While the beauty and hair industries have been making strides in becoming more inclusive and diversifying the idea of what we view as ‘normal’ hair, there are still many lessons to be learned about embracing ALL hair types and textures. So to help continue the natural hair conversation, we invited six women on their natural hair journey to give us a glimpse inside of their natural hair stories – from their favorite products to the most isolating questions they’ve been asked to what they find empowering about their journey. Keep reading for some of the most powerful messages that need to be heard because everyone should love and embrace their natural locks whether they’re kinky, curly, pin straight, short or long.
Occupation/Title: Natural Hair + Beauty Influencer, Brand Ambassador
When did you start to embrace your natural hair texture?: I started to embrace my natural hair texture in 2013 when I had a terrible experience with relaxing my hair. My hair started falling out so ever since I promised myself I’d never get a relaxer again.
What are your favorite products?: As a brand ambassador, it’s very hard for me to pick which products are my favorite. I love trying new products as well as using products I’ve tried repeatedly.
The best/most empowering part of your journey so far?: The most empowering part about my journey and being a part of the natural hair community is being able to help other women feel confident in their own skin and embrace their natural hair textures.
The most challenging?: The most challenging part of my journey as a blogger is dealing with the negativity and harsh criticism via social media. Everyone is entitled to their opinions but at times that becomes hard to deal with if you don’t have a strong mindset and outlook. It’s easy to share your opinion via social media but it becomes an issue when people don’t stop to think how the other person is handling it on the receiving end. I have grown to separate harsh criticism from my personal life so it does not affect me. However, I can’t help but to think when I read negative comments: ‘how do other people who can’t handle this type of hardship deal with this?’
While we know that natural hair is not a trend, why do you think now more than ever more and more women are ditching the perms and embracing their hair?: I feel that more women are embracing being natural now more than ever because they are more aware of how to care for their natural hair and different ways to style it which makes it much more enjoyable for them to start their journeys. I also feel that more women are aware of how harmful and harsh chemicals can be to their strands so they are becoming more comfortable with their hair’s textures.
Most isolating question you’ve ever received about your hair?: I’d say the most isolating or more like most irritating question I’ve received is “Why does your hair look dry?”
How would you respond to that person now or what do you want people who say unwarranted things about another woman’s hair to know?: People comment boldly and hurtfully on things that they aren’t educated on or that makes them uncomfortable. I feel if they understood more or took the time to research what they do not understand instead of questioning in a negative way they would definitely have a different outlook. What people fail to understand is that we all have different hair textures so curls adapt differently to different products and hair regimes. Textures that seem to be of a looser curl pattern will look completely different than someone with a kinkier curl pattern.
Name: Gabrielle Ashai
Occupation/Title: Tattoo Artist
When did you start to embrace your natural hair texture?: I have been embracing my natural hair on and off since 2009 but as of 2016 I’ve fully embraced it and am finally letting it prosper.
What are your favorite products?: I try to keep it super earthy, I use aloe vera gel, shea butter and castor oil. occasionally I throw some Cantu products in the mix.
The best/most empowering part of your journey so far?: Figuring out my many curl patterns.
The most challenging? Keeping this sh*t moisturized
While we know that natural hair is not a trend, why do you think now more than ever more and more women are ditching the perms and embracing their hair?: I think it’s all about finding self. I feel like a lot of women are becoming comfortable with themselves and no longer care about what is acceptable to the public. The hair that naturally grows out of my head is amazing and I’m very happy my daughter will never know the burn of a perm ever in her life!
Most isolating question you’ve ever received about your hair?: ‘Can I touch it?
How would you respond to that person now or what do you want people who say unwarranted things about another woman’s hair to know?: The answer is always no. I want everyone to know my hair is not for you to touch
We’d like to use this story as a platform for women of all different hair types to share their stories so is there anything additional you want to say about the natural hair journey?: Everyone’s hair is beautiful; short, long, straight, curly everything in between. Love every strand and have fun with it.
Name: Ally Love
Occupation/Title: I’m a part of the slash generatio: Entrepreneur : Founder of Love Squad, Host of the Brooklyn Nets, Peloton Instructor, Model and Adidas Global Ambassador.
When did you start to embrace your natural hair texture?: When I moved to New York. Here it gave me an opportunity to explore who I really was. Being from Miami, I was raised in a culture where your hair was not fixed unless it was straighten/permed. In New York, I started over. I went natural and learned to appreciate and ultimately, love, the way God created me.
What are your favorite products?: Bumble and bumble Bb. Curl Defining Cream, Creme of Nature Edge Control, and SheaMoisture shampoos and conditioners
The best/most empowering part of your journey so far?: Creating my company Love Squad. We do events every month that merge conversation and sweat. We workout together, and have a panel discussion features rockstar people around completely improving ourselves. We are adamant about making the fitness and career space diverse within race, culture, and class.
The most challenging?: Finding new product options that are alcohol free-and more eco-friendly.
While we know that natural hair is not a trend, why do you think now more than ever more and more women are ditching the perms and embracing their hair?: Because our society is creating a space where women can be who they are, and they are no longer allowing others dictate who they should be.
Most isolating question you’ve ever received about your hair?: Can I touch it and the response being ‘oh wow, it’s so soft’ —the reason this bothers me is because it implies that my hair is/would be “hard” “rough” or less than enjoyable to touch.
How would you respond to that person now or what do you want people who say unwarranted things about another woman’s hair to know?: Try to understand that all people are different and beauty or comfort does not define success and nor its is objective, its subjective.
Name: Eli Cruz
Occupation/Title: Model, Geologist
When did you start to embrace your natural hair texture?: Since a very tender age, my mother and my sisters “imposed” rules such as to take care of my hair in a splendid manner, and obviously I couldn’t perform it all by myself and they used to perfect the rest of the technique. With all of this interaction to which I am truly grateful, and in the earliest stages of my life, I began to realize how to take care of my hair in full alongside all of it’s features.
What are your favorite products?: Seasonally (often on a monthly basis), I use different brands in order to obtain the best of results so that the hair does not get used to the same product and starts engaging in neglect about it. You know that the most brilliant hair, it is like a genius person, always possesses strong personality on its own. Lol!! But I can share that among my favorites you can include Hair Rules products by my beloved friend Anthony Dicky and Windle & Moodie products by Neil Moodie.
The best/most empowering part of your journey so far?: To prove to myself that despite having different hair that I am intrinsically beautiful and attractive, which is something I have not experienced before entering this glamourous world of fashion & entertainment. Works wonders like a therapy. If Martin Luther King, Jr. stated “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” Then, I have to transform my weaknesses into strengths and the threats on my path into opportunities to shine comprehensively and by doing so, enabling abundant light for the moments where other people have plugged their own, due to adversities or insecurities, I share my confidence and greater core commodities with a treasured language called love, so that it sparkles among them some inspiring hope, smiling and giggle.
I am not the ordinary “girl next door”, therefore It feels special being me and appreciative of such opportunity haha
The most challenging?: Like a beautiful son/daughter, like an inspiring lovely autist offspring, like a gorgeous adopted child, like an alluring LGBTQ human being, I have to intrinsically understand the needs of my hair in every moment under such illustrious and amusing relationship we share. Undoubtedly, my hair has its own strong and transcendent personality (lol). Sometimes it requires more hydration or not, other times the question asked is – Does it require the need of being washed or not? If so, when? Now or Then? “Drama queen.”
While we know that natural hair is not a trend, why do you think now more than ever more and more women are ditching the perms and embracing their hair?: I find it super ultra-empowering and inspiring to have women accepting more and more often what we really are and perfecting it day after day, night after night. Beyond feeling free, it is enabling the natural ability of being free without “statute of limitations” redefining freedom and unlock all limits so that we can focus on the positive things life has to offer. In reality, I am sure that women are becoming more and more emancipated and taking matters into their own hands consolidating their position in this world, getting positions of higher hierarchy and consequently power in the world of business, politics and society ditching the “stay-at-home” woman or simply being the “shadow of their partner”. They feel the urge and responsibility like Taraji P. Henson to reign empires. Women have forever written history and developed continuously new chapters acting daily, wisely, wittily & insightfully like Cookie Lyon. As empowering as this is, so it is the natural hair which plays a categorical role. Can you go against nature? Men tried it and look where it has taken them. To embrace your hair is embracing yourself. Be proud of your heritage and charge forward.
Most isolating question you’ve ever received about your hair?: ‘OMG is your hair real?’ And depending on the mood, the response comes outlined differently: ‘No darling, this is a Tesla sent to the space and landed back on my head.’ Or ‘Yes, 100%. Why so much negativity about it? (Lol!)’. [And] ‘It is awful to take care of it?‘ My hair is super easy to take care of. It takes ten minutes a day, sometimes not even that. All because I do not pressure it to be perfect, but instead I rather want it to be as it is, natural, beautiful, and extraordinary, like all women are. Sometimes it comes under the shape of curly, some other days more frizzy. I love imperfections. The more natural, the better.
How would you respond to that person now or what do you want people who say unwarranted things about another woman’s hair to know?: Why don’t you take your ass(et) and say/do something productive with it. If you don’t have beautiful one, invest in some squats & fitness. Investing in solutions rather than procrastinations, finding ways to move forward instead of making up excuses for being backwards. Or I can simply encapsulate Dave Chappelle and when certain moments shows us how life is invaluably precious more than the treasured negativity of some people, you can always humorously and politely deflect the question, because you are so happy, resolute and busy relishing the greatness that life has to nurture in your soul, which ultimately cannot have you devoting your time to negativity.
We’d like to use this story as a platform for women of all different hair types to share their stories so is there is anything additional you want people to know about the natural hair journey?: Be happy, Be free, feel happy, feel free. The same way I embody it, I stand for all women that believe, dream, think, symbolize and portray unique queens, because your hair is your crown unquestionably. Do whatever you wanna do, be whoever you wanna be, you’re in charge of your life, merging core with hair values, shake it, shake it, shake your hair…From departure to arrival, write the next chapter, Being better than before and greater even further after…
Name: Grasie Mercedes
Occupation/Title: Actress, Blogger
When did you start to embrace your natural hair texture?: In June of 2015 I did the big chop, it took about a year after that for me to fully embrace my curls. By then I had learned how to style it and what did and did not work.
What are your favorite products?: DevaCurl No Poo, One Conditioner, Styling Gel & Melt Into Moisture for my everyday wash-n-go. DPHue ACV Rinse and Scalp Scrub for scalp maintenance. Kristin Ess Hair Water & Shine Pomade + Edge Control for up-dos. Oribe Gold Lust Pre-Shampoo Treatment for monthly treatments. Q-Redew Hair Steamer, Dyson hair dryer with diffuser and Olivia Garden FingerBrush are my favorite tools. As you can see, I use a lot of different products/brands depending on what my curls need.
The best/most empowering part of your journey so far?: Just loving and accepting my hair as it grows from my head. I’m Dominican and grew up going to Dominican hair salons in NYC every week for a blow out. Then twice a year I would put a relaxer in my hair. I had NO IDEA my hair could curl the way it does now. In the Latin community hair is a thing! You have to have your hair done and long, straight hair is the way to do it. The best part of this journey has been my realization that curly, big hair is beautiful too.
The most challenging?: There’s a learning curve to going natural. At first, it’s very frustrating. I think there’s a misconception that all curls are the same and that could not be more false. Something that works on my hair may not work on another head of curls. So I watched a lot of YouTube videos until I found what worked for me. Curly or straight, I personally love wearing my hair up and off my face. So even with that, I had to find the right hairties to hold all of my hair, the right edge control and the right brush to smooth out my curls.
While we know that natural hair is not a trend, why do you think now more than ever more and more women are ditching the perms and embracing their hair?: Well I think social media and the internet have made it a thing. When I was growing up, the women I looked up to were my family members (all Latinas with straight hair) or the actresses I admired on TV (all white and black women with straight hair). Nowadays, young girls have the internet, their follower bloggers, YouTubers and websites like Mane Addicts and get to see a world of women embracing their natural hair. They see women who look like them who have gone natural and gain the confidence and inspiration to do it themselves. It’s a domino effect and a beautiful thing.
Most isolating question you’ve ever received about your hair?: As an actress my hair can be a challenge for on-set stylists who don’t know what to do with it. Because of that I always show up to set with my hair perfectly done. (I let them off the hook). I think it’s a shame and more hair professionals need to learn how to work with ALL types of hair. One isolating (more annoying than isolating) question I recently received was from a hair stylist on a job I booked. She called me to ask if I would be wearing a weave or wig then said “how are you coming with your hair?” First off, I highly doubt this woman called any other cast members with this same question. Second, why did she assume I was wearing a wig or a weave? I have nothing against either of those things but come on! And lastly, (going back to my first point) your only job is to do my hair so maybe don’t worry how I’m coming to set and just deal with it when I get there. (eye roll) Clearly this is a hot topic for me.
How would you respond to that person now or what do you want people who say unwarranted things about another woman’s hair to know?: I think overall people in the hair industry (brands included) need to make MUCH more of an effort to know how to style, cut, color and work with ethnic hair. Yes African-American hair, Afro-Latino hair and mixed hair are different than Caucasian hair, but it’s still just hair and people of color shouldn’t have to feel worried, scared, nervous every time they sit in a salon chair.
We’d like to use this story as a platform for women of all different hair types to share their stories so is there anything additional you want to add about the natural hair journey?: I think at the end of the day, it’s all about what works for YOU. Just because I went natural, I don’t expect every girl to go natural. Some women love straight hair and that’s cool too. Do you boo!
Name: Caaliyah Greer
The best/most empowering part of your journey so far?: The most empowering part of my journey has been being able to encourage and inspire others to wear their natural hair. It means a lot to me that me accepting my hair for every kink and curl it has inspires others to do the same.