Black women have a strained relationship with our hair and with good reason. In a White supremacist society, all beauty is measured against Whiteness and that truism is no better demonstrated by society’s obsession with straight hair. For far too long, Black women were told that in order to be beautiful and accepted, they had to perm their hair or hide it. And while The Natural Hair Movement took root in the past few years, Black women were long battling with the decision of how to style and maintain their hair, not knowing those choices can often become bold statements. For example, in a recent landmark decision, a federal court ruled that companies can fire employees for having dreadlocks. Black hair is political!
Nevlynnn, a pole dancer and natural hair queen extraordinaire, found herself in the precise conundrum of what to do with her coils after realizing that her damaged hair could not be revived. She not only made the decision to go natural, but also decided to get locs on her hair journey that became a 7-year quest to self-expression, fulfillment and acceptance. We sat down and had a conversation about “the big chop”, beauty standards, self-acceptance and living authentically.
“I knew I needed to go natural because all of my relaxed hair was several damaged and I really needed to do something healthier,” she explained, “I chose locs mostly because I just liked the style. I wanted something manageable and really fell in love with the look.”
Still, Nevlynn admits that the decision to go natural was far easier to make than the transition. At times, things became uncomfortable, but she understood the importance of confronting that discomfort for herself.
“I learned to just breathe and be present,” she explained about how she got through the initial moments of going natural, “I refused to wear hats even when I was scared. Sometimes I felt outcasted. Sometimes I felt ugly. But I needed to be there for that. To go through that ‘ugly’ stage and just be with it.”
To cope, Nevlynn looked to self-expression and presses for us all to follow suit.
“Journal,” she urged, “Talk about it. Write about it. Reflect and know that you are beautiful at the end of the day.”
As her hair grew, the locs queen never imagined that she would be faced with another challenge: dismantling the preconceived notions of beauty even surrounding locs.
“I wanted to look of manicured locks when I started my hair journey,” she explained, “I wanted my hair to look like Goapele. I wanted those long straight looking locks like straight hair. Throughout my journey I realized that hey.. I started growing my hair to break away from the weaves and the artificial beauty standards. Constantly trying to manicure my locks and make them look straight was against the purpose. I started to appreciate kinkier locks throughout the process. I wanted to liberate myself.”
She made the bold decision to let her dreadlocks grow completely wild and free, also known as “free form locs” and has since felt beautiful and empowered.
“I feel way more embodied in my own beauty now,” she said, “you know I love my hair and, yes, other people love my hair too. I receive compliments on my hair every day. That never happened in my life and I believe it is a product of my spiritual journey and growth. My hair feels like a crown and it reminds me of my regalness.”
Still, Nevlynn acknowledges that everyone wasn’t initially quite as supportive in the beginning.
“My mother, both of my parents really, disapproved when I first started growing my locs,” she explained. “I had a job interview at Taco Bell when my hair was only 3 months old and all crazy and matted. My mother told me, ‘you need to comb your hair out. straighten it for this interview. And after you get your job, then you can go back to getting your hair.’ It is really sad to think. Everything about that conversation was so messed up. Was I supposed to lose a part of my identity for a minimum wage job?”
Nevertheless, she committed and stayed true to herself and her own journey, even inspiring others to follow suit.
“I got that job and I continued to live my life with my hair,” she said, “My mom loves my hair now. She has accepted it as a part of me. She even has locks too. She stopped wearing wigs, which she wore for 20 years. Your commitment to your own authenticity is a service to others. Other people will grow from you being who you are. Even if there is resistance in the beginning.”
However, most importantly, Nevlynn wants to remind us all that hair is just that, hair. It should not define us, our value or our worth. And our relationship with our hair is a sacred one that we must, foremost, protect.
“When people try to identify your beauty by your hair, know that it’s just hair,” she said,”Just like you were able to let go of the hair and weave. Just like you were beautiful when you let go of that, you will be just as beautiful with no hair at all. How you feel about yourself is what is most important.”