I have had several different hair types. Like all women, I came into the world with the hair my mother gave me. With the many styles I've had, I am now pretty confident this is the hair I will be buried in... providing my mortician knows how to manipulate natural hair. I blame Friends for the years I spent using a relaxer: When everyone in my 6th grade class began to get the Rachel or the shorter layers of the Monica, I begged my mother to cut my hair so I could fit in. Surprise, surprise: In my mostly-white New Hampshire hometown, I still didn't look like everyone else. So, eventually, I went my own way with my own style in mind and threw up my middle fingers at what the masses around me were doing. In high school, my hair game was all over the place. I bailed on relaxing appointments constantly and wore a bright red wig with bangs until my mother begged me to get a relaxer for my senior class pictures.
I measured my beauty on what my hair looked like on any given day. If my hair wasn't looking good, then I wasn't either. Although it would turn out that most of my hair insecurities stemmed from black hair myths, throughout the time that I endured the pain of a relaxer, my confidence was married to how good my hair looked and neither could survive without the other. Even today, my hair is both my biggest attribute and biggest stressor. The difference is that I've totally embraced it now.
It took me a long time to realize the luxury of having black hair and for some, that's still debatable. Many of us suffer with the stigma that black hair is bad hair and have come to believe it ourselves. Whether it comes from systematic racism that has been ingrained for generations or it's a self-loathing, the struggle of black hair is real and the amount that many of us will pay to have "good hair" is insanely high. Personally, being natural has given me more confidence than my straight hair, braids, or wigs ever did. I have went from having a deep-seeded hatred for my hair to being completely obsessed with it.
I want to be clear: This isn't me hating on anyone who chooses to go relaxed or rock a weave. I know major confidence comes with all types of styles, despite the fact that we've all suffered harsh judgment on our hair decisions. My theory is if you wear the hair that you feel most comfortable in? You can pretty much disregard the haters. After all, they certainly aren't coming to your house to help you do your hair every day.
To showcase the many beautiful hair types of black women, I thought it only fitting to ask these beautiful women what their strands mean to them, and why they chose to go the natural, relaxed, or weave route.
"Much like life, when I'm dealing with my hair on those trying my nerves days I think, 'DAMN! This sh#% is just too tough to deal with!!' But in the end it always keeps me on my toes and smiling. Who wants their hair (or life) to be so humdrum?"
"I wear a weave so I don't damage my natural hair as much. Even though black hair looks tough as nails, it is still one of the most unmanageable hair [whether your are] natural or permed. "I am not my hair" type, It doesn't matter what you do to it, it's a reflection, but it's not the only thing that makes up who you are."
"I change my hair whenever I want to. Everything I ever wanted, I go after and my hair isn't any different. Wearing a weave gives me full expression. People's reactions to the many different personalities of my hair is priceless, but I'm not a cartoon character."
"Whenever someone says I am pretty, I assume they are only referring to my hair. Purple hair = life goals achieved. "
"My hair has shielded insecurities — physical, emotional, and mental. My hair is so big and dynamic that it has served as the ultimate accessory, transforming the way I have felt about my look as a whole. But most importantly: My hair is full, unpredictable, sassy, and has been absolutely terrifying but on other days so organically beautiful. I suppose if I had to simply sum up something so complex I'd say my hair is a reflection of me."
"[My hair is ] natural, prone to heat styling. I personally think my hair is my best asset, besides my unrelenting wit. I tend to act like I'm "Long Hair, Don't Care" but I actually care a lot. It's safe to say that I shed at least one tear every time scissors come anywhere near my hair."
My hair matches my personality — untamed, afraid of commitment, with a wild side that can be disguised in an elegant braid. My hair, even if it were relaxed, is my heritage. It's my mother, my grandmother, and my great grandmother's gift to me and I would never do anything to harm my precious gift.
"I think my hair is the thing that makes me feel the most confident and beautiful, and I have an off day when I’m having a bad hair day. When my hair is freshly relaxed, I’m always running my fingers through it or switching up my hair style while my hair 'still moves,' as I always say. And I never feel prettier than when my hair has been done and is framing my face."
"From the Jheri curl to relaxers, my hair has been through it all. Poor thing, I always treated it like the ugly stepchild. Now I love my natural hair."
"My hair means everything to me. I have grown to love, understand and accept it more and more over time. My hair is my crown."
"As a child I was either hiding my hair or hiding underneath it. Self-acceptance and salon disasters led me to finally embrace my hair's personality. These days I think it speaks for me before I have to say a word."
Image: Dionysuis Burton/Flickr; Wikipedia; Shareefah Mapp; Cami; Kimberly; Tracey Jackson; Kristin Collins Jackson; Kadeen Griffiths; Becky Farmer; Scarlett Wilson; Kourtney Brown; Melissa Louis-Jacques