Why I Went Natural

I was caught candidly by a campus photographer getting chatty with the University President. This photo was placed on a bookmark and distributed to EVERY SINGLE on-campus student. Despite my awkward facial expression, I loved the photo because of my fly hair...

            Since reaching adolescence it has been there, within my hair, that harbors 75% of my “physical” self-esteem (I’m being honest).  In college I was known for being obsessed with my hair.  It is a known fact that if I’m having a great hair day, it’s virtually impossible to have a bad day and if I’m having a bad hair day, I feel like crawling into a cave and hibernating until the dreadful day is over.  Seriously.  Some may think that’s a bit much obsessive/much but I liken it to women who may significantly appreciate an acne-free face or rocking the hottest pumps/boots/purse of the season.  We all have our vices (if you will), and for years my hair has been mine.

In undergrad, my mantra was "The straigher, the better!"

          I came from the age, “the straighter the better.”  It was when I was three years old my mother (a Black woman) walked me into a salon so that I could receive my first texturizer.  As I got older, I began putting super-strength relaxers in my mildly-textured hair every 4-5 weeks without thinking twice about it.  I wanted any and every semblance of a “wave” permanently removed.  Once I no longer had to rely on my mother and her amazing skills with the hot comb because I was able to properly manipulate a flat iron, I began experimenting with different lengths, hair styles and colors.  Unlike India.Arie has been known to preach, I most definitely WAS my hair.

               As a result (up until one year ago actually) I scoffed at the “natural-haired” sistas.  I found it VERY difficult to take newly transitioned naturals seriously because they seemed so fake.  After deciding to “go natural” these previous superficial, shopaholic, drama-and-gossip-filled mongrels would be suddenly transformed into deep philosophers on a quest to right the world’s wrongs and would preach on their new level of self-awareness which had led them to finding a new happy-place within themselves. *cue Jill Scott’s “Golden.”* I called bullcrap.  Who was really happy having to fight/battle with all that nappiness every day?  You couldn’t comb it, it looked dirty and it definitely didn’t look oiled and moisturized.  That “dry toast” natural-hair looked like nothing more than a nightmare to me.

Ashley and I w/ relaxers at the Alpha's 2006 B&G Ball

              Then Ashley Adkins went natural.  She had told her inner circle that she was growing out her relaxer in an effort to go natural, but I didn’t believe her.  I’m not sure anyone was taking it too seriously (other than Ashley).  She’d attempted going natural before and had fallen victim to that creamy crack.  But then she did the unthinkable.   Not only did she go natural, but Ashley big-chopped.  I was shocked.  She (women who knew Ashley) was shocked.  He (men who knew Ashley) was shocked.  Anyone who knew Ashley Adkins was shocked. 

So fly! Ashley transitioning, right before her big chop!

               Ashley was/is the fly chick who is gorgeous, the heart of Mother Teresa (we still jokingly refer to her as “Mother Earth”), PHENOMENAL style and flair and the personality of a million unicorns-sweet, good-hearted, and never wishing anyone ill-will.  She’s an amazing, inspirational person to know (one of my truest and best friends) and SHE WENT NATURAL.  Natural was NOT seen as something that the “IT” girl would do.  BUT THE “IT” GIRL DID THAT.  And even if not everyone supported it (some may have given her the side-eye) Ashley confidently rocked her natural hair.  She was secure in it.  And most importantly, Ashley never once made any apologies for it.

Christen, myself and Denise in Cape Town, South Africa before our natural hair journeys

               I had to respect that.  Really, how could you not?  Ashley changed my views of what “natural hair” could mean.  Maybe it wasn’t social suicide.  And Ashley’s hair didn’t look too dry now when I looked at it.  While I still was convinced relaxed hair was for me, I was no longer convinced that “natural hair” was wrong.  Then in Summer 2009 Christen, another good friend of mine, went natural.  Christen, you guys, went natural!  Christen was the quintessential prissy/pretty/dainty girl who was so prim and proper.  What I had before accepted, I now began to admire.  Then Denise, Christen’s best friend, crossed over that fall.

               With this news, I had to take a step back and evaluate.  I now not only admired natural hair, I began getting curious about what natural hair could mean to me.  I had seen Ashley become more obsessed with her quest for world peace (lol), I saw Christen finding new love with her old love (aww) and I saw Denise moving to the East coast to chase her dreams.  It seemed like all my girls had found a newer, better version of themselves.  I wasn’t trying to be left out.  That winter my older cousin/bff/sister Shelby and I realized we were ready to try this thing out (Shelby for the second time) and we dived straight in and began our natural-hair project.

East Quad Girls...today we're all natural except for one 😉

               December 9, 2010 I received my last relaxer.  While I have reluctantly glanced once or twice to the past and reflected on my relaxed days, I can’t say that I ever wish to return to them.  It is with my natural-hair that I have found a better, happier, more-focused Ashley Marie Yancey.  My heart is bigger and fuller than it has ever been, my spiritual man is more focused on the things that are most important (everlasting life, hello!) and personally, my relationships have shaped into deeper, more meaningful interactions.  I thank God for this.  I am eternally grateful for “following the crowd” and “jumping on the bandwagon.” What was initiated with such a superficial rationale has now harvested such a fruitful bounty.  Saints, can I get an Amen?!  How about a Hallelujah!?  Now that’s what I’m talkin bout! Haha!

Shelby and I rocking our natural hair in NYC Summer 2010

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