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An Open Letter to Newly Natural Women

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black stylists mad at black women growing their own natural hair

An Open Letter to Newly Natural Women,

I regret to inform you that I don’t have any hair-care tips. I’m not a natural hair blogger, and I rarely wash my curls. I’m actually a shitty naturalista. I don’t espouse the virtues of big chops and twist outs. I don’t look down on relaxers, sulfates, or parabens. I’m not into mixing moisturizers in my kitchen sink; I wish I was, but I don’t even like to cook. I keep protective styles in for way too long, and I suspect they become a liability.

That said, I want to share what I do know.

When I decided to go natural, I sat and watched the rain. I watched raindrops mix with fog and disappear in midair. I watched moisture in action and lamented my own fate. I’m black and my hair is THICK. This is gonna be tough. On that day, I discovered what I learn every day – going natural means giving up control.

If nobody has told you, let me be the first: you’re more beautiful when you give up the illusion of control. You are most beautiful when you lean into the reality of the moment, regardless of what it looks like on your head. You’re most attractive when, after unraveling your twist out, you walk unwittingly into a spontaneous thunder storm (this will occur). As your hair snakes its way into the shape of a storm cloud, you are more beautiful than you can even imagine. The experience of going natural is inherently transformative because it forces you to accept yourself and your ever-changing form.

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It forces you into cooperation with the earth.

I’m writing this to you because I just realized I am natural. I unraveled my big braids, and discovered my own hair. I looked at myself and fell in love with my three-year journey. I’m writing so you know this place exists. This moment of self-love will indeed find you. Despite the time spent pulling you hair down to your chin, the years go by more quickly than you think. Whether or not you troll YouTube and make conditioners every night, if you give your hair some time (and the protection it deserves), it will become exactly what you desire.

The same is true, by the way, of your own heart.

There’s something else I should probably mention:  On the day I discovered that I’m both beautiful and natural, three people told me I looked like Sideshow Bob…

This brings me to another natural lesson.

The struggle to feel beautiful on your own terms never ends. It doesn’t end with the big chop, the bra-strap length, or the slick bob. It doesn’t end with the fresh perm, the new wig, or bomb weave. It doesn’t end with a slender waistline or a new pair of heels. The struggle to define your beauty is ongoing and relentless. The awkward phase doesn’t end. It simply shifts and gets softer, but there is wisdom and strength in moving through your awkward moments. Eventually you become your own balm. Your understanding of your own beauty becomes enough.

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Today I send love to all blossoming naturalistas. I send love to all my sisters in the transition struggle. I send love to the hair bloggers and YouTube beauty gurus – I’m convinced you’re all going straight to heaven.  I send love to the relaxed women who feel pressure to go natural – stay creamy and continue to love yourself as you see fit. I send love to all women who, in the absence of their hair, are learning to see their faces for the first time. I even send love to the women who read this letter, and roll their eyes because they’re over all the hype.

We are all our own works of art; our hair is simply another canvas. Continue to do what feels natural…for you. No matter where the journey takes you, you are loved.

Love always,

Patia

Patia Braithwaite is a Brooklyn-based relationship blogger and life coach. Her wellness and relationship articles have appeared on The Huffington Post, Yahoo Shine, Clutch Magazine and Bounce Back.com. She is the founder of The Untitled Love Project, a three month coaching program that prompts folks to ask the question: What would I do if I loved myself more? Check out her musings and offerings out at: www.menmyselfandgod.com.

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Comment(25)

  1. I love all different styles and texture of hair. It all depends on the confidence of the woman, whether the style can be pulled off IMO. Either way positive reinforcement is the way that we can uplift our women so they wont feel some type of way when they decide to do something "different".

  2. I am feeling you on everything you said, Patia. My protective style has taken on a life of its own, but I am TOTALLY confident in who I am and how I look and I am OK with others not finding it attractive as well. Took me more than 50 years to come to this place in my life, and now that I have found peace with myself I will not let another living soul take it away from me.

  3. Thanks for this post! Blessings to you for that last paragraph!!!
    I have been growing my hair out (via: braids, sew-ins) and had a respectable amount of hair once I decided to cut the perm off. I had to go through my mom (who has a perm) criticizing my natural hair styles in the beginning until she noticed people complimenting me. Now she gets it and watches Youtube hair tutorials with me.
    I was like, "I gotta try this!". Natural hair is everywhere and at first I was like, "Why?"
    But now I totally get it. Not only is it cost efficient, but you learn to love yourself on a whole different level.

    Every Black girl should go natural at least for one "season" in her life.

    If you perm your hair then isn't naturally you. Even weave isn't naturally you. Once your natural you see yourself for the first time and learn to love yourself fully like women of every other race already does. We are the ONLY people that use products to change ourselves in order to conform to what the majority says is "beautiful". I don't know its sad, but real.
    I don't know how long I'll stay natural. I challenged myself to grow my hair out long enough to do styles like Naptural85 on Youtube. Meh…we will see.

    1. "….and learn to love yourself fully like women of every other race already does. We are the ONLY people that use products to change ourselves in order to conform to what the majority says is "beautiful"

      No offense but you must live in a bubble if you actually believe that. But you typed it so you must believed it, and two people co-signed…lawd. You do realize that women of all color wear weave. Your favorite celebrity wears weave. Some may dye their hair blond so they can become the "blonde bombshell". Let's not get into the plastic surgery, botox, lip injections, etc., that are primarily utilized by non blacks. Have you heard of Asian women having eye surgery to make their eyes last slanty? I could go on and on but hopefully you get the picture.

      1. What you say is absolutely true. Many women of different cultures and nationalities resort to undertaking mild to extreme measures to conform to the ruling power’s established standard of beauty. However, highlighting this fact doesn’t obfuscate the very real self image problem within the Black community, nor should we take comfort in knowing, “we are not alone” when it comes to this very real socially damaging problem. The truth is, people of color are more disproportionately affected by these standards of beauty because aesthetically we have the farthest to go in an effort to achieve such standards. In fact, because we are virtually the polar opposite of such standards, it has never been a secret that our natural features have been universally dubbed as ‘undesirable’ and ‘unattractive’, even by other non-white cultures.

        So whether or not the individuals seek out to straighten their own hair, buy and wear hair that is straight, or even the more extreme efforts of plastic surgery to ‘unslant’ eyes, or straighten/slim down their nose, etc., the cultural effort is to look less like whatever they are, and more like whatever the commercial standard of beauty is — which since the development of the western world has always been Europeanesque. Never anything close to Black, Blackish, or Black-like despite the very weak counter arguments of collagen lip injections and tanning.

        Mr. SoBo OpinionatedMale.com

        My recent post: Going Natural For Life Or Fashion? Why We Love Black Women Who Love Their Hair

        1. My comment wasnt to refute the fact that AA women have self esteem issues. I was just responding to her comment in saying that black women were the "ONLY" people with this issue, which is why I replied to her comment and not the article in general. I dont disagree with anything you posted.

      2. My computer went dead and I had a great comment for you, but it's lost so here is the short version…
        I know weaves are common. I know, but unfortunately AAW are not the norm with naturally straight hair so when we wear a weave its totally different from when a woman from a different race wears one. As for the rest of your comment the article is about hair; so my comment was intended for just that.

        1. Also, just so you know the 2 people that liked my comment should not be attacked for doing such. I really hate that you would say something like that. I mean WTF, really? That's really just sad. Look at my comment for what it is: my opinion. Some people will like what you have to say, and thats okay because It's your opinion. Grow up and realize that…Ima leave it alone. #DONE

  4. I love black women who wears their hair natural. It shows that black women are the only group of people with the coarse type of hair and being unique is a beautiful thing. Black women need to go back to their natural hair. I don't date women with weaves, lace fronts, and all that crap. It doesn't look natural when a black woman wears "Indian" hair on her head. If wanted a woman like that, I'll date an actual Indian. Just sayin

    1. I can understand where you're coming from, but PLEASE do not judge a woman on her hair. Many women that wear weaves and wigs are transitioning into natural hair. It's called protective styling, and there are MANY articles about it on natural hair sites. Perhaps the change in weather would make a woman protect her hair from whatever [harsh] climate she lives in. I've even read where a 50+ yr old woman wears a wig all week but on the weekend she's natural. Just because you see a woman wearing a wig/weave doesn't mean that's their permanent style. Two days later she could be rocking her natural hair and you wouldn't know. It could very well be a process to becoming a naturalista. We all know that black hair loves to be braided and less manipulation is key as well. That's the whole idea behind protective styling. Just because you go natural doesn't mean you will automatically have a full healthy head of hair. I think many people, men specifically (despite black men having the same hair texture as black women) are really ignorant of a black woman and the details and steps of her going natural.

      Plus many people have different opinions on what "natural" means. Does it mean not having a perm for years and not using harsh chemicals or does it mean that PLUS no extensions? Or does it mean that, plus no dye and only eating healthy foods? Everyone has their own definition. Don't judge a book by it's cover!

    2. Please also be aware that for some Black women (myself included), going "natural" isn't an option…Some of us have to wear weaves, wigs, or lace wigs to cover substantial hair loss…Please don't presume that all Black women who wear hair pieces are doing it to make themselves into something they are not…some of us don't have any other options…

  5. I still find it amazing when people say they went natural. Don’t you instead return to natural. When your born your hair isn’t processed. You’ve simply stopped processing your hair and truth is every black girl or woman has been natural more than once in her life. We are beautiful no matter what.

  6. "The struggle to define your beauty is ongoing and relentless. The awkward phase doesn’t end. It simply shifts and gets softer, but there is wisdom and strength in moving through your awkward moments. Eventually you become your own balm. Your understanding of your own beauty becomes enough."

    This is truuuuue. Thank you for this letter. I especially love that section of one of the paragraphs.

    I've been natural for about…6-7 years, maybe more (I lose track of time) but until maybe less than a year ago I started making an effort to keep it healthy (basically I've become a product junkie). I've just started to wear kinky twists as a protective style, and I love them. I love embracing that part of me.

  7. Hello, I am from USA, glad to know that you have very nice brands. Most of the products you listed on this site are toxic to us. It's good when companies don't test on animals. Is they are safe for kids ?

  8. No one needs harsh chemicals—or tons of time—to get shiny, healthy hair and smoother skin. Just steal these gentle, back-to-basics natural moves to start looking your best.

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