Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Au Naturale

The beautiful Ms. Lori. I think of her as the Jamaican Carrie Bradshaw.

To see my friend Lori is to look at style coordination brought to life. Her 4 inch pumps always match her chic dresses. She wears the cutest patterned tights, belted coats and tailored jackets. Her style aesthetic is very much that of a lady. And her hair, long red locs that fall down her back, sets her look off perfectly.

Gone is the outdated view that to be natural means tie-dye shirts and Birkenstocks. As natural looks have become ever more accepted in the mainstream, women with totally different fashion tastes have taken to wearing their hair naturally. Although Lori wears her hair natural- sans relaxers- she favors a 1960's style closer to Jackie Kennedy than Angela Davis. She went through a number of looks before deciding to loc her hair. She use to straighten her hair with permanent relaxers, also experimenting with temporary straighteners."Perming my hair made it brittle and hard. Dying it didn’t help, either," she explained. As a girl, she wore her short hair pulled back because of limited styling options: "My cousin and I were forced to subject ourselves into wearing the infamous stub-tail with a scrunchy hair do for a good portion of our teenage life." She unfortunately was called a "Jamaican booty scratcher... and bald head Lori-Ann in Jamaica".

Lori with her little love, 4 year old Justyn. Justyn, by the way, was once madly in love with me. Then K came along and ruined it. We'll always have the memories of watching Disney movies and playing cars.

While she never was a booty scratcher, she did cut her hair very short in high school, which she enjoyed (and sometimes wishes to do now). I saw a picture of her from that time period, and it was an adorable cut. Half Toni Braxton, half Halle Berry. She opted to loc her hair, an option she has never regretted. And asked if she could have any type of hair, she answered with one word: "Natural."

Contrary to her shirt, her name is Candace. But she really is awesome.

If there is a word that fits Candace, a friend of mine since the first day of 11th grade when we were both transfers at a new school, it's natural. She doesn't like make-up, preferring to just wear some lip gloss and keep it moving. She doesn't do fake nails and keeps it simple with the jewelry. I think there's a little hippiness in her, too, what with all her smiling and hugging. She might actually take a fashion cue from Angela Davis (just fashion, people- she is not a latter day Black Panther). So it makes sense that she has never taken a hit of the creamy crack... um, relaxed her hair. She does like to straighten it sometimes, so she'll have it blown out or flatironed. Of mixed ancestry- her mom is from Dominica and her father, Puerto Rican- Candace has found the best salons for her cater to women of varying ethnicites. "I do go to mixed race salons. I specifically choose to go to salons that are run by Afro-Hispanics- a person that tends to come from the hispanic Caribbean- because they use the best techniques to deal with my type of hair. I don't go to any other salons. But I have found that people of ethnicity can deal with and do all types of hair while it's not necessarily the same for salons that are run by Caucasians."

While Candace has embraced her natural roots (both literally and figuratively), she doesn't have a problem with other women who wear weaves, wigs and extensions or relax their hair. There have been countless debates about Black women who relax their hair "trying to be white", Candace doesn't see it that way. She shared, "Not 'keeping it real!' by wearing fake hair is bull! Some people have different types of hair. Like me, for example, I have thin hair and I was actually considering getting extensions to volumize it. The only problem I have with weave is when it's ghetto and ridiculous!" She continued, " I feel the same way in regards to trying to 'white' because you straightened your hair. I love my natural curly hair but sometimes I want it to be straight. It has nothing to do with trying to be white. I LOVE BEING Black and Puerto Rican. I love my hair, I love my skin color. It's beautiful! And sisters that perm their hair straight most of the times do it because it's more manageable that way."

Tangie stopped relaxing her hair after experiencing major breakage. Bet you can't tell, right?

Manageability was what Tangie, a native New Yorker with a pretty smile and a knack for design, was after when she relaxed her hair as a teen. She wanted one a kid, but was forbidden by her mother and grandmother. At 15 or 16, her hair was virgin no more: "I actually got it because my hair would curl up and would not hold a style." But keeping her naturally curly hair in check came with a price. When I was 22, my hair came out due to color and perm. It was so bad I had bald spots in my head." Tangie has let the relaxer grow out (when I met her last year at lunch with Lori, I couldn't tell), usually styling her hair at home. She sometimes goes to a salon, one that handles a mixed clientle. She has visited salons that try to pressure her to go the chemical route, but she's left that in the past. "I do what I want!" She exclaimed, it's "about me being happy and if I'm happy nappy or silky then so be it."

When I asked her if she could choose any type of hair, what would it be, she answered, "I would choose my own because every race or person with a different texture hair has something they don't like about it and want to change. So, I'll stick with what I have." And I think, at the heart of it, that's what keeping it natural is really about, staying with your own texture and working with it and rocking it, whether it's twisting it into locs, rocking a curly fro, or flatironing it straight. Tangie did make a good point, too, about people of different races having something about their own hair they don't like. Think it's only Black women? Think again. In a coming Hair Story, we'll look at the battle women of different races- including Indian, Jewish, Latina and Italian- wage to style their hair.

Bonus: Do you wear your hair natural? Check out Black Girl With Long Hair for great styling tips and amazing products. Also, check out the Far Above Rubies Fan Page on Facebook to find out the hair tips Lori, Candace and Tangie use to keep their hair healthy. Not a fan? Join today!


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