Today we have a special guest post by Olamide Olatunji, so show her some love!
I’ve always stood by the phrase “Your hair is your crowning glory.” Think about it; when you just get your hair done, you feel like a million bucks. I find myself looking in every car and store window admiring how good I think I look. Even sweatpants and a hoodie can look good with the right hair do. But when you are having a bad hair day, it doesn’t matter if you are wearing a Louis Vuitton floor length dress, everything is off. My confidence–my perception of my beauty even–is in my hair.
With this idea of my beauty being dependent on my hair, I’ve been through many hair styles: box braids, Senegalese twists, curly braids, curly weave, straight weave, blonde weaves, relaxed short cut, etc; but the one style I would never wear was my natural hair. Even between braiding hairstyles, I would never be caught with my real hair exposed, not even for the 6 hours between taking out one set and putting in a new one. Natural hair in my family is the equivalent to looking a hot mess. I remember when the natural movement started, I proudly proclaimed: “I will NEVER, EVER become natural.” I was relaxed, weaved up and loving it. Despite this pride, I did notice women around me who had gone natural and I loved their hair. The most surprising part to me was how long it grew! I had always been under the impression that the girls with long natural hair were either mixed or had already had very long relaxed hair without breakage. These were women who I found even more beautiful as they became natural. So, when I myself accidentally became natural (one year without a perm, times were hard and money was tight), I cut off my permed ends and jumped.
I know you are probably thinking: what a typical natural hair story—you once hated your hair and now you love it. Well, for me that’s not entirely true yet. The problem for me is that I measure beauty, of myself and others, by the hair. In March, I promised myself that this summer, I would wear my hair out for four weeks. That time decreased to two weeks and was postponed to after my summer job was over when I thought about having to walk around school with my natural hair exposed. Would people recognize me? What about men, would they be interested in me? The other day I did a complete 180 and walked in the opposite direction for fear of seeing a man I knew and found attractive. I didn’t want the way men and women perceived me in the past to change because of the way I started to wear my hair. I didn’t want to be seen as less attractive. Now, I’ll be honest, I have confidence issues that stem from other places—particularly the pressure to be thin—but I use my hair to hide behind those problems. I think to myself maybe if my hair looks good, natural or not, people won’t notice my other insecurities.
I can say that the longer I wear my natural hair out, and the more time I spend finding styles that suit me and fit me, the more I grow confident in feeling beautiful without hiding behind synthetics. Right now my goal is to find a place where I don’t let my hair define me. I keep finding myself saying: I’ll look so good in a year when my hair gets longer, just you wait. And even though some days I feel attractive, I find myself being heavily affected by whether or not other people like my hair. My mother in particular cannot understand why I’ve chosen to stop perming my hair. She asked me if my hair was real and then she asked if I was waiting for my hair to grow long so that I could perm it again. Despite feeling like my hair looked good that day, I instantly became self-conscious and felt unattractive. On the other hand, I visited one of my closest friends at Howard University last weekend and saw several girls with natural hair and immediately felt more empowered and more beautiful. At the end of the day, I’m looking to get to a place where I see myself as attractive in the same way no matter what my hair looks like: straightened, natural and curly, or even in braids.