Some of my clearest childhood memories take place in the kitchen of my childhood home in central New Jersey. Scalp raw from rushed brushing and arms tired from holding my ears down so the hot comb wouldn’t singe them, wrangling with my hair has always been physically and mentally exhausting. Even when I got my first relaxer at the ripe age of 11, straight hair came with both physical difficulties and rigid rules. For example, don’t do anything with your hair without a hairdresser, rain is mortal enemy #1, not everyone has “good hair” and finally good hair also means mixed.
In fact, I remember the first time a stranger ran her fingers through my hair that grazed my mid back then bluntly asked me if I was mixed. “Mixed?” I asked, “Mixed with what?” She looked at me like I was an idiot but pressed forward with her line of inquiry. In her eyes, there was no way I was the product of a father from Nigerian and a mother from Philadelphia. She was shocked and my opinion on what “good hair” was forever changed.
As a black woman in America I know that for us hair is never just hair. In fact black hair has been the center of a century long debate on beauty standards for black women. So it’s not hard to imagine why being #TeamNatural resonates with so many black women.
For me, #TeamNatural is all about breaking the rules of my childhood and adolescence. It’s about self-acceptance, self-reliance, and self esteem. It’s about frolicking in the rain and not spending five hours in a salon chair with dangerous chemicals on my scalp. And everyone’s #TeamNatural journey is different. For Kristian Ogungbemi #TeamNatural was about embracing her self in a world that encouraged her not to, “So I think for me it’s about embracing who I am. I grew up in the suburbia and tried so hard to be like me friends and it obviously wasn’t working, so for me it’s about embracing my blackness and not being afraid of who I am.”
For others it’s a new beginning, “I would say that being #teamnatural means that I can be whoever I want. Taking the leap of faith to do the big chop showed me that I can start over in any aspect of my life and be confident doing so,” said Bre Ari.
Now I’ll be honest, hashtagging #TeamNatural didn’t mean that the heavens opened up and now everyday is a good hair day. Because that is not true-the struggle is still real. However, those days of struggle are exactly what scarves, beanies, and wide brimmed hats are for. And that’s the beauty of my hair. It’s as diverse, complex, and stubborn as I am– and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
How do you feel about your hair?