Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Natural Beauty: Maria

Maria is one of many making the Triangle's natural hair scene so rich. We met at a Christian spoken word event in Durham a few years ago, and then I saw her growing portfolio of hair pics on FB -- so dynamic with the styles. Maria, thanks for sharing your story!  :-)

The lovely Maria
1) What lessons did you learn about hair/beauty when you were younger? 

            “Your hair is your glory!” Those 5 words were ingrained in my brain at an early age. My mother was adamant that women should have loooong hair! My hair was long, but it was always (and I mean ALWAYS) swoll! It wouldn’t stay straight if my life depended on it. My relaxers didn’t seem to ever “take” which resulted in a nice hot straightening comb being added to the mix. I would get a relaxer almost every 4 weeks as a result of trying to “tame” my hair. It’s a miracle that I kept ANY hair on my head. HA! Needless to say, I had MANY hair challenges. I wanted it to be silky straight and it WOULD be for about a good week.
            My hair was such a challenge that I used to keep one of those portable thermacell curling irons to curl my bangs on the school bus because they had started to rebel before I was able to make it to class. It was just so sad J. Everyone always said I had this pretty thick head of hair, but I could barely stand it because it never did what I wanted it to. Can you imagine the frustration of spending countless hours on your hair only for it to look like a puffy mess??? Oh and DON’T SWEAT! Or let it be raining! OMG!  Hair slicked back in a ponytail with some Dax Pomade became my constant companion.
            I was drilled in my head that your hair should be nice and neat, long and straight, so I think it was a “not-so-subconscious” act of rebellion that I chopped it all off when I turned 21. I thought a haircut was best thing that EV-ER happened to me. With enough spritz and gel, my hair was fiercely fabulous and untouchable (literally LOL). My mom almost put me over her knee for a beatdown when I came home from college with about 1.5 inches of hair. She nearly lost it. HA! Definitely an unforgettable moment.

2) How has your perspective about hair/beauty changed over time?
I’d never admit this to my mommy, but I’ve truly come to believe that my hair IS indeed my glory. It’s an extension of who I am as a woman, God’s magnificent creation, fearfully and wonderfully made. It’s my responsibility to be a good steward of the vessel God has given me (mind, body, and soul) and this means treating it with tender loving care.

3) When and how did you decide to go natural?
When it comes to my hair, versatility is a must. I’d done just about everything, including long hair, short hair, fingerwaves, ponytails, etc. The only thing I hadn’t done was rock a natural ‘do. It was something I always wanted to do, but I was stuck on trying to be “silky straight.” Unfortunately, in 2008, I began having issues with immune system that caused my skin to blister. This included my scalp. I felt that it was in the best interest of my health to stop the chemicals. I was unsure what the cause of my autoimmune disorder was, but going natural would be a good place to start the healing process.

Since I’d worn my hair short for 11 years, it was easy for me to transition to natural hair. As it grew, I’d have my stylist cut out the relaxer a little at a time. In the meantime I tried several other styles like kinky or senegalese twists to help me maintain during the times I felt like giving up. Now I’m happy to be healed from the autoimmune disorder and have a head full of naturally curly hair.

4) What three hair products/tools are must-haves for you?
It’s difficult to narrow my “must-haves” down to only 3. I guess I’ll start with my Ecostyle Olive Oil styling gel – I just LOOOOVE it! I use it for my twists, up-dos, wash-n-go, etc, etc, etc. Next would be my paddle brush. I could break into song when I think of my brush. “I need thee! Oh I need thee!” With all this thick hair, it’s very helpful in my detangling process. The final must-have is shea butter…I couldn’t pick just one hair product in particular, BUT, most of the ones I use have shea as their base.

5) Where do you go for natural hair inspiration or advice?
YOU-TUBE and GOOGLE!!! These websites are my main source for hairstyles and product reviews. Other major sources of inspiration are my friends. Several of my friends are natural and have gone through the tests and trials of finding the right products for their hair. It’s helpful to be able to bounce ideas and recommendations off of each other.

6) What are the best aspects of being natural? The most challenging aspects?
The best aspect of being natural for me is the ability to play in the rain or workout without freaking out about the moisture. I also like the fact that my hair isn’t brittle or over-processed. It’s healthy, strong, and longer than ever. Another great aspect is that I have LOTS of styling options that don’t require heat or spritz. It’s so liberating.

Before going natural, I would use just about any product that would give me the desired result.  The most challenging aspect of being natural is that I must pay attention to the ingredients of the products I use and I may pay more money. I try to stay away from products that have mineral oil or petroleum. Because so many products contain these ingredients, I have to do more research. Find the right products for my grade of hair has been a challenge as well. My bathroom cabinet often looks like a science lab. It is definitely trial and error. What works for me might not work for you and vice versa.

My biggest challenge has been to resist being affected by other people’s perception of my hair. When I first started with about an inch of hair, folks either loved it or HATED it and God has blessed me with friends that don’t mind speaking their minds. In addition, people that don’t even “know me like that” made and still make comments like “I don’t know if I like that,” “Wow your hair is really big!”, or “I like it better the OTHER way”. Let’s just say that it’s been an interesting journeyJ.

Thankfully, though it took me a while, I walk with confidence and the belief that my hair is beautiful and so am I regardless of the style choices I make on a particular day.

7) What's the best compliment you ever received regarding your natural hair/beauty?
“Girl, people pay good money for hair like that!” Hearing those words put a big old’ smile on my face because I have actually been one of those people to PAY good money for hair just like this. As a matter of fact, I still have a few hair pieces stored away somewhere.

8) In closing, please share anything on your mind regarding natural hair.

I have said “DO YOU!” so many times over the past couple of months. As I mentioned before, many of my friends are natural or contemplating the journey. While I listen to their struggles or concerns, I have to admonish them to do what feels good or right for them. Don’t do it because it seems to be fashionable or because somebody said you should or shouldn’t. Do it because it’s what you want to do. If you see the benefits, it’s worth a try.

Going natural is definitely a process! It takes time to adjust especially if you’ve been getting relaxers all your life. This journey requires patience and the ability to persevere because the urge to give up may come tap you on the shoulder.

Honestly speaking, there are those rare times that I just want to cut it all off and slap a perm in it because I admit that I miss the days of just taking off my wrap cap, finger combing, and rolling out! But when I think of all the chemicals that I’m not putting in my body and see the glorious sheen and curl of my natural hair, I put the thought in the trash can of my memories and relish in the fact that I made the best decision for me, myself, and I.

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