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  • Writer's pictureShevaun A.

Empowerment, Expression and Hair

You are probably wondering why am I discussing my various hairstyles and experiences, even though I’ve had some negative interactions. I’m trying to demonstrate the beauty and versatility of black women.

Image Credits: licensed via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0

“I wear my crown

My hair, my, my

My hair, my crown

My hair, my crown

My, my hair, my, my

My hair, my crown

It don't matter how I wear it

It's beautiful in every colour

Long, short, straight or curly

I love what I see in the mirror, yeah yeah

There's no other way I'd rather be

Confidence is all I see

When and whoever I please

Say it loud”

Crown by Kelly Rowland

First of all I just want to begin by saying I’m new to this whole writing thing so you’ll have to excuse my any grammar and spelling. Also, I tend to write in really long sentences but I’m 100% working on it lol. But I do want to talk about black women and how empowering our hair is.

Growing up I wasn’t that bothered about my hair, my mum trialled every hairstyle on me from hot combing my hair to cornrowing it to putting it in braids (even though she can’t really do hair lol). One thing my mum never did was relax my hair, my hair is already so soft that people already think its relaxed. My mum used to insist that if I ever relaxed it, it would all probably fall out which to be frank scared the hell out of me. Till this day I have never ever had chemicals touch my hair. One thing that used to drive me crazy in primary/secondary school was my teacher’s inability to tell my other black female classmates and I apart because of our hair. Teachers used to call us all each others names, never our own names with the excuse “oh well you’ve got the same hairstyle”. The truth was we never at any point “had the same hairstyle”. Yes we had cornrows but they were not the same styles and we used to switch them up every few weeks. The teachers didn’t even apologise, they blamed us for them being too lazy to actually look at us as individuals with personalities and identities and instead grouped us together.

I remember a teacher in primary school actually suggested that my peers and I maintain the same hairstyle in order to avoid the confusion. I remember being baffled thinking, “why on earth would I ever do that? That’s boring!”. I’ve never ever told anyone this story before, but I remember at one point in secondary school my history teacher called one of my classmates my name. Another one of my classmates responded to the situation by saying “how can you get them mixed up one’s light and the others dark” I was the one he was referring to as dark and the whole class responded to the situation by laughing.

At the time I felt humiliated and frustrated. As if I’d spent all this time and money getting my hair done for my teacher to be unable to recognise that I am a whole other human being with my own identity and personality. The worst part is my classmate and I didn’t even have the same hairstyle!

Since year 10 I’ve worn my hair in long purple braids (purple is my favourite colour), at first I used to mix it with black braids then afterwards I just kept all the braids purple. For me, braids were simple and easy to manage. When I go to bed they’re attached to my head, wake up they’re still there. My only con is that at times I think they can be damaging to the front of your hair and the process of taking them out/getting them done can take time. I get quite a bit of attention with braids to be fair mostly compliments especially about the colour and length and then now and then I get the unwanted unsolicited attention from creeps moving to me.

I’ve tried wigs a couple of times. Truthfully, wigs look amazing on so many black women and my friends look so good in them which inspires me a lot. So for my 21st birthday I bought my first wig and it was pink. Then I went to Madrid for five days with some friends. I actually loved the wig, it was like it unlocked a new personality in me. I was like, is this actually me?! After a few days though the wig made me paranoid and a bit conscious. I was terrified that someone would hug me and yank it off (in secondary I remember boys used to very annoyingly pull off this girls ponytail off her head ugh). I noticed especially whilst I was in Spain the wig was drawing a lot of attention (people were staring A LOT) and at night I was hesitant about taking it off, as if all my friends didn’t know it was a wig haha. I think going pink was a jump into the deep end for me and I probably should’ve started a bit more subtle even though I enjoyed the experience. I’m not ruling out wearing wigs though, at this moment in time I’ve actually got a wig which a friend is going to help me install soon hopefully.

When I’m giving my hair a break from braids (me at this current point in time) I wear my hair natural, slicked back with a synthetic ponytail attached to it. Recently my grandmas friend praised me for wearing my hair natural and being able to style it and this shocked me a bit. I think it’s because she used the word “natural” and people normally say “oh your hairs nice” but they don’t use the world natural as a compliment.

You are probably wondering why am I discussing my various hairstyles and experiences, even though I’ve had some negative interactions. I’m trying to demonstrate the beauty and versatility of black women. Whether we wear our hair natural, in weaves, in afros, wigs, dreadlocks, bantu knots or braids, our hair is beautiful and we have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Our hair is not nappy, picky, unkempt, it’s not dirty, it's not difficult and no you cannot touch it. Most people don’t understand black hair is diverse and that is fine, we don’t owe you anything. We certainly don’t have to explain to you why we change our hairstyles every two weeks, but if you really must know it’s because we can and we feel like it. We don’t expect others to understand our journey when they’ve never had to walk our path.

Our hair is an amazing way of showing empowerment and expression. In a relationship? We get a new hairstyle. Going through a break up? Great that means we get post break up hair! Black hair plays an important role in our culture. Our hair is our identity and a personal expression of who we are. I know sometimes we struggle with what to do with our hair, but its all about finding yourself and finding what works best for your hair. It’ll take time but girl you WILL figure it out.

At point a in my life I had so many hair products in my house, I could’ve literally started my own hair shop. But it was all part of the process of figuring what works best for me. Trial and error. Take inspiration from others and remix it, make it your own.

Don’t let anyone put you down. Wear your crown and express yourself.


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