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My Hair Journey

Posted Aug 25 2009 2:42pm

This is response to the upcoming movie "Good Hair" by Chris Rock. This movie will stir many emotions in Black Women as it did for me.


Enfin Liberation! This is my hair story. I always say that I was born and raised in a beauty salon. My mother, Eva Jones Temple Wilburn was a cosmetologist. I was her money maker. She was part owner of a beauty salon at 63rd & Halsted in Englewood back then. My mother grew my hair by pressing and curling it till it was half way down my back. At age five I got a perm. Women would watch my mother do my hair then jump in her chair. They would say if you can grow hair like that then you can certainly grow mine. I started modeling my hair at fashion shows at age five for the Midwest Beauty Trade Show at the Palmer House Hilton. I learned to swing my long straight hair as I moved down the runway.


My mother was one of the First African-American female cosmetologist to join the Chicago Cosmetologist Association. She joined the board which produced the Midwest Beauty Trade Show. She was truly a trail blazer.


In elementary school I wore wig pieces such the "I Dream of Jeannie braid". For my 8th grade graduation I wore a wiglet even though my hair was long and thick. Wigs had just hit the fashion scene. Black models launched their own lines for the first time then. It didn't matter if you had long hair or not. Every woman wore one. This new wig craze brings back memories from my childhood. I think it is interesting that women today will buy a new wig every month to change their look, hairstyle or haircolor. They find it cheaper to do this than to go to the beauty salon.


When I was thirteen my mother styled my hair with perm rods into an Afro. It broke off because it matted and I didn't know how to take care of a permed Fro. This was the time of Black Power movement and Afros were the rage.


At age sixteen, I forced my mother to cut my hair into a short, short, short Afro. She was in tears as she cut my hair. This was turbulent time in our relationship as I struggled to find my identity and myself. I asked her if there was a way that I could wear my hair naturally. She said no. We argued about my hair.
Well what did I make her do that for. The whole beauty salon was against me. They said I looked like a twelve year old boy. Remember I was her money maker. She couldn't make any money off that short Afro. Her friends told me that I had insulted her. I gave in to the pressure. I grew my hair into cornrows then eventually I went back to the perm and long hair. Society had won the first battle.


However, I experienced true hair liberation when I went to live in Paris, France after I graduated from college. I traveled with two international suitcases full of hair relaxers, conditioners, blow dryers, portable hair dryer, curling irons, combs, brushes. I traveled with my own beauty salon. But in Paris, I started blow drying my hair and wearing it straight without curl. Then I began to admire the beautiful natural braided styles of the African women from Senegal, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, etc. I longed for those hairstyles.


One day I stumbled upon an African Braid Salon near Sacre Coeur. I was so homesick that I sat in salon until they closed. I watched the African sisters as two and three of them braided hair on one person. I watched them adeptly design beautiful hairstyles. I felt right at home sitting in a salon all day.


During our six year odyssey of living overseas in France, Belgium, Venezuela, and Argentina. I decided to lose the two 100 pound suitcases of hair products and hair tools. It just got to be too much. It didn't make sense. In Venezuela, I sat many dark skinned Venezuelan sisters wearing short fros. I cut my hair once more. However, I was away from the Black Middle Class mentality of long straight hair. This time it was true liberation. I was finally free of all those hair products, tools and the peer pressure mentality.


While living in Istanbul, Turkey my mind was jolted into complete awakening about the beauty of natural hair. Cendrine and I were at a bank. The teller looked at Cendrine's natural ,thick , curly Afro puffs.

She said "Cok Guzel" (Very good) and pointed to Cendrine's hair. Then she pointed at my blown dry straight hair and said Niye(Why)? It was if the teller was saying your natural hair is so beautiful. Why do you do this?

Indeed why? Her few words were my revelation. My conscious mind woke up that day to the true beauty of Natural curly hair. What God has created and blessed us with as a people. It is Good Hair. That is when I got that I have "Good Hair." There is no need for me to straighten it for it to be "Good Hair".


Later when we returned to Chicago and settled down to raise our family. I created my natural hair with twists. Twists are version of an African hairstyle that I saw in Paris. Our African sisters use black thread to create their twists.


Today I have twisted hair that locked. Now I retwist my locked hair. I wear my locks twisted or twist out. This is a photo my locks as twist out. I get so many compliments on my locks.


I just get up and go. My hair always looks beautiful with little maintenance.

I can workout and swim without having to worry about my hair. I walk in the rain. No worries. I am free, free, free!!!



These are some of the hairstyles that I admire today. Jamaican Sisterlocks. The other hairstyle that I admire is worn by Rev. Ramah Wright. I am grateful to Rev. Wright for creating an environment in which sisters can proudly wear their hair natuarlly. TUCC has a boosted the self-esteem and beauty of African-American people.


What is your hair story?
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