One of the reasons I wanted to write this is because I believe in the power of choice. I love the fact that as women we have so many choices at our disposal in regard to our appearance. This was my way of exploring something I’ve considered for a bit -- the choice to go back to naturally curly hair.
Before we go any further, I should explain that I know exactly what my natural curl pattern is: It’s called a Z curl or fractal curl. That essentially means that the cuticle doesn’t naturally curve into a bendy, spiral ‘S’ shape, but a Z-shape that has angles and any one of about a billion directions as far as bend. Even though the nape of neck and the hair at the crown of my head naturally go into an S-shaped curl, the majority runs wild. I am a mixed version of my father’s thicker Z-shaped hair and my mother’s S-shaped curls. Getting these two textures to play well together has been a lifelong struggle.
As a little girl, I grew with people trying to “manage” my multi-textured hair with a slew of pomades and processes. Braids, ponytails, hot combs and curling wands for school picture day: all of these were used to pull my hair into a shape that seemed a bit more manageable.
By the time I was in junior high school, that meant sitting under the hair dryer and roller sets to try to get all my curls to move into one direction. I made the choice to relax my roots at that age and that’s the way it’s been almost uninterrupted ever since.
The allure of growing my natural curls has struck me once before. About a year ago, I gave it a shot for close to a year, but eventually went back to the familiar allure of processed hair. I’d come upon a process I liked and products that kept the hair hydrated and manageable. However, every time I’d see a woman rocking a gorgeous natural style, I’d start to think: Did I really give curly hair enough of a try?
I met Miko and Titi Branch of Miss Jessie’s at a photo shoot a little over a month ago, which is when I started asking myself the about it once again. The piece was on natural hair texture and they're experts on the topic. I got the requisite questions about my own hair and a bit of tsk tsk for not embracing my natural curls.
“Have you ever even SEEN what your natural hair texture looks like?” they asked me. Well, kind of, I replied. I explained my attempts at going natural that ended in reprocessing my hair, which is when they explained that many women growing out their hair choose to perform a rod set to keep growing curly roots and relaxed ends in a similar ilk while the hair has time to grow.
Interesting process. I’d never considered it. So I made my way to Miss Jessie’s Salon in SoHo to try the rod set and come face-to-face with myself as a curly girl.
For two and a half hours, the good women of Miss Jessie’s ministered love and affection to my hair. I was given a deep conditioner, and then 1” sections of my hair were set on rods, pulled tightly at the root and then twirled around each rod from the nape of my neck to the front hair line of my head. I was placed under a dryer with towels on top (your head doesn’t fit directly underneath the dryer with the rods on it) and was left to set for around an hour and some odd change. I answered email, I read magazines, I live-tweeted the process. I was excited to see my curls emerge.
When the rods were removed and the curls were separated, I came face to face for the first time in a long while and, yep, it’s official: I’m cute with curly hair. There I was, staring into the tamed, closely cropped version of my hair. I surveyed the back...and then the front...and I love this as an option.
Because, as I said before, I love that the beauty industry is about options. I think all of us should be able to explore our options how we look our best. If you want to go blonde and you were born a brunette, try it. If you like keratin treatments, go nuts. Always been a redhead at heart? Knock yourself out. If you want to straighten your hair or let it be, you have options. You have choices. It’s not a matter of ethnicity for me, but a matter of personal choice. I’m mercurial by nature: I like to have the option to change my mind, and I like that my own personal standard of beauty is mine and mine alone: no one else looks like me, and how I choose to express myself is my choice.
I love that this is as a new option for me, and I’ll continue to explore curls moving forward. I’ll probably even slow down on chemical processes. But to say that I’m going to stop living with the straighter texture I’ve had for decades cold turkey would be dishonest. I also like myself with smooth blowouts. I’m exploring hair care regimens that will allow me to embrace both textures without harsh chemicals.
I love having that choice.
Let’s hear from you in the comments section.