Category Archives: Naturals Around the World

The stories of naturals or those transitioning to natural in the international community.

Natural in London: Sharron’s HairStory

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hey all! I’m Sharron from London, England.

What do you like most about your homeland?
I think London is a great place to be in the summer … such a nice atmosphere being in the heart of London when the sun’s shining. I also like that it’s very multicultural.

London

What is the hair norm for black/brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
There’s definitely more weave and relaxer wearers than there are naturals. But, I see a lot more natural ladies nowadays. It’s no longer perceived as an oddity to wear your hair natural. I love seeing someone wearing their natural hair; I always give a little smile. I just find all the different styles you can achieve by wearing your hair natural refreshing.

What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
I remember my mum doing ‘chiney bumps’ (similar to bantu knots?), when I was younger and I remember her greasing my scalp with Dax, lol. My hair flourished under her care. When I started doing my hair myself, I use to do some crazy stuff to it. I actually cringe when I think about the abuse I bestowed upon my poor head!! I used a hell of a lot of gel … nasty, alcohol-ridden gel. I would use hotplates to dry my hair from damp as I didn’t have a blow dryer at one stage … *shudder*. Let’s just say, I’m surprised I still have hair. In my era, everyone had natural hair anyway, so it wasn’t an issue wearing my hair natural.

If you relaxed your hair at some point, why did you (or your guardian) make that decision? When and how long were you relaxed before you decided to go natural?
I relaxed my hair at the grand ole age of 18!! The only reason I relaxed my hair was because it wouldn’t ‘hold’ a style. I would straighten it all nicely and then as soon as I left the house ‘poof.’ What I didn’t realise then is that my hair was doing what it was suppose to do … curl up. I was trying to force my hair to go against type. If I knew then what I know now … how many times have we all said that?? I was really excited when I got it relaxed and was actually amazed when I stepped outside and my hair didn’t ‘grow.’ I remember bopping down the street with my new Janet Jackson windswept hairstyle.

Windswept

What prompted your decision to go natural?
I always say my decision to go natural wasn’t a conscious decision, it was forced upon me!! I love colour and curls, so even when my hair was relaxed, I would constantly colour and curl it as I didn’t like limp flat hair, I like big hair. I would put ringlets in my hair and rarely wore it straight. No one told me that you shouldn’t really use heat on relaxed hair, so I was not aware I was damaging it. To be fair, my hair is very strong, because it was years before it finally started to break and say, ‘enough is enough woman!!’

I decided to put it in a weave as I couldn’t think of anything else to do with it as nothing would stop the breakage … ApHogee treatments, nothing! I gradually snipped away to maybe 6 inches? At the time, I think it was bra strap length. As I was wearing a weave, cutting it didn’t bother me. I honestly thought I would be wearing weaves for the rest of my days as I didn’t ever consider wearing my hair natural as I couldn’t imagine it would look ‘smart’ enough.

This is where the decision was made for me. One weekend, I decided to remove my weave myself and do a treatment before getting it put back in on the Monday. When I removed my weave, I saw that I had a patch, no, a landslide where I’d been constantly wearing the same parting!! From that day, I stopped wearing weaves and was forced to deal with my hair in its natural state.

What has your natural hair journey been like? How has your decision been received by family, friends and people in general?
As I was forced to go natural, my decision wasn’t discussed with anyone. I will say that the last 3 years is when I’ve really learnt what works for my hair and how to get it to do what I want it to do … now I’m not working against type.

What do you see as the challenges of being natural? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
I honestly think looking after natural hair requires more effort than relaxed hair. It takes longer to wash, detangle, then you have to twist/braid it if you wear twist/braid outs. Luckily, there are more products targeted for natural hair now, although not as much as in the States.

What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
My regimen is quite a lazy one. I’ve taken to doing clay washes recently as it requires less effort then shampooing and conditioning my hair. When I do clay washes, I can get away with not conditioning my hair you see!! Lazy! I also try and henna once per month, but as we’ve previously discussed Shelli, henna loosens my curls to the extent my hair looks like heat damage in parts. I make my own Hair, Bath & Body products. So, I use my leave-in conditioner, a bit of flaxseed gel and JBCO & Nilotica Balm to seal, and then twist my hair.

Kinky G

Are there salons that cater to natural hair where you live? Are stylists trained in handling natural hair? Do you go to a salon?
I have never been to a natural hair salon, but my friend took her daughter to one to have her hair straightened (they used a hot comb). When she washed her hair a couple of weeks later, her gorgeous curls had heat damage and was straight and stringy in places.

What do you enjoy and/or love about being/going natural? Has the journey taught you anything about yourself?
I love not having to run from the rain, I love not having to worry about my hair sweating out at a club, I love the versatility and I love that I’m not smothering my scalp in chemicals. So, my landslide was a blessing in disguise.

Flat twist

Do you have a Hair Crush?
I love your hair Miss Shelli, Curly Nikki and Teyana Taylor (with and without bits added).

Who do you follow online?
You, Curly Nikki, Fusionofcultures (I think she is the cutest thing ever with great hair). I’m sure there are others …

Anything else that you’d like to share?
I can be found at my blog: www.fortheloveofkinks.wordpress.com
My products can be found at: www.sheadecadence.co.uk
Twitter: @shea_decadence and @theloveofkinks

Thanks for having me and keep up the good work!

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Awwww sookie sookie now!! You had the Pleasure Principle cut Sharron!! Get it girl!! LOL!!

Are you a natural outside of the US? Want to share your “international kinky, coily, curly” HairStory? Then answer the “Naturals Around the World” interview questions here and e-mail them to me (with 5-10 pictures) at hairscapades@gmail.com 

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Natural in London, England: Rella’s HairStory

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hi! I’m Rella J. I was born and raised in London, England, but both my parents are Nigerian. I am a singer/songwriter/musician/university student/natural hair lover

What do you like most about your homeland?
I am a very proud Londoner. Mostly, I love the diversity. I have truly been spoilt growing up here and sometimes I forget that the London demographic isn’t necessarily an accurate representation of England. I love that there’s anything and everything to do and I love how many different cultures you experience by growing up here.

I wouldn’t really know how to describe London in a couple of pictures or sentences. It’s a really busy/bustling city, but then you have quiet residential areas and big parks all within 15 minutes of each other.


What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
I would say that relaxers and weaves are the norm, but natural hair isn’t shunned. It definitely is becoming more prevalent and I love that. I love walking down the road and seeing more fellow naturals. But, I also look forward to the time when I don’t use the term fellow natural, if you get what I mean?

What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
What was my hair like? I wouldn’t know. My childhood. I have very vivid memories of my mum calling me to sit between her thighs and get my hair done. The afro comb, the wooden parting comb and the tub of Dax or Blue Magic; weapons in the war that was doing my hair (lol). My hair was always hidden away in thread, single plaits and then canerows/cornrows. At 15, I graduated to weave and the only time I saw my hair was to take one weave down, wash and put the next one in. It was always something to be hidden away.

What prompted your decision to go natural?
At 17, I had been wearing weaves for two years and, one day, I was like, “So, am I gonna do this for the rest of my life?” I was sick of constantly being aware that the hair I was wearing wasn’t my own and feeling embarrassed if somebody touched it and felt tracks … when it was really windy outside, worrying if my parting was still covered. I was like, “I don’t want to live like this.”

Then, one day, I was on my way back from a performance and I was joking around with one of the musicians that had played for me. We started play cussing each other and I made a joke about his dreads, comparing him to another dude we know with dreads. And then, he was like, “But that’s not your hair.” That was the final push I needed. I went home and I was like, “I am never wearing weaves again, I want to wear my hair – however it is!”

What has your natural hair journey been like? How has your decision been received by family, friends and people in general?
It has been a journey, a learning process, and is ongoing. When I first told people that I was going to start wearing MY hair exclusively, some were completely supportive, some didn’t know why it was such a big deal and some didn’t think it was possible to do, because nobody really did unless they had more “manageable” hair. But, after a while, wearing my hair became completely normal to everyone.


What do you see as the challenges of being natural? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live?  If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
At first, it was finding products and practices that worked for me and learning how my hair behaves. The accessibility of products was an issue, but now that natural hair is becoming more popular, more prouducts are available in the UK. And more product lines based in the UK are being created, which is great. I also found that once I trashed the mentality that I can only use “black” products on my hair, I had so many more options from which to choose. As for practices and learning how my hair behaves, that takes time, perseverance and trial and error. Also, once I stopped expecting my hair to do things it couldn’t, there was less disappointment!

What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them? 
For the most part, I finger detangle, add my prepoo mix (coconut oil, honey and conditioner) then put my hair in twists. When I’m ready to wash my hair, I shampoo my scalp, rinse, take down a twist and condition, then retwist. Once out of the shower, I blot my hair with a cotton t shirt or a microfiber towel and finally I apply a leave in, seal with castor oil then braid. The next day, I take my braids down and normally do some kind of updo/ bun. If I can’t be bothered, I’ll wear a scarf or style the braids somehow.

I prefer natural products, because they tend to work better for me and I don’t really need to worry about what I’m putting in my hair. I get most of my products online. There are a few international products that I’d love to try, but shipping costs are crazy or the international price way more than the normal one. But, as demand increases, some products are becoming more accessible.

Are there salons that cater to natural hair where you live? Are stylists trained in handling natural hair? Do you go to a salon?
Specifically to natural hair? Not that I know of, but I haven’t really looked, because I do my hair myself. But, with London being the place that it is, I’m sure there is one somewhere.

What do you enjoy and/or love about being/going natural? Has the journey taught you anything about yourself?
I enjoy being able to take care of my hair myself and the independence it gives me. I love how completely my hair represents me. I love when  black people say to me, “I didn’t know our hair could look like that” or could be worn out. Or, when a black girl sees my hair and feels better about hers. I love that when I have daughters, natural hair will be completely normal to them.

Do you have a Hair Crush?
Every natural that I see. I love natural hair that much lol!

Who do you follow online?
Who don’t I? To name a few, you (obviously).
Natural Belle: www.hairspiration.blogspot.co.uk
Curly Nikki: www.curlynikki.com
Healthy Hair and Body: www.hairandhealth.blogspot.co.u
Unitedkinkdom: www.unitedkinkdom.blogspot.co.uk
YouTube: fusionofcultures, bronzeqt, MsVaughnTV, Girlsloveyourcurls, Naptural85, BlakIzBeautyful and many, many more (lol).

Anything else that you’d like to share?
Well, I guess if you want to hear any more about me, you can find me online.

Hair:
Blog: www.naturalinlondon.blogspot.com
YouTube: anaturalinlondon
Twitter: @naturalinlondon

Music:
Blog: www.rellajay.blogspot.com

YouTube: rellajmusic
Twitter: @rella_j_

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So, I found Rella’s hair blog several months ago and asked her to share her hairstory:). I also listened to one of her songs and was so impressed by her talent. That being said, she didn’t share any of her music, so I am ;). Check her out!

Natural in London: Paige’s HairStory

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Remember my review of the TLC Naturals products a couple of months ago? Well, here’s the HairStory of Paige, the “natural-preneur” (yes, I made that up!) behind the line!! She’s not only the president, she’s a client too ;)!!

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
My name is Paige-Ellean. I’m from London, UK, and I am passionate about kinky, coily and curly hair! I am also a formulator and owner of TLC Naturals, a luxurious hair and body product line, hand-crafted from the finest natural and organic ingredients.

What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
Although the general norm for Black women in the UK is to wear their hair in a relaxed, permed or weaved state, there are a growing number of women embracing their natural hair texture.

What prompted your decision to go natural?
I got fed up of the use of chemicals on my hair and body and I also wanted to embrace my own natural hair texture. Coming from a background of the use of alternative therapies and the use of natural plants for cosmetic, medicinal and therapeutic uses, it only made sense to apply my herbal knowledge and expertise in caring for my hair.

Did you transition or big chop or are you currently transitioning?
I DID try to transition … very unsuccessfully for 3 years! I just didn’t have a clue at the time on the right techniques for caring for my transitioning hair. In addition, although I wore bantu knot-out styles to hide the two textures, I still suffered an immense amount of breakage. Finally, I had enough and went for the Big Chop in December 2009.

What has your natural hair journey been like?
My natural hair journey has been a wonderful experience of learning and self-discovery.

How has your decision been received by family, friends and people in general?
My family and friends were initially shocked, but after seeing the overall health and progress of my natural hair, I am pleased to say that I have converted a few of them over to the natural side :D.

What do you see as the challenges of being natural?
Acceptance is a major challenge for the natural hair community – from other people accepting our natural hair texture to we ourselves accepting what constitutes as being natural for us.

It’s bad enough that outside communities do not accept our hair and still have negative opinions of natural hair, curly hair and dreadlocks. It is particularly saddening when we ourselves bicker over what we think is natural … whether it is to do with the issue of curl definition or not, the use of chemical colours or not, the use of heat (e.g. hot combs, flat irons ) or not and so on.

Not everyone who embraces their natural hair will embrace a natural lifestyle – using natural products, using natural colorants, abstaining from chemical or mechanical processes that cause damage to the hair. This does not make them more or less natural. There should be no “I am more natural than you” vibe among us.

What is your regimen?
My current regimen includes wash day every fortnight: I prepoo with coconut oil, then I wash my hair, and deep condition afterwards with eggs, honey and olive oil. Once every 2 months, I henna-indigo my hair. I always follow my henna-indigo sessions with a deep condition and then a hot oil treatment, using TLC Naturals Shea Baobab Nourishing Hair Oil.

In between wash sessions, I rinse my hair weekly with ACV. Sometimes I brew some rosemary and add it to the ACV. I follow up with TLC Naturals Hibiscus Rose Moisturising Leave In Conditioner & seal with TLC Naturals Shea Baobab Nourishing Hair Oil. My hair style post-wash is normally a bun. If I am wearing twists or braids, I use the TLC Naturals Choco Shea Decadent Hair Butter.

I find that my haircare regimen is much more simplified than before and I have the TLC Naturals products to thank for that. My hair stays moisturised and retains natural curl definition for much longer than before and is also progressing at a better rate.
I have very fine and delicate hair along my edges and slow growing edges are the bane of my life. This is why I never do protective styles longer than a week and I never do small braids, twists etc. Once a week I apply TLC Naturals Grow It Hair Cream to my edges. It is made with MSM, Indian ayurveda plants, growth enhancing herbs and stimulating essential oils. The downside to this product is that I have new growth literally within 5-7 days. This would normally be a great thing, but my gray hairs ALWAYS pop up around my edges leading to extra henna-indigo sessions, which as we all know is not a 15 minute job.

Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products?
I prefer to use natural products – purely because I know that, a) they work and b) they are more healthier for me. I am not dying to be beautiful and I refuse to put my health at risk by using chemical-ridden products. Natural products don’t just make your hair look great, they improve the overall condition of your hair.

Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
I use my own products, naturally, which evolved from recipes that I have worked with consistently. I launched my product line and made my products available to the general public on the insistence of my readers from my natural hair blog, Care4Curls. They saw my hair bloom as I started making and using my own concoctions, so they naturally wanted a piece. I was only too happy to share. The products can be found at TLC Naturals (http://www.tlcnaturalsonline.com).

Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
I do not think there is any one particular thing that is unique to us here in the UK. The only problem I see here is access to quality products for natural hair care. Unlike the US, where there are dozens natural hair care brands to choose from, we only have a handful here. However, I can see this changing in the near future.

Anything else that you’d like to share?
I firmly believe in the efficacy of natural products and natural ingredients. Just like the body thrives when fed a healthy, natural and organic diet, so too does the hair bloom when “fed” natural and organic products. Like I said at the beginning, I am passionate about natural hair. However, natural or not, coloured or not, straightened or not, you can never go wrong when you use natural and organic products on your hair.

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Were your PJ senses tingling? Super-intrigued by Paige’s natural haircare line and itching to try it? Then have I got a giveaway for you!! Stay tuned for the announcement later today!!

Alissa: Natural in the Bahamas

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by Brittany of Island Curls

Hi Shelli! My name is Brittany, aka KinkyIslandGirl, and I frequently view your blog, as well as your updates on Facebook. I was happy to see that you were looking for guest bloggers, because I have recently started a natural hair blog that has an island twist, because I am from the Bahamas (though I reside in Minnesota). The blog is called http://www.islandcurls.blogspot.com. Below is an article featuring a Bahamian lady that I would like to share with your readers, if you would allow me. Thank you!

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Say Hi!
Hello, my name is Alissa. I’m 22 years old, born and raised in the Bahamas. Both of my parents are Black.

When and how did you transition into natural hair? Did you transition or big chop? How did you take care of your hair while going natural?
I have always been natural.

Do you love your hair? Have you always loved it?
There was a time when I disliked being natural. I wanted straight hair, because all of the celebrities I liked had straight hair and I thought I would have more versatility. I was tired of tangling and ponytails. As I grew older, I learned how to take care of my hair, which made it more manageable. I also learned more hairstyles and techniques, which I think make my natural hair more versatile than any other texture. Learning to love my hair was a process.

How would you describe your hair?
My hair is a 3c/4a texture. I have more of a S-curl/wavy texture around my edges and a tighter curl texture in the middle of my head.

What is your hair regimen and nightly routine?
I wash and deep condition once a week. I oil my scalp at least twice a week with olive oil or another natural oil and I moisturize and seal my hair everyday. Every night, I plait or bun my hair and wear a satin cap to prevent breaking.

How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
To retain length, I make sure to always sleep with my hair in a bun or plait under my satin cap. I moisturize and seal my ends everyday. I wear protective styles most of the time. Those are styles that protect my ends from breaking by keeping them up and off of my shoulders and clothes. I only use a wide-toothed comb on well moisturized hair after finger combing. Sometimes I detangle while conditioning my hair. I avoid products with petroleum, alcohol or mineral oil and only use natural oils on my scalp.

What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
I burned off and damaged the ends of my hair with hot combs and flat irons for a few years until I learned healthy hair habits. I had to cut it a few times to fix that. I also used to wear my hair in a puff a lot when I was in high school and I used an afro pic on it while it was dry. That broke my hair a lot. I used to shampoo and not condition not knowing how harsh shampoo is. I used to use vaseline on my scalp, pink lotion on my ends and slick my hair down with gel and beeswax. I was terrible and the list goes on and on.

What’s the best thing you do for your hair?
The best thing I do is add oils to my routine. Whether it be on my scalp, mixing it with my deep conditioner or sealing my ends.

If you were going away to a deserted place and could only take 3 products, what would they be and why?
Woowwwww! My garnier fructis shampoo, Elasta QP deep conditioner and definitely my extra virgin olive oil.

What is your go-to style?
The high bun… All day.

Who is your hair idol?
A vlogger named Megz who taught me so much of what I now know about black hair.

Any last words of wisdom?
Good hair is healthy hair. Spend time learning how to take better care of yours.

Prissy’s HairStory

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by Prissy of Black Hair in Paris

I am a new naturalista. But I never planned to be. I didn’t go for the big chop. I didn’t have a hair tragedy or develop an allergy to chemicals. I didn’t watch Chris Rock’s “Good Hair.” I came into the look I’ve always wanted simply by accident. Serendipity is my friend.

I got my first relaxer at 13. I tagged along with my aunt to the salon. While sitting there amazed at her glossy results, she asked me if I wanted one. I said yes, all gooey-eyed, and that experience led to me using chemicals for the next two decades. Before my relaxer, I got my hair “pressed” as folks back home call it. Every Saturday night we’d go to my grandparent’s and sit in the middle of the kitchen. I still remember my grandmother saying, “Grab your ear girl” and me cringing, hoping she wouldn’t slip and burn my finger. When she’d finished and all the smoke had gone, there we sat with our long hair reaching our shoulders. Happy. Proud. Ready for ribbons and church on Sunday.

Those were the days.

After I initially got my relaxer, I kept it simple until I reached 18. I was away at college and modeling part time. For one of the fashion shows, the organizers sent me to a hair stylist. She turned out to be a weave specialist and said, “Why don’t you try it, at least for the show?” I went from having a bob to being a diva overnight. That led to what I call my “Diana Ross Years.”

Afterwards, I wore long hair extensions (braided in, glued in, sewed in) off and on for several years. If I cut my hair and missed it, I’d go and get it weaved in again. If I simply got bored with my already long hair, I’d go and get even longer hair. Curly weaves were my kryptonite.

In 2006, I decided that length no longer mattered to me. I didn’t need super long hair. Not even long hair. I went for a super short bob and it was one of the best looks I’ve ever rocked. But then, I let my hair grow out and I was bored again. I returned to my old habits and went and got another weave. Sigh. The vicious cycle was hard to break. I finally got rid of it once and for all in 2009.

I was then expecting a bundle of joy. I didn’t want to go to the salon. I went for a long time without doing anything to my hair other than a simple shampoo and a pull back. After the baby came, I knew it was time to get my head taken care of. Nicole Pembrook of Polished Hair Care told me on my first trip back to the salon, “You know what? You don’t need a relaxer. I’m not putting one in. In fact you never needed one.”

WHAT?

I didn’t believe it. I’d had a relaxer since … forever. In the back of my mind I thought, “I’ll just try it out. She’ll see.” That day, I walked away with a shampoo and blow out. No one could tell that I didn’t have a relaxer. I would wear my hair blown out and flat-ironed for the next two years.

In December 2011, I was travelling home to America for Christmas. I had a weave specialist’s number. He was inexpensive and good. I didn’t want to go back to relaxers or weaves, but I wanted to change the texture. I wanted curly hair again. It turns out he wasn’t available (thank God!) so I decided to wash it myself. However, when I looked in the mirror afterwards, I didn’t recognize my own head: I had a head full of naturally curly hair.

It’s been two months since I had a blow out. My family, my friends, and most of all, ME love my new hair! The icing on the cake was when my daughter, who has curly hair too, looked at me, patted my hair and said, “Mom pretty hair.”

What more could a girl ask for? Absolutely nothing.

Ebony: Natural in Brazil

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
My name is Ebony and I am 32 years old. Although I currently live in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I am originally from the Bahamas. My hair experiences at home are very similar to those expressed by Claudine in her post about Bermuda, so I’ll focus on my recent experiences as a natural in Brazil and previously, in Cairo.

I moved to Brazil last summer, after living in Cairo, Egypt for two years. Cairo, while full of culture and revolution, was not the easiest place for a single, Black woman to live. At first, when I was too preoccupied with not getting lost, I didn’t notice a lot else; I figured out local grocery stores, how to get to work and back and made a few friends. And then, I started paying attention to other things. Like, the way the sub-Saharan African woman were leered at, the way I was sometimes followed (and propositioned) by men on the street, the ex-pat men who fawned over all shades of brown as something exotic.

Please don’t get me wrong; as a general rule, Egyptians are great … but, as we all know, it only takes a few incidents to taint an experience. Because I am “light-skinned,” when my hair was straight, I could “pass” for Egyptian and I got less flack/more positive attention. But one of my best girlfriends, who wore her hair in braids, was often mistaken for being up for anything and had to frequently defend herself from physical harassment. It was as though the more “African” you looked, the bigger a target of derision and harassment you became. It was incredibly disappointing and demoralizing.

It’s with this experience that I moved, with relief, to Brazil; I reasoned that such a purportedly open culture would provide me with a much needed 180 to what I’d experienced. And I was right!

What has your natural hair journey been like? If you relaxed your hair at some point, why did you (or your guardian) make that decision?
I have been natural for over 10 years now, after having a relaxer for the 10 or so years prior to that (transitioned). A relaxer was the norm in the Bahamas and I thought it was a great treat when my mom finally allowed me to get my first ‘perm’ when I was 12. I do regret it; I should have listened to my parents who told me it was a bad idea. My little sister, by contrast, never got a perm and can now sport a beautifully full head of locs that will never be mine. Sigh.

My hair has always been fine, but I’m convinced that it was thicker back in the day. This is my biggest peeve about my hair, I think, that there’s so little of it … but we always want what we don’t have!  I don’t actually remember why I decided to grow out my relaxer, but it was probably either because I was tired of sitting in a salon. I like to be in and out.

What do you like most about your homeland?
What I enjoy most about being here is that women of all shapes, ages and races take pride in their appearances and wear what makes them feel comfortable (even if it may provoke others to look at them goggle eyed). I find this confidence and celebration of femininity so refreshing and healthy.

What do you see as the challenges of being natural in Brazil? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
I haven’t found that the same sense of self-confidence that I talked about above translates to hair. Brazil is famous for the Brazilian Blowout, which combines keratin and formaldehyde in some crazy mixture so that you can wash and go or blow your own hair out more easily. When I was growing up, there was a saying, “If it can blow, you can go” and that is the sentiment here as well. Straight hair, the longer the better, is everywhere. The few exceptions to this are the women who have more of a natural wave and have lots of length; this seems acceptable.

But we all know that this hair-hateration isn’t anything new or unique to Brazil. But maybe the tide is turning? Just this month, Sony Music was ordered to pay over half a million dollars in compensation after releasing a “hair-ist” song in 1997; the song is all about a black woman who smells bad and has hair like a scouring pad (Google “Veja os Cabelos Dela [Look at Her Hair] for the full story).

Shelli: And/or you can check out the article on CurlyNikki here.

What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
To be honest, there are not very many “visibly Black” women where I live, although almost everyone here has some brown in them. When I do see Black women out and about, I feel the urge to give them “the nod” as we pass each other (like Black folks do in US cities where they’re not in great numbers). These women are usually travelling to work as domestic help in affluent homes – but that’s another story – and tend to have relaxers, whether WnG or straight. I have seen only a handful of other naturals on the street and usually in an artsy context (street/artisan fair, music concert, etc.).

I should clarify that I live in São Paulo, which is the most formal/professional city in the country; people here tend to be more conservative than, let’s say, people from Rio. When I visited that city, I did see more naturals out and about, but still not as many as I would have expected. I’ve been told that I have to visit the north to get a better sense of the Afro-Brazilian community.

What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
I tend to wear my hair in its curly form, but pulled back. Since people constantly comment on how young I look – which never sounds like a compliment in a professional setting – I tend not to wear my curls down. I did once and it sparked a huge reaction; people sought me out to tell me how much they loved my hair and that I should wear it out more often …the irony of it being that the majority of the women here straighten their own hair.

I’ve become more determined to get serious about maintaining my hair recently because, when I got to Brazil, my hair was falling out in clumps. At first, I wasn’t bothered. Then, when my husband started to agree that it was unusual, I went to see a dermatologist. A hormone imbalance meant that I was experiencing – wait for it – male pattern baldness.  She prescribed something to balance me out, super duper hair vitamins (containing keratin as a main ingredient) and a topical solution. Five months on, I’m beginning to see some of the hair grow back.

I wish that I could say I have a standard regimen, but I don’t. I try to use, as much as possible, organic hair care products, even if that means stocking up for the year when I travel to the US or UK. I sometimes pre-poo with EVOO and try to co-wash until I can’t take it anymore. I use some sort of leave-in regularly and sometimes use this old-school Alberta VO5 hairdressing crème that my aunt used to use back in the day. After reading Shelli’s posts on protein treatments, I’ve been looking up recipes for treatments I can whip up myself.

 Do you go to a salon?
When my hair needs a trim, I tend to take to it myself and then get my husband to even it out; he hates doing it for fear of messing up, but I’d rather take the chance than try to convince a Brazilian hair stylist that “yes, I really DO want you to cut off more than that.  t’s okay.  It’ll grow back.”

Who do you follow online? Anything else that you’d like to share?
Without having girlfriends to talk to face-to-face about hair, it’s been invaluable being a part of these online hair communities. In addition to Hairscapades, I also follow Black Women of Brazil, Black Girl with Long Hair, and have recently come across Gisella Francisca, a blog by a curly in Rio.

Thanks to Shelli and others for being so devoted to “the cause” and to you all for sharing so freely.

Tchau,
Ebony

Carolina: Natural in the Dominican Republic

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Who are you and from where do you hail?
Hello everyone! My name is Carolina and I was born in the Dominican Republic. I lived most of my life in Boston, Massachusetts, but I am back in the DR and have been living and working here for over 2.5 years now.

What do you like most about your homeland?
I have to say that the beaches are my favorite part of my country. I also love fresh tropical fruits like mangos, coconut and papaya because, of course, I put them on my hair! The weather here is fantastic, especially since I grew up in one of the coldest states in the US, I really enjoy the heat!

What is the hair norm for Black/Brown women where you live? If natural hair is not the norm, is it becoming more prevalent?
Natural hair is definitely not the norm, quite the contrary. Relaxers, weaves and straight hair reign in the Dominican Republic. Natural hair is becoming more and more popular for sure though. When I went natural a few years ago, I remember seeing maybe three other naturals walking around the city. Now, when I go to the movie theater, the malls, the super market, everywhere I go, I see a natural head and I love it!

What was your hair like during your childhood and teen years? How did you feel about it? How was it perceived by others?
This is a really interesting question because I grew up in the US and my hair was perceived different there than it is here. During most of my childhood years and throughout my teenage years, I rocked relaxed hair, which was perceived by most of my African-American friends as “good hair.” I remember feeling like my hair was always a lot of work, but actually never questioned why I got relaxers, it was such a normal thing.

If you relaxed your hair at some point, why did you (or your guardian) make that decision? When and how long were you relaxed before you decided to go natural?
My mom decided to relax my hair because she claims it was too difficult to manage. I do have a lot of hair and if you are never taught to work with natural hair, the only known solution is relaxing it. I relaxed my hair for over 15 years until I decided to go natural.

What prompted your decision to go natural?
I was seriously just curious at first. I was also tired of going through that process every 2 months. I hated the hair salons, still do. I was ready to accept me for who I was, naturally. It was also an identity thing for me. I wanted to acknowledge and celebrate my blackness and wearing my kinky afro was one way of doing that.

Did you transition or big chop or are you currently transitioning?
I transitioned for less than 2 months and then got a BC. I couldn’t handle the two textures. There was a war in my head and the curls won!

What has your natural hair journey been like? How has your decision been received by family, friends and people in general?
I have to say that my natural journey has been really amazing! I have learned so much about myself and, most importantly, I have learned to love all of me. I have also met lots of interesting people through the different natural online networks. It is incredible, but I have “curlfriends” in Sweden, Brazil, Germany, Spain, Mexico, Columbia, Peru, Canada, USA, India, seriously all over the world!

My friends were super supportive, my family not so much. Some of them still think I’m either crazy or that I am going through a phase and will eventually get a relaxer!

What do you see as the challenges of being natural? Are there any things that you think are unique to where you live? If so, what and why? How do you think they can be overcome?
The most difficult part about being natural here in the DR is the constant harassment I face from complete strangers in the street to colleagues in my field. I have learned to choose my battles wisely and correct people when they say something disrespectful. The other day for example, a colleague noticed that I had flat-twisted my hair and said, “Oh, so you decided to comb your hair today.” I responded that the day my hair was out in a fro it was also “combed.”

Every so often, I talk to random women that say that I have “bad” hair and get them thinking a little about where it came from and why we still use that term. I’ve had some pretty amazing conversations with many different people about hair.

What is your regimen? Do you use/prefer commercial or natural products? Are the products that you like and want to try readily accessible and affordable? Where do you purchase them?
I don’t really have a set regimen, because I am constantly trying new products and new styles. I usually wash my hair twice a week, once with a sulfate-free shampoo (my favorite one right now is SheaMoisture the yellow bottle) and once with either a cleansing cream (CURLS) or co-wash (Tea Tree Tingle Trader Joes). I usually do twist-outs and Bantu knot-outs, but about twice a month I’ll rock a wash and go. Love natural oils and butters. At first, it was almost impossible to find natural hair products here in the DR, but now I run a small store and a few others are distributing different hair products.

Are there salons that cater to natural hair where you live? Are stylists trained in handling natural hair? Do you go to a salon?
Sadly, I don’t really know of any that work with natural hair and keep it in the natural hair form. I know of salons that work with straightening natural hair, but none that will give you a twist-out or natural hairstyles.

What do you enjoy and/or love about being/going natural? Has the journey taught you anything about yourself?
I enjoy so much about being natural. I love being able to embrace the rain, to shower without a shower cap, swimming in the ocean and pools and being able to love what I once thought was a bad hair day look. I have learned to really take care of all of me through this process. I usually put on my hair the same things that I put in my body and to me that is very important. Finally, I think this is an ongoing journey and I really hope to get the opportunity to write about being natural with grey hair from a personal view!

Do you have a Hair Crush?
I have so many hair crushes. Ok for one, YOU! Seriously, I love your buns and how you incorporate so many cute accessories into your styles. I think I have too many, but here are some of my fave blogger’s and famous people’s curls … DailyCurlz, HeyFranHey, Solange (natural wigs and all), Naptural85 (love her texture), Izzy (fearless Elle from Questfortheperfectcurl) Chescaleigh (love her locs), Esperanza Spalding, Lola (Cassidy from naturalselectionsblog) and my friend’s Tasmy and Paloma curls (Gringa Loca Productions).

Who do you follow online?
I follow everyone and their mommas! I follow a lot of the women I mentioned above. If you would like to follow me I’m everywhere too …on Twitter: @Miss_Rizos; on Facebook: Miss Rizos; blog: www.missrizos.com.

You’ll also find my co-hosting every so often on Nappturalite Radio!

Anything else that you’d like to share?
Just embrace you, all of you, straight hair, curly hair, just start loving yourself!