic was the first blog post in awhile by any blogger that had me hooked from start to finish. Eloquently put and well articulated, here's Miss Milli B's The Politics of Black Hair.

Photo source
On a recent visit to Sandton City Mall, a tall black man I had only known for a few hours stood next to me, and in an uncalculated effort to break the awkward silence between us, looked down at me and asked, "so Mili, what’s the plan with your hair’’? My eyes slowly turned to aim at his and arms folded, I let a few tense seconds pass before cocking my gun. ‘‘What do you mean’’? I asked. 

Imagine a giraffe dodging a bullet. Imagine how its clumsy legs and too tall neck would aid the shooter’s attempt at bringing it down.  It’s too damn slow.  ‘’Oh no I just mean are you going to do dreadlocks or are you going to leave it like that?’’.  I calmed down and took my bullet back. He didn’t intend to be offensive. Sometimes, because my immediate world is shared with artist, writers, musicians and other conscious lefties, I make the mistake of thinking that everyone is like that.  We were in Sandton City, the bastion of commercial prowess and the natural habitat of vanilla ambitions. 
‘’I’m not going to do anything with it, the plan is to leave it like this’’, I said. And I walked off feeling irritated that I had to explain myself. Maybe it was an innocent question or maybe my instincts were right, to him, my appearance was incomplete.  I went to share this moment with my friend, a friend who two months prior, had sat me down and said ‘’No you’re not’’, when I told him of my plans to relax my hair, when I had felt the same sentiments as the giraffe man about my natural hair.  
I had asked him as a litmus test of how the rest of my conscious leftie friends might react to me relaxing my hair after 12 years of keeping it natural.  In some of my circles, everything is political and essentialism is a salient member of the conversations, conversations that usually interrogate ideas around who we are, here and now. We are black and conscious all day.
Last year I braided a Bumper Curl like hairstyle onto my hair and it ended up looking like a curly weave. My Congolese hairdresser decided it would be a good look for the glamorous event I was attending.  On the first day, I Instagrammed a picture of my Bumper Curl Don’t Curr and raked in the likes and complementary comments from my followers, most of whom I don’t know.  On the second day, I went to the event as someone’s date and when I arrived, I fit right into the garish aesthetics of Midrand, where the event was held.  On the third day I met my conscious leftie friends for brunch and when I arrived, hoping they would say something nice about my hair, they all observed my new look and instead, one of them said ‘’nice dress Mils’’.  I didn’t get the validation I had hoped for because the truth is, I wasn’t sure if I even liked this hair myself. I had been blinded by the exblockquotement of being the date of a guy who had told me numerous times that he just wanted to ‘’kick it’’, someone I had very little in common with, someone I was posing as a one night-trophy for.
On the fifth day, I woke up and cut off the hair. There had been a moment of clarity that morning when I couldn’t find a single outfit to go with this plastic mop hat.  That afternoon I went to see the same conscious lefties at one of their houses. When I arrived, the others were there. Before I could say anything, they were huddled around the kitchen table, some of them hunched over with their hands on their stomachs, others with their arms outstretched trying to pity hug me and the rest literally running around the table, out of breath with laughter.  ‘’What the fuck were you thinking?” was the general rhetoric and as we capsized with laughter, I knew that I was in the right company. That hairstyle truly was the furthest thing from who I really am.
So it came as no surprise that there would be judgment if I suddenly embraced the creamy crack, as if relaxing my hair would mean relaxing my aversion to pop culture’s promotion of a single type of beauty.  ‘’Wow, the system’s got you too?’’ asked my friend, with a perplexed and plea full smile on his handsome bearded face. His response was extreme but I had anticipated it.  I had known better than to come without preparing a list of my reasons.  I zoned out while he rained on me, arranging my reasons and when he finally asked me why, I gave him my reasons:
I want to try a new look for the sake of the hairstyle
I haven’t relaxed my hair since I was 17. I’ve looped the natural, bald and braided looks since then and I’m bored.  I just want to look as fly as Bee Diamondhead for once in my life.
Why can’t I just be free to do what I want? I’m a conscious black woman but why should that restrict my freedom to be cute?
Essentialism is the notion that there is a set of visible qualities that mark and govern a certain group of people or things.  In order to be a member of said group, one must possess certain qualities.  This is a very simple definition of a very complex concept, one that has been used to try to describe a ‘’collective black identity’’, which in and of itself as a concept, does not exist.  That said, there are socio-economic and cultural trends, shared experiences and experience based insights that can be used to apply identity traits to groups of people. For instance, slavery and apartheid succeeded in naturalizing the idea that lighter skin tone and any quality resembling the constructed ideals of ‘’whiteness’’ was inherently superior, pure, intelligent, beautiful and more desirable than anything that was darker skin toned and further away from the constructed idea of ‘’whiteness’’. This was an essentialist notion because it purported that if your skin tone is this way, then you will naturally be all the things that those making the rules associate with that skin tone. Essentialism can be applied to gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation and class. It is essentialist thinking that maintains oppressive ideologies and policies of one group over another.  All human beings have used essentialist policies to justify oppression of one group by another throughout history.
Regarding my choice of hairstyle, should I have to keep my hair in an Afro or plait it or braid some typical ‘’African’’ hairstyle to prove that I am black?  Black people have had to fight to attain the freedom to exist freely, at least in the past 500 years.  We have national and global icons who fought for black people to have the freedom to be. Biko and Mandela lived and died so that I could make choices as a free black girl, not to live a life restricted by the burden of being strong, resilient and hard done by as a black woman. I just want be young and wild and free like the white hipster kids who are perpetually Instagramming photos of themselves partying as if the world will end tomorrow if they don’t party it the fuck up tonight.
Does straightening my hair mean that I’m subconsciously self-loathing?
Black hair is versatile for a reason. There may be some people out there who wear weaves and wigs because they have an inferiority complex about the way they look, who may not see the beauty in how they were naturally created. There are others who are simply doing what their hair allows them to do, which is to try different styles for the sake of fashion and style.  I’ve been wearing my hair naturally, with braids and plaits from around the continent. I now simply want to exercise the right to choose. Where does one draw the line?  Have we not reached a time when relaxing has actually become part of the identity of black beauty? How many other races relax their hair the way we do? It started off as black people adhering to the popular white ideals of beauty but 90 years later, surely people have different reasons for straightening out nature’s doing/mistake.
I love you but who are you to tell me what to do with my hair?
The Hair Police have some good points to make regarding their observations about a white ideal of beauty being socially and economically preferred over other types of beauty.  This is not a mistake. It is deliberately designed by a system that depends on making everyone feel like shit in order for it to survive.  But I know the workings of ‘’the system’’ and I’m making an informed choice, not because I’m blindly following hairstyle trends. Winnie Mandela wears a wig. If this is about all black women in, does she of all people not deserve to wear whatever hair she likes?
The system my friend was referring to is the well-oiled machine that has for the last 400 years relinquished ‘’blackness’’ of value and instead, institutionalized the meaning and connotations of ‘’black’’ to equate to dirt, incompetence, lack of intelligence, poverty, the undesirable, underdeveloped, lacking, bad, corrupt, criminal, violent, overly sexual, beastly, animalistic, ugly and every other disparaging word one can fish from a pool of constructed negation.
The system is responsible for black South Africans normalizing the use of such terms (most of which are in Afrikaans) as ‘’kaffir hare’’, ‘’kroes hare’’, ‘’Bushman hair’’, ‘’steelwool’’ ‘’peppercorns’’ and other terms that deem the texture of hair undesirable.  No one has ever said ‘’Oh that’s such nice kaffir hare you have’’. 
The system is responsible for black South Africans problematizing their hair, thinking that their hair needs to be constantly worked on in order to be beautiful. I’m not the only one who used to think that I was ugly unless my hair was relaxed or something was done to it. Combing the type of hair that I have, type 4b, the hair that most indigenous Southern African ethnic groups have is like sticking pins in a sponge and trying to remove them simultaneously using vertical or horizontal strokes.  Good luck.  Historically, the Tsonga and Xhosa for instance, kept narrow combs stuck in their hair as a way of storing their snuff spoons, which were on the other end of the combs. Isn’t the severe pain that comes with combing natural hair an indication that maybe it doesn’t like to be combed?  Evolution and mixing with other cultures is a good thing and I’m not advocating for people to walk around without grooming and with things sticking out of their hair, I’m simply saying let’s check ourselves.
The system is responsible for politicizing black hair, for causing Twitter wars between the Pro Weave and Anti Weave brigades, for polarizing black women’s choices according to hair type, for immersing the world in limited ideals of beauty and radicalizing the resisters. 
The system is responsible for the widespread trend of transactional sex in urban metropolises like Joburg and Durban.  Weaves are big part of attracting a certain type of man for young impressionable broke black girls.  I have been told by such girls that they go to a club like Hush or Cocoon with hungry purses, show up dressed up with their weaves bellowing through the smoke and they make a bee-line for a fat pursed male target.  Said target will invite the girls to his table, he will supply drinks, cigarettes and other accouterments and at the end of the night, someone with a sexy weave will pay the real price.  These relationships continue, maintained by airtime, transport, money, holidays away, whole apartments, schoolbooks, cellphones and computers from the man in exchange for sex and company from the girls.  The scale ranges from the airtime and data hungry amateurs to the Mini Cooper driving pro’s.  Those guys are not looking to hold on to an Afro during meaningless sex, they are looking for sexy weaves to validate and hold onto their brand of masculinity. This story is so old and clich├ęd I wish it wasn’t still so relevant. And obviously this is a very generalized observation. This does not apply to all men and women who go to such clubs.
The question then becomes, are our choices really individual choices when we live in a world still largely dominated by white ideals of beauty? When the standard of beauty speaks to one type of aesthetic? What price are we actually paying for our flared choices? For the millions of little girls and boys who inhale popular culture and see long straight hair as sexy, successful and desirable, who is responsible for showing them that the opposite is equally sexy, successful and desirable?  Is it the one-eyed media machine? Or is it us who have gone through the system that eats at our pride, the one that chews our hairlines? Is it ok for us to eat our freedom to such an extent that we unwittingly promote a perception that results in us looking the extreme opposite of what we actually look like?
There are no straight yes or no answers to these questions. Like all matters relating to identity, myriad complexities prevent the use of blanket rules for everyone.  Nobody should tell you how to style your hair if you are a grown person – whether it’s your boss, a partner or your friends. That said, it’s important to make informed choices.  It’s important to be able to discern between a funky fashion trend and subliminal negative messaging against your person, no matter who you are.  Our current problem is that the majority of black people are singularly focused on the stylistic and trend related side of our choice and are oblivious to the ubiquitous agents of the system that exist to oppress them from the inside out.
Full blog post with photos can be found here. Thank you Miss Milli B for letting me share this piece with my readers.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Newbie Natural: My 3 Basic Steps to Going Natural - Part 1

I've written a lot on my blog. A lot. And much of that information is scattered throughout my blog. So I regularly receive e-mails and messages of currently relaxed ladies or newly naturals who have no idea what to do and are finding all of the information overwhelming. In the hopes of having one central place for all newbie and wannabe naturals to go to for some guidance, I re-jigged the Newbie Natural page last year with direct links to all of the posts I've already written (and in the future will write) on being newly natural. Call it a one stop shop. And I'll add to it as time goes on.

Many of my readers have asked me how to go about being natural. So, where to start? As Julie Andrews says, let's start at the very beginning :D

Here's how I can best summarise the steps I'd recommend to going natural:

1. Decide

Are you going to stop relaxing your hair or not? If yes, why? What is or are your reasons? Write them down somewhere where you can re-read the reasons when you reach a low point in your journey. It's different for different women. I started a blog (!) and I wrote about my decision to go natural here.

2. Transition or big chop?

That's really up to you and you alone. No one else is living your life and will be walking around with your hair. If you're not ready to go short or fully natural, wait until you are. The advice I'm going to give is to take care of your transitioning hair the same as you would your natural. Use this time to research products and techniques and get used to seeing natural hair in a way that inspires you. Sunshine of Natural Sunshine rightly suggests taking a break from mainstream media which is bombarded by women with straight and relaxed hair. Have a look at natural hair blogs, videos, magazines. Find inspiration in another natural haired woman in real life or online to help you and your mind get accustomed to seeing natural hair in a good light. I jumped and big chopped three months after my last relaxer and even though I didn't know it then or the few months afterwards, that chop did wonders for my confidence. It really tested me, because after that I figured if I could walk around outside of my house and interact with people with hair 1 inch short, I could walk out of my house rocking anything.

3. Prepare

Yourself, your significant other, your family and friends. Going natural isn't a walk in the park for everyone. For some it exposes a lot of insecurities that they may not have even known they have.

  • Yourself: In many cases, going natural means having to re-learn how to care for your hair. You're probably an expert in maintaining your relaxed hair or weave or whatever your pre-natural chosen style is. So start researching and preparing going natural as soon as you can. Again, Sunshine from Natural Sunshine suggested a great way of conditioning yourself to natural hair and that's by taking a break from mainstream media for a little while. As big as the natural hair 'movement' is getting, straight and relaxed hair is still the norm for women (Black or other) in the media. So we're used to seeing that as a beauty reference but our minds are malleable. You can actively decide to stay away from magazines or websites that don't portray women with natural hair and look for places that do. Have a look at natural hair blogs, Google natural hair images or try my favourite space for natural hair inspiration: Pinterest. Once you begin seeing beautiful, sexy, confident women rocking their natural hair and in all sorts of ways, you'll feel less worried or scared to join them.
In part 2 of this blog post, I'll be sharing my suggestions of how to prepare your significant other and your family for your decision of going natural. (Please note that these posts are merely my advice and based on my own experience.) 

For more tips for newbie naturals including how I went about going natural, check out the Newbie Naturals page.

30 Days, 30 Updos - The Videos: Day 30

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Thanks for watching! Stay tuned to MyFroandITV for more tutorials, reviews and fab natural hairness ;)

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