Tales of a Transitioner: Melisa’s HairStory


Describe yourself in 100 words or less.
Let’s see, I’m loyal, brutally honest and love having fun. I’m a psychology major with a minor in Biology. I want to complete two graduate programs: M.S. Counseling and DPT. I want to open my own wellness center one day and work specifically with kids with developmental issues.

When did you receive your first relaxer?
3rd or 4th grade. I wanted to be like my sister and mom and have straight hair. People constantly made me feel like my hair was “wrong” when I was little and I wanted to fit in. So, when I went to my God Aunt to get my hair styled for school, I was given my first relaxer. My paternal grandmother is Native American (Croatan and Cherokee) and she raised hell when I came home and argued with my mother about messing up my hair. I was told over the years by my mother that Granny didn’t know what she was talking about, but lo and behold, she did. I wished I had listened to her 5 years earlier than I had and I may have been able to save my texture; but *sigh* hindsight is 20/20.

Why did you choose to go natural?
Well, my hair used to be the texture of Teyana Taylor’s. Years of perming and flat-irons and blow dryers make my natural texture more of a Tracy Ellis-Ross texture, as well as made the front of my hair (about a 3-4 inch section from my front hair-line and inward) basically permanently straight. It would curl up naturally when wet, but the minute I combed it, it would be straight. Basically, I realized my hair was ruined and I needed to fix it.

Are you a long-term or short-term transitioner, and why?
Long-term. I stopped relaxing my hair completely in October 2006, but continued to visit Dominican salons periodically. And, if I couldn’t go, I’d blow dry and flat-iron my hair myself. Beginning in July 2011, when I was out of work and home all day, I stopped straightening my hair all together. I’ve only flat-ironed it 3 or 4 times since then and I noticed that I could straighten my hair on lower heat settings than I used to (I use to have to turn the ceramic flat-iron to its highest setting to get my desired results).

What was your initial reaction to your growing natural hair?
I’ve had long hair the majority of my life sans the 5th grade pool damage and a bob cut I did my 1st semester in college. Overall, I was disappointed because it seems like I will never get my original waves and curls back, but I notice the more I wore my hair natural and not straightened, it’s getting better with every wash, very slowly but surely.

How did family and friends react to the new you? What was your response to them?
Everyone loves my hair better curly. Funny thing is, a lot of my family forgot my hair was naturally curly and thought I had a wet set aka TnC.

What is your transition routine?
I’ve been using lots of olive oil, jojoba oil and Tea Tree products for 10 years. I completely stopped using hair grease 6 years ago and use oils only. Normally, I wash and go every 3-5 days and wear buns in between. I wear braids every now and then. I have the Diana Ross thing going on and don’t have the patience to spend hours and hours braiding my hair like I did in high school. My hair does not respond well to roller sets with flexi rods (I’ll have a strong case of “poodle hair” and it’s not aesthetically pleasing to me and never has been) and, since the texture of my hair is totally different from when I was a child, I can no longer curl my hair around my finger or pencils and voilà! So, normally, I’ll hot curl it and put it in rollers or pin curls for a better result.

What is your staple transition hair style?
Wet and Go all the way! I’m too lazy to braid, it cramps my hands and I don’t want to develop carpal tunnel like so many of my relatives. Also, I was never taught to style my natural hair outside of braiding, wet and go, buns or, my least favorite, the “bush ball/ puff ball.” But now I’m learning new styles and I’m going to try them.

What techniques/products do you use to manage the demarcation line between your relaxed and natural hair? 
My relaxed hair has completely grown out as of a year ago, as well as the blonde dye that was in my hair. Before coloring my hair, my hair was naturally dark brown/black and my pony tail would be a reddish auburn in the sunlight. My hair no longer does the reddish hues and is now brown/black.

What is the most challenging part of transitioning and how have you been able to overcome or cope with it?
Getting over how much my hair texture has changed. The total absence of the natural moisture it use to have and realizing I may have to do a BC if I ever want to see the original texture again. I’m trying to find ways to get it back without chopping it off. It took 5 years to get it back past my shoulders and the in between time drove me crazy. Also, having white co-workers tell me they like my hair better straightened or “done” *grrr*. I also hate the “good hair” references from people of color. It’s annoying. Healthy hair is good hair.

What has been the most fun/best part of going natural? What do you love most about your natural hair and/or going natural?
WnGs *lol* … Low maintenance, no hair dryers, no more paying $60 for someone else to do it. And realizing that, whenever I straightened my hair for a job interview, I never got the job. Every interview I went on with my WnG, I got offered the job, ironically. My hair made me stand out.

I also like the fact that me, my sister and brother-in-law are standing a united front when it comes to my niece never getting a relaxer. I actually included a picture of both of us with blow outs below. That was her first one.

Do you have a “hair crush?” If so, who?
Tracey Ellis Ross, Maia Campbell, Amel Larrieux, Elle Varner, Teyana Taylor.
My newest hair crushes are : Shelli of Hairscapades, CurlyNikki and Nicole from Black Girl with Long Hair.

Who do you follow online (i.e. blog/website, YouTube, Fotki, etc.)?
So far: Hairscapades, CurlyNikki, Black Girl with Long Hair and blackwomennaturalhairstyles.

What advice would you give someone who is contemplating going natural and/or becoming discouraged with their natural journey?
Do it anyway! I had a hard time watching my new growth growing out and dealing with it. But, over time, it will be worth it. Most importantly, find someone with a similar hair texture that is a veteran and seek advice. I found that the hair products that worked for them usually gave me the same results.


5 responses »

    • Well I see in my newest new growth that it is returning lol… So with that said I’m going to grow it out and it has been growing like crazy and then cut it in December. I can’t wait.


  1. Hey Girl,
    Good to see the same ole Lisa. I was looking on the website and came across your story.Very encouraging. I am dealing with my own natural hair battles.I am not transitioning though,I BC’d 10 months ago.Trust me,your old texture WILL return with a vengeance!


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