Last week, I had the privilege/hook up to attend a natural hair brand's product launch at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills complete with custom cocktails and valet parking. Times have changed.
In 2014, natural hair is more than a commercially accepted and red carpet ready trend, it's big business. Long gone are the days when moisturizing options were limited to what you could buy from street vendors or what you made in your kitchen; when you had to explain your decision to trade in your relaxer for a 'fro, twists or locks to every freakin' person on the street.
Today, a trip to the well-stocked natural hair aisle at Target can be overwhelming. Natural hair stylists and salons are highly sought after and can command top dollar in big and small markets in the country. Without doing any real scientific research, but based on my own personal journey giving up the creamy crack, I believe that anyone embracing kinks and curls circa 2008 experienced a Team Natural vs. The World existence.
Just like all elements in the black experience, our hair is a multi-faceted, complex symbol of who we are as women. Most of us can simultaneously agree with the immensely talented India Arie's declaration -- "I am not my hair" -- while appreciating beauty and culture writer Michaela Angela Davis' conclusion that "black hair arguably is one of the quickest indicators of ethnicity, ethos and sometimes, politics."
Fortunately for me, I transitioned in pre-stadium Brooklyn, a place where even your homeboy down the block knew what the "big chop" was and women of all ages provided diverse and daring hair shows every time they hit the sidewalk.
There were friends I could ask about products and styles. Most importantly, there were veteran naturalistas to encourage me as I faced off with internal and external voices that questioned my ability to be "beautiful" without chemicals in my hair. In the battle of Team Natural versus The World, these women were my heros.
Now living in Los Angeles, I often find that I'm now the veteran natural in the room. I'm happy to share my home-made conditioner recipes and remind a natural neophyte the effort to twist, deep condition, detangle -- all that stuff -- is worth it. It's been an awesome journey for me, so I'd like to take this time to give a shout out to my Hair Heroes who inspired and coached me to a place where I am secure and excited about my natural hair:
APRIL GOPIE - for rockin' twists like nobody's business; SADE BRUCE - for introducing me to You Tube tutorials + CurlyNikki; TRIZONNA McCLENDON - for schooling me on how to rock my TWA with leave-in-conditioner; ANGELA GRANT - for donning a short fro with style + grace; DIANE C BAILEY - for being DIANE C BAILEY + making Tendrils my standards for natural hair salons; DAWN DOWNEY - for being my first hair crush; JUNIOR THE BARBER - for shaping up my fro, even when it was super dry; XAVIER JERNIGAN - for reminding me that the women I admired with big fros, had a small fro at one time.
I thank you and salute you!
Do you have a hair hero? Who is the person that guided you through your early natural days or kindly listens to all your hair adventures (good or bad) these days? Give them a shout out in the comments below. Images are welcome too.
Words by Ester Weithers, a creative executive at Black & Sexy TV and a blogger at BookOfEster.com. She's done the big chop twice, adds a avocado + mayo shot to her deep conditioner and will experiment with honey + henna coloring this summer.