It’s been a while since our last set of Then and Now pics, so I hope that you enjoy this jam-packed Flashback post as much as I love getting and sharing all the pics and stories!!
I always had long, thick, wavy hair. Growing up, my mom would always braid my hair using lotion. However, she had the shock of her life when I returned home from a weekend at my cousins to see my aunt had relaxed my hair, lol. So, from then on, I would get relaxers 2 to 3 times a year. I began transitioning August 2010 and did my big chop September 2011. Since my BC, it’s been exciting and challenging at times.
Learn more about Mennia’s hair journey via her GOC updates.
I was about 6 years old in the first pic … and already relaxed. My first relaxer? At age 3! I know… WOW!! My hair was, and still is, extremely thick!! In my younger days, despite the “creamy crack,” my hair was healthy. My Mom took great care of my hair to ensure its vitality and growth! She always kept my hair cleansed, moisturized and braided. SO BEAUTIFUL!! But then, as I aged and thought I was grown, I began making hair choices of my own. Deciding to relax too often, cut too much and color! The mistakes I made ruined my hair.
Fast forward to “Now.” I was tired of my hair. I wanted a change. Something different. Something healthier. Something better. I took the plunge and BIG CHOPPED!! It was the first time I had seen my hair in its natural state! AND I ABSOLUTELY FREAKIN’ LOVE IT!!! That was 6 months ago. I rocked that TWA with style and confidence! I am learning so much about my hair and its health. Learning to style with twist outs, coils and WnGs!! My hair is healthy and strong. I cannot wait to continue this journey. As many of you know, natural hair leads to other great changes, but that’s another story …
Growing up, I had a thick lush mane of hair. My mother took amazing care of my hair. She washed my hair EVERY week (every 2 weeks during colder months). Back then, it was all about Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Shampoo. I loved the tingle and smell of it (and still use it today as a body wash). Then she would slather a generous helping of cholesterol treatment on my hair. It came in a silver tube with a blue label (or sometimes a hot oil treatment). I would sit under a heating cap for about 15 minutes. Once my hair was rinsed clean, she would part and braid it wet into 4 to 6 braids.
On Sunday, I would either get a press out or she would send me to one of the neighbors for a cute cornrowed style. Regardless of whether it was pressed or not, my hair was combed every morning before school. When I stayed with my grandmother down south, she kept up the regimen, but also spent a lot of time declaring, “Lord child, you got such thick hair” while straightening it in the morning before church. Little boys used to accuse me of wearing a wig, my hair was so thick. LOL!!
By the time I was 10, I taught myself to cornrow my own hair and would use beads to decorate it. I would spend hours creating different looks and even bangs. By high school, I started the age old begging-to-relax-my-hair phase. At 16, I was allowed to do so and entered the every “8 weeks club.” I went to Black Hair Is … a well-known salon in the West Village, NYC, because my mother was willing to spend the money for me to take care of my hair. I started with a fierce page-boy, then went to a layered look to keep the length. By senior year, I went punk, cutting off one side and then wearing a close-cropped “Anita Baker” right before prom.
In college, luckily, I had my sister to do my hair as she was a stylist in Baltimore when I was at Howard U. But, within a couple of years, I grew weary of the upkeep and began to really take a closer look at my roots. I was beginning the process of embracing my natural hair. So, in 1989, the summer after finishing my third year, I made the decision to go natural. No transition, just chopped it off. I went to African Trendsetters, one of the best barbers in Brooklyn at the time. The barber, Dexx, would go on to cut my hair and be my stylist for the next 10 years. I did Caesar cuts and even rocked a high top fade in the early 90s. Through the 90s, I mostly would do two strand twists and had shoulder length hair.
Outside of it falling out due to chemo in 1995, I’ve had a great head of hair. In May 2007, just for a change of pace, I relaxed it again out of boredom. Then, on Christmas Eve 2009, I chopped it off again myself and discovered a new texture. Dunno if it is hormones or what, but I fell back in love with my kinky curls. My brother even noticed the change as he was the only other human allowed to touch my hair to twist it or put a clipper to it.
In the past 20+ years of being a naturalista before that term even existed, I’ve seen and done it all. My friends rely on me for advice when it comes to their hair. Today, I pretty much keep up the same regimen because I had such a great example. My mother rocks locs by the way. We use the Shea Moisture line. Love it. And when budget does not allow, I use the Pantene Relaxed and Natural line as a back up.
Thank you for doing what you do!!!
Thanks for letting me share my hair pictures!
I’ve been wanting to do a Flashback since Shelli posted her first one last year. I love seeing pictures of other GOCers when they were little girls, not feeling the pressure to conform to society’s views of beauty. Anyway, just wanted to share my flashback moment with you all.
A little about my upbringing … my parents divorced when I was about 2 years old, but luckily for me, my mother left me with my dad. Why do I say, “luckily?” Because, as you can see, my mother doesn’t have hair like me. My curls fall somewhere smack dab in the middle of my dad and my mom’s hair. My mom was never able to help me style my hair when I was a kid and, when she did, I always had jagged parts and looked like a plantation baby. Thank God no one took pictures of my hair in that state. I knew it wasn’t cute, but didn’t know how to do it myself, so I just avoided going outside after my mom did my hair. However, she was ahead of her time in that she always told me to leave the regular rinse-out conditioner in my hair.
My mom’s sister has hair more like mine, so she had no problem doing my hair, but she always put my hair into very neat and extremely tight bobbles and braids when I was little. My hair used to be so tight that, when my mom dropped me back off with my dad’s family after my weekend visit with her, the first thing my dad’s mother would do is loosen my bobbles and braids. I often had headaches because they were so tight and, one time, I yelled at my grandfather to “shut-up” the moment he walked into the house. My grandmother protected me by saying, “Sim don’t kill the baby. Her hair is too tight.I have to loosen all of these braids.”
My grandmother was using natural hair techniques before they became as popular as they are now. Come to think of it, when I was in high school, she used to tell me and my cousin not to put metal clips in our hair because they could snag and pull our hair out. We didn’t listen and often thought she was just being silly. I wish I’d paid more attention to her advice.
Now about my dad. He was a darn good single father. His sisters taught him how to do my hair early on and he often did my hair for school pictures. He mastered the two-strand twist in no time flat and even taught my stepmom how to do it after they got married. He didn’t have to do another head of hair after he remarried, but even now he recalls with pride how he had to teach her how to twist my hair so that it wouldn’t unravel after she put a barrette on the end. I’m convinced that I’d have a serious bald spot if I lived with my mother after my parents’ divorce, because she always had her sister do my hair. I actually have a thin spot from where she regularly parted and braided my hair. I appreciate her effort to make me look nice, but I really believe that a child’s hair can be cute without having every single piece of hair in its perfect place. To this day, I can’t stand my hair being pulled back for any length of time. I feel so bound and restrained when it’s pulled back :-).
I couldn’t resist! Isn’t he a cutie ;)?
Miss the prior Flashback photos and stories? Don’t fret! You can check them out here and here! And, let’s keep the fun going! Send your Now and Then pictures and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured in a future post!