I knew immediately after I heard her say the words, “you should NEVER get relaxers!,” that this conversation was not going to end well. We were at a beauty supply store in the “natural hair supplies” section getting our bi-monthly supply of raw shea butter, when a complete stranger came up to us to ask about our hair, since she stated, “Your hair looks so beautiful! I’ve been thinking about doing the natural thing too, but I just don’t know yet.” My friend chimed in again, “You know relaxers can cause permanent hair loss, sores on your scalp, and breakage! It’s not a good look,” she said. “I remember the last time I got a relaxer, I had a sore on my scalp that started to ooze puss! Why would I ever get another relaxer after that!”
Despite where I knew this conversation was going, and the look of concern I was giving my friend, she kept talking about not getting relaxers. The look on the other woman’s face was a combination of shock and worry. I could tell she was probably thinking about how damaged her currently relaxed hair might be and most likely remembering a scenario not unlike the one my friend was relaying that she had experienced herself. Either way, I felt for her.
I have learned from many other situations that when you tell a woman who has been straightening her hair for many years, that she should just stop getting relaxers, it can be traumatic and devastating for her. It also most likely gets you nowhere. You leave the conversation feeling frustrated and she leaves feeling scared to death. It can be a daunting task to think about how you are going to completely overhaul your entire hair regime. I also felt for her because I can remember being in the same place she was in – on the verge of doing things differently, for good. I remember feeling excited one day and confused and fearful the next, until I finally made the commitment for good.
This situation, made me think about what lead me to go natural in the first place and what influenced me to stay natural, because for me, they are two different experiences.
Why I am still a naturalista
For me, I decided to go natural for a variety of reasons and due to a number of factors. After years of getting relaxers I found myself questioning why I kept getting them. It took some time, but eventually, I became more concerned about my health than my hairstyle. Also, after yet another awful experience at the salon, I was done with the creamy crack for good! It was like the perfect mixture of knowledge and action that came together at the right time when I was ready for a serious change. Even with the perfect timing of my situation, I still experienced difficulties as a new naturalista.
What kept me on the path that I am still on today, was not necessarily the dangers of relaxers, it was the celebration of self-acceptance and joy that I saw within other naturals. They seemed to be truly confident in their natural beauty. They were happy, healthy, and whole. I wanted to feel that way too!
It was so beautiful to see other women (and men) be completely comfortable in their own skin and not afraid to show all their kinks and curls. For someone who had mostly only seen straight hair as glorified as beautiful, this was truly a sight to behold. Even today, those images – the beautiful, proud, confident ones – keep me encouraged.
How to effectively recruit new naturalistas
Whenever I come across someone who asks me about my hair because they are thinking about taking the natural journey, I try to remember what motivated me in the past and use those experiences to help me in my current situation. I remember that it was the positive, not the negative, that kept me motivated.
Most of the time, I don’t have to say much at all. My increased confidence and sense of peace with myself is enough to be an example. There is a certain joy that I have found and an overwhelming sense of self-acceptance. This is enough for someone to see for themselves, without me saying a word, the benefits of going natural and how they might also end up feeling if they made the same decision. Just as Madame C.J. Walker used her own image to sell her products, my glowing face is enough to “sell” anyone on the idea that learning to embrace your curls is a pretty good idea!
So, whenever someone asks me for natural hair advice, my approach has always been to simply answer their questions, share my excitement about being natural, and let them make the decision for themselves what to do next. And that’s the advice I would give other naturals when it comes to encouraging other women who are considering going natural. Just be you. You are enough!
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