The Past and The Present With Sonnet James.

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On Being Natural

posted on: January 23, 2014

Convo with my hair by NHP

Can you hear me?
Beautiful and bold
tendrils, kinks, and curls
speak softly from my soul
"I am free"
from the chains of society
I am beautiful

I've long been a sucker for stories. Not just any stories, but real life, in depth, heart felt stories. And really, the subject could be about anything. But, if there is a story behind it, chances are you've got yourself a friend for life. I guess in many ways, that plays heavely into my friendship as an adult.

Naturally, when it comes to my natural hair and my transition I am often asked about it. Most of my friends, expect the normal LaTonya. The LaTonya who will keep you entertained with a story the entirety of your subway ride. Usually, every natural girl has a story. Some transitions have to do with being more in touch with your African roots, others have to do with accepting how you were made and loving and owning it. I didn't. Up until now.

In the past I always referenced my change from permed hair to natural hair as something I just got up and did one day. I was tired of my hair. Tired of processing it and wanted a change. So I did it. Simple. But it wasn't that simple. As I look back, it was then that I became the best kind of me.

Once I got old enough where I was technically "allowed' to experiment with my hair, I did. I tried many variations of brown. But the one that stuck around the longest was a honey blonde dye, that I still adore. I began cutting my hair shortly after. It was always a step and repeat of cutting it and letting it grow just a tad bit. Until I realized I actually despised long hair on myself. I felt long hair put me in a box of limited style and limited possibilites.  When my hair was short I felt brave, honest, and me.

Prior to marrying Peter I had my sides shaved bald and only a little hair in the middle. I liked this look until it started growing in. The growing stages of short hair is awkward and all you want to do is cut it all over again. Since my wedding was fast approaching I thought it was best to be safe and just do what I could with it. That meant coloring it and styling the new growth. A few days before my wedding I went in for my signature honey blonde and came out with a burnt red. She processed it twice and still failed. I was upset but did what any sane person could do about botched hair before their wedding day, suck it up. Shortly after my wedding I noticed that her processing also changed my hair texture drastically. It quickly became brittle and unattractive. I went to a few stylist after that and they all said the same thing. My hair was damaged.

Not one to shy away from cutting my hair, one day I booked a sitter for River while Peter was at work and I booked a salon appointment with one that seemed reasonably priced and had good reviews. With mild mannered excitement I asked that they cut all of my hair off. By now your probably like so what right? But for my community, you just don't do those kind of things in haste. If you're going to cut your hair it better be for a specific style. Not me. I knew I wanted to start from scratch. I wanted to experience what was given to me at birth as an adult.

 I grew up in a time when every pre-teen had a perm. My nickname was "puff La La" because I was of the few that didn't. I always wore a ponytail with the biggest puff of hair. Looking back I now realize it was beautiful. My mom fought me on it for so long. Naturally, I thought she was trying to ruin my life. She was just trying to save me from this exact scenario. 

... the finals words formed the ending of my sentence and the receptionist looked at me quite puzzled.        

"I want someone to chop my hair off." 

I knew she wanted to know how and why, but I didn't want or need anyone trying to talk me out of practically going bald. First I sat in the chair of woman hairstylist. She washed, she cut, and we began to slowly talk about what I would do after my chop. I told her I was considering going natural. Having my hair done often was costing too much money, time, and annoyance when the style wasn't how I anticipated. After she was done she sent me to a barber just a few seats down from her. He would be the one who would shape, cut, and try to mold whatever natural hair I had grown out. He warned me I didn't have much natural hair in, and I would have to come back to cut the rest of my perm out in a few weeks or months. He then went on to tell me that every girl he's helped go natural has come back in for a perm. "The joy of natural hair doesn't last long." It was then that I realized the unaware and unapologetic bullying and shaming of natural hair. As if natural hair isn't beautiful, isn't sought after, isn't soft and manageable, and isn't something that makes you feel like you own your identity. I know now, more than ever I own me. No hair defines me, and if in the slightest I'm grouped as the girl with "the natural fro" well thanks. 


  1. Your natural hair is gorgeous! I cut off my permed hair about 7 or 8 years ago and I have to admit it has taken me that long to embrace my natural curl. It seems like something that should be easy but when you are flooded with commercial images of long silky hair it's hard to love your short, kinky (often frizzy) hair. Just as soon as I learned to love my natural hair my daughter came of age that she started asking for her hair to be flat-ironed and made long and silky like "the other girls." I try to remind her every day that her hair is perfect just as it is but I am not sure I'm getting through to her quite yet. She'll get there, I'm sure.

    One thing I've never experimented with is color; the color of your hair is exactly what I've always wanted but I've been scared to try it. Do you have a particular brand of color that you prefer? I have no idea where to even start.

    1. It's a hard adjustment. I would say, it always help to hang around people who are enamored with natural hair. Who often see it as a rarity. It helps the transition and builds pride. And I was just like your daughter. My mom fought me, but I didn't have any friends with natural hair. Maybe have a play date with some natural hair kids? My daughter is mixed and has curly fine hair. But she hangs around a lot of other mixed kids. I hope it helps her with accepting her background in the future. I don't have a specific brand. And this coloring is quite old as I am pregnant and can't color. But I usually do it myself with the boxed brand. Look for the one with the black lady on the box. ;) lol

  2. Thanks, I think I know just the box you are talking about. I am pregnant as well so I will have to wait, but I'm excited to try it.

  3. Could you post some pics of your big chop?

    1. Hi Mechelle,
      That's up on my list for next week!


  4. Your natural hair is just beautiful.

  5. Beautifully written!
    and your hair is gorgeous!

    1. Sopie, that means a lot. thank you so much


  6. I recently went natural myself! My story is similar to yours; I was dead-set on having straight, relaxed hair but my hair wasn't having any of it anymore. I actually grew up having my hair relaxed, but in the last three years, both my mom and my sister went natural and my mom was encouraging me to do so.
    I was a hair model for a salon and they finally helped me make the hard decision to sort of start from scratch. I hated it at first, but now I love it! Of course, I still wish it was longer than it is so that my curls would be more defined. But overall, I'm satisfied and it's nice to go back to my roots (literally and figuratively). Thanks for sharing!

    -LesLeigh J.