By: Ikeoma Divine, owner of Third Eye Lounge
“In this culture, we are taught from the time we are little girls through our dolls, fairy tales, advertising, and commercials that our hair equals beauty.” — Sanaa Lathan
When you grow up in a society that not only teaches you that hair equals beauty but “YOUR HAIR” is NOT beautiful, it sets you up to live a life of constantly trying to attain a power outside of yourself. In doing so, we miss one of life’s most important messages: You came here with everything that you need to succeed, including your unique physical attributes.
My earliest memories of being “trained” to look “civilized” was sitting in my aunt’s kitchen (who was a hair dresser) waiting to get my hair straightened with the infamous hot comb. The smell of burnt hair and the sound of the grease melting to my scalp as heat was applied is still engraved in my memory. Even as a child I would rebel against such mental conditioning by taking the bows out of my hair in church and running outside to sweat as my hair “turned back” into its natural state. Eventually, I conformed to this weekly process but there was always a deep seeded regret of not being able to just “be me.”
I moved to Brooklyn, New York in 2000 and I remember seeing all of these beautiful black people with their natural hair styles. I felt like I had walked into “Wakanda” even before I had ever heard of the fantasyland. At that time, in the South, perming and wearing weaves were a part of everyday life. There was actually something wrong with you if you allowed your hair to be in an afro or frizzy… not to mention having the abomination of locs.
For me, seeing these people walk in their power reminded me of my most natural instinct…. And so, I went for it… stopped perming my hair. I grew the biggest fro that I’ve ever had in four years but in 2006, I did the big chop!
It was after visiting Africa for the 1st time. I arrived there to see some women with very short haircuts who were absolutely beautiful. A week before I left Ghana, I dreamed that I cut all of my hair off. Two weeks later, back in the US, I did it. IT WAS SOOOOO LIBERATING. Although it was done at a time when most women wouldn’t dare do so, I was utterly surprised by the response from men. I noticed that not only would men go out of their way to compliment me on my short cut, but that I started attracting “different” kind of men. These men really thought I was beautiful in my natural state and were not really concerned with an “image” of me or what I was supposed to represent. It also forced me not to hide behind my hair and to tap into my most powerful attribute… my femininity. It’s an attribute imitated by many, but the power comes from one’s authenticity.
Although I’ve been on this loc journey for 10 years, that time of bold baldness changed my whole perception of my own beauty and forced me to reconcile the difference between innate power and beauty, and the imitation of such. I don’t need to imitate ANYTHING or anyone to attain beauty. This has been a liberating state of mind for me which has influenced the way I move in every aspect of my life.
Seeing the movie “Nappily Ever After” was a long-needed confirmation in the form of art that reminded me of how powerful taking back control of my natural image of beauty has been. It also opens the dialogue of black women and our relationships with our hair. I feel that it is important to embed positive impressions about true self-worth to little black girls which is not tied to images that don’t reflect them. The messages in this movie really hit home.
I applaud Sanaa for embracing her true roots and having such an open and honest dialogue with women around the world on the subject. Way to go sistah!
Ikeoma (I kE Oma) Divine, affectionately known by her peers as “Kiki,” is a registered nurse and spiritual counselor. Through her business, Ikeoma’s Eye (ikeomaseye.com), she provides workshops, advice and insight on love, health, business and guidance to rediscover one’s life purpose. She opens herself up to the community more at 3rd Eye Lounge (thirdeyelounge.com) – a boutique botanica — where she hosts community-based workshops based on ancestral practices.