A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

Embracing My Natural Hair
By Gracie Benedith
"Excuse me. I just wanted to tell you that your hair looks nice. It really fits your face. I wish I could wear my hair like that, but my texture is not like yours."

That is what women often tell me. When I encourage them to wear their hair natural as I now do, they complain that their hair is too nappy, too thin or too thick. I never understood why they felt that way.

As a little girl, I wanted to look just like the black women I admired on television with their long silky straight hair. My mother used to press my hair (hot comb) for Easter Sunday and for other special occasions. It did not look straight and smooth the way a perm did; and God forbid that I sweat or walk around in humid weather...it was over! I felt cheated!

I vividly recall the first time I desired a perm. I was twelve years old. Having your hair relaxed was a must have in those days! My friends with relaxed hair looked more mature than me. Moreover, they were the ones who got all the attention from the boys.

Then the moment finally arrived; I successfully coerced my mother into relaxing my hair. I could not wait for my friends- and of course, the boys- to see the transformed new me!

As my hair grew, my excitement grew. I believed that in a couple of years, my hair was going to be long and silky just like on television.

On through college, I did my hair in every style that was popular for that season, month or year. If there were even a trace of wavy hair, I would slap a perm on my hair with urgency! Where style is concerned, permed hair should never show new growth! I could laugh now thinking of the scabs and sores I endured living up to the beauty is pain theory.

As I grew older, I looked more to my friends than to the beautiful women on television. I thought about Carine and Carly and how they carried themselves.

My dear friend Carine, a very spiritual and positive individual, encouraged me to embrace my beauty by telling me how beautiful I would look if I went natural! I took it with the yeah, yeah, whatever approach and told her that I'm good for now, thank you very much!

Then there was my loving sister, Carly, who when she asked why I was hiding myself, I could not answer her! I asked myself, Why is it so hard for you to go natural?

I realized that it was because most women have permed hair. I would look like an odd ball with my hair sticking up, looking nappy and all crazy.

And unfortunately, I felt that men would not dig that... I didnt think they would find enjoyment in caressing nappy hair! I concluded that these reasons were petty excuses!

Then the moment I thought would never arrive in my life did.

I made the choice to wear my hair natural. Like they say... Less is more! As my hair started to grow and live in its freedom, I sensed a difference in how people treated me. Women actually told me that I was bold for going natural.

They said that they could not possibly do that to themselves or that they were afraid of making a major change to themselves because of their significant other.

I have felt the pressure from men as well. They would tell me that I would look better with permed hair.

We as women always feel that we must change things about ourselves to feel accepted, noticed or loved, and in the process we lose who we are in trying to gain attention from others. I realized that the people who questioned me are those who were not willing to accept me for who I truly am. I delight in the fact that I am a fine example of the naturalness in African-American beauty.

I hope my experience has inspired those who aspire to make that change. Go for it!