I Was On A Panel at C2E2! — April 24, 2017

I Was On A Panel at C2E2!

On April 23, I had a unique opportunity to speak on a panel at C2E2. How you ask? Let’s go back in time a bit.
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How Is My Transition Going?: What I’ve Learned About My Hair So Far — April 19, 2017

How Is My Transition Going?: What I’ve Learned About My Hair So Far

It’s been 5 months since I last had a relaxer, and at this point I have enough new growth to be able to talk about my natural tresses! I have about an inch and a half all around my head, with certain areas a little longer or shorter depending on the location of the growth. For context, I did successfully make it through six weeks of protective styling with Marley twists. Because I hadn’t had a protective style since 8th grade, it took some getting used to all of the extra hair and weight on my head. After the first week, though, I grew used to the twists and the general upkeep. After three weeks, however, I was ready for them to come out. After five weeks, the twists got frizzy and matted. Despite this, when I went back to the shop for my takedown, the stylists said the twists were in good condition and I could have kept them in longer. It wasn’t that I disliked the twists (although admittedly I think box braids would have looked better and fared better throughout the weeks), I simply missed being able to touch and feel my own hair. Yet, it was for this exact reason that I needed them to begin with — to keep my hands out of my hair and allow it to grow. And boy did it grow. With my first wash post-twists, the hair at my roots was so thick that I had to section my hair differently as I washed just to make sure I got to it all. Not only that, but the texture of both my natural hair and relaxed ends is different now. So let’s talk about my hair!

My hair is…thick!
If the sample of hair I have at my roots is any indication, my natural hair will be thick in density. Right now, the thickness of my roots makes it difficult to style my relaxed ends which have absolutely no body. Therefore, it’s also harder to blend the two textures. Speaking of…

My hair is…textured differently throughout! It seems as if my hair has different textures in different parts of my head. The top and sides of my head are the loosest; there’s a weird wave-slash-poof thing going on in this section. Because the pattern is so loose, this section has the most visible length with minimal shrinkage. The middle-back portion of my head has the tightest curl pattern. This section has about the same amount of growth as the front and sides but shrunken. The strands in this area have to be stretched in order to see their full length. And the nape of my neck is a mystery. When my hair was relaxed, this part of my hair grew the slowest and reverted the quickest, so I think that fickleness is carrying over to my natural growth. The only way to describe this section is kINKY. I can’t see a defined curl pattern except at the very roots, where the pattern seems to match the middle-back portion. After a trim a few weeks ago, there’s next to no relaxed hair in this portion of my head, so I’m not sure what that means for the texture…
Across all areas of my head, it feels like my hair’s curl pattern is that of a Z that varies in looseness or tightness.

My hair is…soft and fine! It’s uncommon for naturals to have hair that is both dense and soft at the same time. I’m discovering that this is the case for me. When moisturized correctly, my hair is suuuper soft. And I love it! When I was relaxed, one of the things I hated was once my hair reverted, it would become extremely dry, coarse, and brittle. But now I know I just wasn’t moisturizing enough. It’ll be difficult to figure out what’s best for my hair when I’m trying to incorporate products that will be thick enough to reach my dense tresses but delicate enough to not weigh my strands down, especially my weak relaxed ends.

My hair…is developing different needs! As my transition continues, I am learning that my hair’s needs have changed since more of it is natural. I’ve had to reconsider or even switch out products that I was using pre-twists. My hair needs to be detangled now at the roots or it’s pretty much unmanageable. I tried the coveted Kinky Curly Knot Today, and after two tries, figured out that my hair HATES it! You live and you learn; Knot Today does not contain water as a primary ingredient, and my hair noticed immediately. Rather than loosening up my strands, Knot Today caused them to matt together into a goopy mess. If anything, the product made it more difficult to detangle my hair than the crappy (Carol’s Daughter) liquid leave-in I was using before. On the flipside, my hair absolutely loves shea butter! Hence, any SheaMoisture product I’ve used in my hair I’ve loved and had great results. I’m looking to try the Peace Rose Oil Complex Shampoo and Conditioner combo to replace my Whole Foods shea shampoo and Giovanni Tea Tree Triple Threat Conditioner. I want to see if using a shampoo and conditioner from the same product line improves my results. After all, if a line isn’t cohesive, then what’s the point? Further along in my transition, I’d also like to try out SheaMoisture’s High Porosity Deep Conditioner.

I’m still styling my hair with bantu knots, but I now have to really be diligent about doing more knots to achieve a curl that will last through the week. Right now, co-washing in the middle of the week doesn’t fit into my schedule, and this was previously when I would refresh my curls. Nine-to-five jobs don’t exactly create the time to wash and style on a Wednesday. Also, because my roots are filled out now, if I style in bigger sections for each knot, the parts in my scalp will be visible because the relaxed hair at my ends (which is usually the curl) doesn’t have enough body to fill the style out. Just imagine a triangle in your head: a wide base meeting at a smaller point. That’s what it looks like if I section too big. The smaller the section, the tighter the curl and the more filled out the style looks. And smaller curls means more longevity out of the style — for now at least.

I really want to experiment with flat twists, but I think my hair is too short at this point. But whenever I do go through with the style, it has to be on dry hair; my relaxed ends are too limp to be manipulated into any sort of braid or twist style when wet.

That’s about it for now. I forsee a challenge in the next few months, as it’ll be the first time I’ll have to deal with my natural hair (and styling) in heat. I have to find the right balance and ways to keep moisturized when the elements are trying to suck my hair dry. We’ll see if adding fresh aloe vera to my regimen quenches its thirst.

Grow long and prosper!

All About My Natural Hair Transition: The Process Explained — January 27, 2017

All About My Natural Hair Transition: The Process Explained

As I explained in detail in a previous post, I am currently in the process of transitioning my hair to natural. Since I’ve made the announcement to my friends and family, I’ve gotten awkward questions like, “So how does it work?” or “When will it be natural?”

While these questions are well-intentioned, they stem from ignorance of black natural hair and how it works, both on the part of black and non-black people. I hope I’m able to answer some of the questions many people curious about natural hair are too afraid to ask, the first being,

What is “transitioning”?
Transitioning is the process of growing out one’s relaxed, heat damaged, or chemically processed hair. Rather than doing a Big Chop right off the bat (cutting off the hair completely and starting with new, natural growth), transitioning allows you to retain the length of your strands while your natural hair grows in from the roots. Transitioning is great for people who aren’t quite ready for a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro) and those who want to practice healthy hair habits before the Big Chop day comes. Long-term transitioners are those who keep their relaxed ends for at least a year. I plan to transition for 13 months, or Big Chop by the very end of 2017. The trick with transitioning is working with two different hair textures (straight or damaged ends with curly or kinky roots) and finding styles that blend the two so people can’t tell. You also must make sure you’re being gentle with the line of demarcation, or the point where your relaxed hair meets your natural texture. Because it’s so sensitive, it is very prone to breakage, and too much breakage can cause you to Big Chop earlier than you want to.

If you said you’re going natural, why doesn’t your hair “look natural” yet?

Natural hair doesn’t happen overnight. Right now, I’m still in the early stages of transitioning at 10 weeks post (relaxer). At almost three months, my natural growth is still minimal. But, it is becoming more visible at my roots to the glancing eye. It will be a couple more months before I have significant enough growth to hold and style in my hands.

So what are you doing differently with your hair now?

In the rule book of Going Natural 101, the first step to transitioning is to stop doing the thing that damaged your hair to begin with. For me, this is realxing my strands. Second, you stop using chemically harmful products with sulfates and alcohol and swap them out for hair products with natural ingredients like shea butter and various kinds of oils (olive, almond, avocado, grapeseed, Jamaican black castor, etc.). I now shampoo my hair once a week and co-wash in between shampoo sessions. (Co-washing is conditioner washing, or refreshing your hair with a conditioner that won’t remove the dirt from/strip your hair like a shampoo would.) I also deep condition once a week. Lastly, I use protective styles to retain the moisture of every step in the wash or co-washing process. Needless to say, I spend hours tending to my hair every week, and I’ve almost tripled the amount of products I use on my hair, and I’d say my product collection is minimal at the moment. That’s how little I was taking care of my hair before.

20161209_143457.jpgThe products I’m currently using.

My go-to styles are perm rod sets and bantu knots. My hair is at an awkward length right now, so these are really the only two styles that will curl my hair to retain moisture. I recently tried bantu knots, and I’m in love with them. I could never get the perm rods to wrap and roll the way I wanted them to, and the curls didn’t spiral the way they’re supposed to. But, with bantu knots, the strands of my curls hold together longer, and the curls as a whole don’t go flat as quickly.

bantu-knotsSource: Pinterest

Still, because my hair is mostly relaxed, the sucky thing is that it’s hard to make protective styles last without completely starting over by wetting my hair. When you have a head full of natural curls, your hair is a lot easier to manipulate and style because the strands are already inclined to curl or coil. I also can’t do wash and go’s because I don’t have a natural curl pattern to fall back on.

I’m planning on getting Marley twists in the next month to protect my hair through the rest of the winter, when it is most prone to breakage and damage due to the cold. It will also allow my natural hair to grow in without me constantly manipulating and styling it, which is good for it every few months or so whether you’re transitioning or completely natural. After I keep my twists in for eight weeks, I’ll take them out and re-assess the needs of my hair. I may need to change up my routine or the products I use, since I’ll have a significant portion of natural hair at my roots by then. I also plan to cut my hair a little so that my strands are equal length throughout my head.

So far, I’m satisfied with my hair growth, but still learning what healthy looks like on my hair. The next few months, from what I’ve read, will likely be the most troublesome, so I’m really trying to nail down a routine that retains my hair’s moisture from roots to tips. Stay tuned in the coming moths for the latest on my Road to BC!

No, I Will Not Relax: Why I’m Setting My Natural Tresses Free — December 16, 2016

No, I Will Not Relax: Why I’m Setting My Natural Tresses Free

It began as an idea. A fleeting, flirtatious thought.

What if I went natural with my hair?

I had this thought maybe two years ago. This fleeting thought became a seed planted and buried into the recesses of my mind, growing slowly but steadily over time. Gradually, I decided that one day, I would go natural with my hair. Originally it was by my early 30s. Then, it morphed into my mid-twenties — specifically for my 25th birthday. (For context, I turned 23 in September 2016.)

Then, one night this past fall, I was sitting on my couch, playing with my straw-like relaxed hair. Dry as it usually was after 8 weeks without a relaxer. Edges at the front of my head and nape of my neck nappy and impossible to comb through. Uneven and split ends. Inconsistent length that, at its longest, barely passed my ears. New growth matted to my head underneath brittle, lifeless, struggling-to-stay-straight strands. It was running my hands into my new growth — my natural curls suffocating under chemically-processed hair — that caused my revelation.

My hair couldn’t wait any longer. My natural tresses were ready to have their day in the sun.
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What Losing Prince Has Made Me Realize About Legacy — April 23, 2016

What Losing Prince Has Made Me Realize About Legacy

Photo cred: Billboard (Billboard.com)

As everyone has heard by now, on Thursday, April 21, the world lost an icon, a music legend, and naturally gifted performer — The Purple One, Prince. A celebrity death that many will retell years from now with “Where were you when you found out?” stories. Hearing of his death was incredibly sad, especially considering that we lost another icon, David Bowie, only a couple of months ago.

I’m not going to lie — I was never a Prince “fan.” He was before my time, and while the internet and streaming services (before Prince yanked his music from them) make it easy to discover classic artists, I just never got around to it. But in a way, I didn’t really need to listen to his music to understand his unparalleled status in the music industry. I grew up listening to his music through my parents. I’ve seen him perform (on TV). I’ve heard him speak and accept awards. His omnipresence in my life was due to his omnipresence in music.

So when he died on Thursday and I joined the world in reflecting on his life and career, I came to realize just how important Prince was in a cornucopia of ways.

-He was a proud black man and openly criticized how record labels sought to exploit black musicians, himself included. He created songs that promoted messages of unity and criticized systems that keep power structures in place, particularly in terms of the oppression of black people (“Dear Mr. Man”). He used music as a form of activism against injustice.

-He was a sexual icon and presented genderfluidity to the mainstream before transness was part of the collective consciousness. He himself has said “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something you will never understand.” He regularly wore high heels onstage, rocked crop tops, and wore long, curly, and feminine hairstyles. The Love Symbol is a melding of the male and female symbols to represent his undefined gender expression. His fashion choices and unapologetic sensuality challenged traditional black masculinity. He proved you didn’t have to be strictly male or female, but you could be a little of everything to create something entirely unique.

-He was a pioneer in artistic freedom and intellectual property by raging against his own record label. He did not yield to their demands and instead told them to go fuck themselves. For his entire career, he fought to have complete artistic control over his look, sound, and creative vision, and wouldn’t settle for anything less than what he wanted.

-And of course, the man was a multi-talented musician.

After a couple of days reflecting on his life, I realized something. I want what Prince had. What he has, even in death.

I want a legacy.

Prince left an indelible mark on not just music, but popular culture in general. He made an impact so great that the world is a different, and some would argue better, place having had him in it to share his art with us.

I want that for myself. About a year ago, I had an epiphany. I got out of bed and wrote in my journal a simple statement: I want to inform. This is why I’m here. I believe that my art is writing, and through my writing I can maybe, just maybe, make the world a better place. I want to help people to see the world differently. I want to let people know they are not alone. I want to encourage people embrace their quirkiness. In a society that tells us to hate ourselves for who we are, I want to show people that loving yourself is not only a radical act, but a necessary one. I want to make people think, and I want to touch people in places they never thought they would be. Just like Prince did.

This was a second epiphany that builds on my first one. I don’t want to just exist here. I want to be remembered. I want my work to be passed around and read for years to come. I want my name to be spoken of with fondness and familiarity. My greatest hope is that when I leave this Earth, the people in my life and the people in the community I eventually become part of (whether writing, blogging, social justice, or otherwise) remember me as a person who wrote love, truth, and positivity into the world.

That is what Prince made me realize. I don’t just want to live. I want to leave a legacy.

I Need Lingerie Lipsticks by Nyx ASAP — January 15, 2016

I Need Lingerie Lipsticks by Nyx ASAP

One thing you must know about me is that I have within the last year become OBSESSED with makeup. I am currently in the process of building my makeup collection, which is difficult because a) makeup is expensive, and b) my current salary (if you can even call it that, I work part time) does not support my new makeup addiction. Nyx is the brand I am lusting after the most as of now, so this video by YouTuber Bailey Van Der Veen has me crying a little inside. I mean just look at this collection!! I am swooning.

As a side note, I follow a small crop of makeup YouTubers. My favorite is Bailey, but my other subscriptions are to Bronte Jones (for my hooded eyes), Jaclyn Hill, and KathleenLights. I also check out ItsMyRayeRaye from time to time, although I don’t subscribe to her since she posts less frequently than the others I follow.

Check these beautiful ladies out and the video embedded above!

What I’m Digging Right Now: Ariana Grande’s “Focus” —

What I’m Digging Right Now: Ariana Grande’s “Focus”

I recently listened to this song and watched the accompanying music video this week, and I have to say, this might be the turning point for me with Ariana Grande. I’ve never disliked her, and in fact I’ve liked the majority of her singles up until this point. However, I’ve always been a little unsure about her. In all of her songs, performances, and music videos, it seemed as if she was almost trying to be a pop star, trying to prove herself. Whether it was her sex appeal, her vocal abilities, or her dancing, it always seemed to me that Ariana Grande was trying to play the role of pop star rather than being the genuine article. To me, her music and style has been overall very forced.

But, with “Focus,” for the first time I feel that Ariana is truly letting go and allowing herself to be free. I see liberation in this music video. I see the confidence of a young woman who is finally realizing she doesn’t have to care what people have to say about how sexy she is or how petite her body is or how well she can dance. And for once, I don’t think this song will be a massive hit; it doesn’t have quite the banger quality of all of her previous songs. Even still, the song is different enough to be a standout in her singles chronology. I love the male voice yelping out the “Focus on me!” in the chorus, and the sexy breakdown of horns in the bridge. In the video, I really like the black and white dance breakdown with Ariana leading a chorus line of carefree women in leotards. The video sells the lighthearted attitude of the song with its pastel colors, but Ariana and her dancers sell the sexy, flirtatious undertones with their moves and knowing glances.

All in all, I believe “Focus” is Ariana Grande’s coming-of-age anthem that has wholly convinced me she is a singer to be taken seriously. So, do as she commands, and focus on her.