In the few memories I have of my hair being natural as a child, all I remember hearing my mother say about it was that it was "bad" and "coarse." I dreaded weekly wash days, because when it came to detangling, my mom — who had type 3B hair — would struggle to get through my mane, and I'd end up in agony from all the pulling and snagging.
Besides that, I was usually the only black girl in my elementary classes, and the white kids at school had no qualms about letting me know my hair was different. They'd like to touch my hair without asking, as if I was a petting zoo animal, pose questions like, "How do you even wash it?" and say my hair was "too big."
Getting these types of negative messages at school and at home led me to start hating my hair at a very young age, all because everyone around me made it seem like a problem. I truly believed, in my 6-year-old heart, that there was something wrong with it, and that my hair needed to be fixed in some way. So when my mom gave me my first relaxer a year later when I was in the second grade, I definitely wasn't opposed to it — I was excited! I couldn't wait to finally have "good hair."
On the day when I was getting my perm, I remember sitting in the bathroom of my childhood home on a kitchen chair, with Vaseline all over my scalp, as my mom mixed up a batch of Just For Me relaxer. She parted my hair into four sections and started applying it to the back of my head, making her way around.
Once she was done, we waited for around 15 to 20 minutes to allow the relaxer to straighten out my kinks. Then, my mom put my head over the sink to wash it out.
As the creamy crack started going down the drain, I lifted my arm up to touch my hair. I immediately noticed the change in texture. My strands were now soft and straight — exactly what my mom wanted, and what I thought I wanted, too.
Once my hair was towel dried, I looked in the mirror and thought to myself: "Wow, I finally look normal." I was infatuated with my new hair, touching it every moment I could, just to remind myself how sleek and "pretty" it was. Then as the weeks went on, I noticed that wash day got easier, styling got easier. I could do painless ponytails and sleek buns, just like the white kids I was surrounded by.
At that time, I had no idea how damaging this all was to my self-esteem. Without even knowing it, I was aspiring to a white beauty standard — one that, as a black girl, I would truly never be able to meet. But I kept it up for almost 16 years, spending a ton of money over time to get a relaxer every six weeks — either at home or at the salon — because I thought that's what I "needed" to do with my hair.
But when I was just about to turn 23, I decided that I'd had enough. Something inside me switched, and I was just sick of feeling like I had to mask a part of myself. Plus, I was seeing all these photos on Instagram of beautiful black women proudly rocking their glorious Afros — and I wanted that, too.
So I wore different protective styles for about eight months while I transitioned, fully aware of what I was getting myself into. But when it was time for me to take out my final set of braids and do my big chop, I looked at myself in my bathroom mirror and started to freak out.
All the times I was ever told that I had "bad hair" started replaying, over and over, in my mind. I began to think that I was making a huge mistake and I'd look hideous with natural hair. I didn't even really know what my real texture looked like.
But once I stepped out the shower and looked in the mirror, exploring the mix of 4A, B, and C coils throughout my hair, all that panic went away. I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw.
That same thick head of hair I once despised was now something I adored. It was big, it was fluffy, and I thought it framed my face perfectly. Even when it came to combing it out for the first time, it wasn't hard for me to detangle or style my hair. I didn't understand what my mother had complained about for all those years.
It was in these moments that I realized I didn't need straight hair to have "good hair." I needed to just love what was growing from my scalp — in its natural state.
But I'm well aware that the same natural hair movement of the 2000s that inspired me to get rid of my relaxer hasn't exactly been inclusive of all textures. I've always questioned why 4C hair had little representation, and those with a full head of this lovely texture have long wondered the same. That's why Bustle is celebrating the kinkiest texture of all the hair types with Good Hair, a series all about 4C hair — because it's time to push the movement even further.
Over the past month, we've rolled out stories including a gorgeous photoshoot featuring seven women with 4C coils speaking about their hair journeys and the joy they find in their hair, an exclusive interview with Kelly Rowland on creating safe spaces for girls with kinky hair, a feature story uncovering the history of texture discrimination, a beautiful personal essay from a biracial woman with 4C hair on getting braids for the first time, and so much more. Now, they're all available together.
My hope with Good Hair is that anyone with 4C coils — who has ever been told their hair was a problem or felt ashamed of their hair — can learn more about their ancestry, understand why texture discrimination exists, and see other people glowing with this beautiful texture. Through these stories, I want everyone with 4C hair reading to realize that what is growing from of their scalp is nothing short of glorious.