The reason I woke up each day during my adolescent youth especially through the university hustle was because of the battle I had with my hair. I can fondly recount showing up to my lecture with a wig down to my shoulders and then with a buzz-cut in the next day’s tutorial session. Ahh fun and confusing times —this would continue all throughout my time at university. As a young black woman changing my hair was a form of expression, the only issue was that the inner turmoil inside did not allow the real me to shine through (Wear the hair don’t let it wear you). My logic was: if I could face the battle of my hair then I could win the battle of life, to be an advantageous member of a society that wasn’t always accommodating of my “uniqueness”. My thoughts?: “But if I could just style my hair into a perfect coiffure or tame it into a sleek persuasion or…”.
‘Or’ would become the inevitable word that defined me as a hair whisperer, going through so many visceral experiences, that at the time I did not hold too much significance over. However, when I saw a 50p sized bald spot or my hair whittle away into damage I felt that my self-esteem and access into the viewing public was at jeopardy. All this to say that my hair was (and is) very important to me – it remains an extension of who I am. At the moment I don’t plan to grow much hair (like my scalp is a farm) for the foreseeable future. At most my hair now stands at 4mm so you get the picture.
My first appreciation of hair came from American TV and Film, watching the favourite cult-clichés like Fresh Prince, My Wife and kids and One on One (if you know you know), observing the various hairstyles that the black female actresses had. Then I ventured on to 90s’ movie’s like Sister Act 2 and Coming To America and it was ingrained into me that black beauty, braids and afro-textured hair was not only a spectacle to behold but black people were deserving consumers of quality, healthy-hair products and the rest was history. It’s fair to say that the history of hair for African-Americans is different for Africans (which I am). Still, seeing that representation was a crucial moment in my angsty-hair-obsessed mind.
The Soul-glo advert anyone? This hilarious advert flung a fictional hair product mocking the over-the-top 80’s curly hair mop Into the Cult movie Coming To America. My only gripe with the real-life products that inspired Soul-glo was the chemical-altering properties that signified the “Curly Perm” aesthetic that would continue into the 90s‘ (a la Michael Jackson and his hair catching fire) although the black power movement clearly embraced the “natural” Afro look. Regardless, at least we had options, however risky they were haha.
Let’s take it back to when I was 5 or 6 in Nigeria, living in the city of Lagos with my grandparents. During my schooling, my Christian primary school wouldn’t allow girls to grow their hair to preserve a status quo (so we could focus on what was more important, our education). Nonetheless that gave me time to be a kid and not worry about trivial things. Yet I remember when my uncle had to cut my luscious locks which I’d been growing since a baby, but I was fine with it, I really had no choice but to.
“If I could face the battle of my hair then I could win the battle of life”
Soon, I would become bored with my hair, the short cut style looking stale and my bubbly personality suffering greatly. I was 6. At some point I begged my grandparents that I wanted to grow back my hair. That faithful next step would lead me into the hands of the neighbourhood hairdressers who would battle with my very thick hair to create tightly wound hair tentacles. This hairstyle would essentially be a protective style which composed of a long thread that once wound round individual sections, would stretch my hair from the root eliciting hair growth (No pictures of myself I’m afraid). This procedure was painful because for whatever reason they didn’t use any moisturising products whilst styling my hair so combing it was hell. Any person with Afro textured hair will stress the importance of not only drinking water but also applying it your hair; essentially my hair was just dry and unhappy (yay!).
A real turning point was when I started modelling and began seeking imagery which I would study to try marketing myself at the time. There were no models who looked like me with thick Afro textured hair in the magazines or campaigns to be inspired by. Regardless I was very proud of my natural hair, the main speed-bump being that I didn’t know how to take care of it. Let’s just say that I wasn’t really myself in my first few moments of modelling however no one could advice me better until I found out who I was.
On the journey of finding myself I decided to look back at some vintage photos of my family. I remember one picture that struck me was from my childhood in Nigeria, I must have been 6 at the time with a super short cut Afro. I thought to myself, “Wow, how cute do I look?” Then I pondered whether that same hairstyle would work for me now. At this point I started to feel jaded from modelling as I felt like I wasn’t getting the response with the long hair look I was advertising. I didn’t know what look worked for me let alone who I wanted to be. I was kinda lost but it’s fair to say that once I went short I never looked back (shoutout to female barber Kerryann at CutAbove barber shop in Willesdengreen whoop!) .
In a way I felt that nature, being the thing that we are destined to be, would always come back to bite me (in a good way) at the right time when all the unnecessary baggage of the world couldn’t do any worse. It was like a re-birth and all the things that seemed so important or scary were mere flecks of dust. So as I sat in the barbers chair last year November and I cut my hair short(er) I had to let go of EVERYTHING! (Not as easy as it sounds walking around with no hair and occasionally being misgendered with “excuse me sir” ha).
When a woman cuts her hair it definitely means something is about to go DOWN! At least now I can say I’m finding myself in those changes and realising how that inner turmoil was actually my intuition guiding me, hair long or short, all along.