How Alvin Ailey Inspired My Natural Hair Journey
08 May 2015
I was 19 when I first thought about locking my hair. My new-found hair choice was causing me so much conflict. Would I be pretty? How would I maintain my hair? Would I get a boyfriend? My inner voice shouted, “You'll be ugly!” I will never forget my best friend’s question to me: “How do you expect to get a job like that? I thought you were going to be the businesswoman?”
I'd thought about locking my hair for almost ten years. My final epiphany came while attending an Alvin Aliey dance performance. I admired the dancers; their grace, style and finesse. I wondered how they had decided to dance for a living. I was raised to believe the only “good” job I could get was a doctor, teacher or lawyer. But these dancers were different; they were disciplined, professional, traveling the world and getting paid! I admired how they dared to dream. The dancers' style exuded so much freedom. In my mind, their freedom allowed them to leap in the air with so much flair.
In that moment, I knew I wanted the freedom to be Octavia Hooks. So I took the leap and locked my hair. My decision to lock my hair meant… freedom!
In that moment, I knew I would be judged differently based on my hair. But, I also knew that I did what was right for my spirit which allowed me to be myself.
Today, more and more women are wearing their hair naturally. However, I am surprised when natural hair wearers get in an uproar about negative, and sometimes blatantly racist comments from close family members, friends and the mainstream media. I recall when Don Imus, former MSNBC Sports Commentator, referred to a group of young African American Rutgers University women’s basketball players as “nappy headed ho’s.” Or, Giuliana Rancic commenting that Zendaya’s locks made her look like she smelled of patchouli and weed.
Today, I want to shout loud and proud, “Stop being outraged!” Think about it, why are you outraged? Why are you surprised that our ancestral hairstyles are the focus of criticism? Stereotypes are a part of life. They may be uncomfortable and unfair, but they exist no matter where in the world you live.
I think it’s actually a good thing that natural hair critics are talking about and sharing their misconceptions with the world. These talks inspire conversation that will potentially break down barriers. These conversations can stimulate change and amend the social norm. So, why get offended? You are strong enough to wear natural hair, and strong enough to help breakdown the old natural hair stereotypes. Loc aficionados are everywhere in the professional world. Loc wearers have a seat at the corporate table, walk down the Oscar’s red carpet, run with power on the professional football field, and heal patients in hospitals—just to name a few.
Be Yourself, Everybody else is taken! Oscar Wilde
Showcasing your best natural style allows you to display all that greatness in you. As a natural hair enthusiast, you belong to a rapidly-growing community. Stay strong in your individuality, and make an impact by demonstrating professionalism, creativity and a passion for being uniquely you. Together, we can begin to breakdown the stereotypes and change the perceptions of natural hair.
As a practicing as loctician and natural hair stylist, I’ve grown to realize that wearing your natural hair inspires one of life’s greatest lessons: confidence. Natural hair enthusiasts, let us hear from you.
What is one of the most important lessons you learned from going natural?