What I love about the “new” naturals

December 13, 2014

6th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon I have to make this quick because I’m desperately tired. But I’ve been trying to write in the early mornings, you know, productivity. So I had a discussion with my sister yesterday and among other things we talked a lot about hair. Since were from Caribbean heritage which involved a lot of African ancestry we both have “black hair” that we have allowed to be natural, i.e. not chemically straightened. It wasn’t always that way, as young girls we went through the typical tradition of getting relaxers which permanently straightened our hair for a few weeks, then we had to regularly go to the salon ever 6 weeks to two months to “relax our roots” (what symbolism).

My younger sister was the first to stop. She was never a fan of the hair salon and just hated going, this was in her teen years. I wouldn’t stop until late in college after reading an essay that really stopped me in my tracks. I don’t remember what exactly it was about but I remember feeling like I didn’t want to put this creamy stuff (creamy crack as it’s affectionately known) in my hair anymore, I wanted to be myself. So I let my natural hair grow and later cut off the straight hair. That wasn’t fun and if I could go back I wouldn’t do it again, but Alhumduillah hair grows back. Since then… 5 hours later, lol, I fell asleep.

So there is one main natural hair movement we can all look back on in the not so distance1_AngelaDavis_1_1024x1024 past and that is the “Black Power” natural hair movement of the 60’s and 70’s. As it seems, black women and men were giving up the hot comb and chemical relaxer to show their black empowerment, to prove “black is beautiful” and to be anti establishment. Going “back to our roots” and back to a more authentic version of ourselves. The hair was big, very big, and it was all about the afro unfortunately I never saw a picture of my dad from this error but he reports that his afro was quite big I do have one picture of my mom in the 70’s/ early 80’s with a short modest afro. Back then it was all about the afro pick and afro sheen.

The new natural movement strikes me as distinctly different from the old natural movement. It’s the same idea in essence, going against prevailing beauty standards and back to our more natural selves. But in the new natural movement there is no urge to turn away from attaining beauty standards, a new standard has merely been created. In going through a plethora of black hair blogs a YouTube videos a few things are clear: Curl definition, length, manageability and shine are the beauty standard for any natural. Yes, love what grows from your head but take care of it. The image I get from the 70’s is of people simply picking their afro and spraying some shine on it. Very simple. But today no new natural is simply picking and shining in fact combing dry hair is a big no-no. A “wash and go” is probably one of the biggest illusionary titles ever given to a hair style. New naturals are detangling, deep conditioning, oiling and constantly looking for new methods of taking care of their hair. Not only this but they (we) are checking for length and curl definition. There is also work to be put in at bed time. You wouldn’t dare sleep with your hair out and then comb it in the morning you’re asking for trouble (unless you’re married then you should probably figure out another routine, lol). You would oil it then braid, twist or bantu knot before bed.

There is a beauty ideal to attain, bringing your hair to it’s best. Though this very much has to do with black beauty and returning to our roots I think what’s more prominent in the movement is a general idea of self acceptance, self-love and making the most of what you’ve got. I have yet to hear a new natural talk about not “looking like the white man” or not “buying the white man’s products”. Though I think that had its place in the 60’s and 70’s I think a more general self acceptance is more valuable to my generation. And though there are some distinctive beauty ideals in the new natural movement I think there is more diversity in how one can or should wear their hair then in the 60’s/70’s. It’s not so much about the fact that my roots express my “Africaness” but that my roots are mine, they grow out of my head and I am going to accept it and love it and everyone else will have to follow suit. What’s similar about the old movement and the new is that their both empowering and that’s of extreme value. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be natural so if you’re tempted to give it a shot now’s the time to let your roots grow.

Advice on going natural: Blackgirlslonghair.com and CurlyNikki.com are good places to start.

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