How Alvin Ailey Inspired My Natural Hair Journey

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?

Photograph ©Zack Mahone Photography (Creative Commons).

Octavia Hooks

Octavia Hooks is a contributing writer who loves promoting Natural hair care! She is the founder of Octavia’s Natural Hair Care Experience. Hooks is a licensed Barber, Certified Lock stylist with over 10 years of experience in caring for and maintain natural hair. In addition, Hooks is a certified LEED Green Associate and has a Master’s degree specializing in the management of non-profit and government organizations. For more information on Octavia, visit


  1. Love it Diana! You're so right that natural hair is a great conversation starter and way to connect with others. Just today, I had someone comment on my hair while it was down–which I rarely ever wear it. Keep doing what you're doing: the world needs your brilliance!

  2. Loved the article… I've learned that natural hair allows me to be approachable to others with natural hair. I feel as if I actually have something in common with other beautiful Butterflies who see my hair and want to know how I'm doing what I'm doing. It's been my conversation piece and I love that. Breaking down the walls one curl at a time..;)


    Yes to all of this! I recently started wearing my hair in the more natural curly state even though I haven't had a relaxer for years I still pressed it. But it's amazing the freedom I've felt since letting my curls show. I feel more ME and it shows. Love that you were able to embrace your true self and are now on a journey to educate others!

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: May 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm

      I’m a big believer in being authentic—haven’t always been that way, but definitely going natural helped me get on that path.

  4. I can safely say that deciding to wear my hair in its natural state changed my life! It sounds a bit dramatic, but making that decision has led me down a path I would have never imagined.  It allowed me to discover new passions and my purpose. 

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: May 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm

      Vashti, I agree! It’s amazing what embracing your own natural hair can do for your self esteem and personal perspective.

  5. Thanks for the comment Nadine! I'm sure Octavia-Cuts Locks-Hooks can relate. I would love to read your post on the Alvin Ailey dancers.

  6. I am three years into my natural hair journey and also three years into my entrepreneurial journey. Making the decision to go natural was definitely an epiphany for me as well…it forced me to truly look myself in the mirror and embrace all of who I am.

    • Julian B. Kiganda Says: May 14, 2015 at 4:55 am

      I definitely agree that making the decision to go natural is a very liberating and empowering thing. Congrats on your three-yearversary!

  7. I am almost 3 years natural and although I mostly wear my hair straight I love it! Good for you for taking the leap! I love and have admired Alvin Ailey since I was a child. I had the opportunity to meet and interview two of the dancers here in Atlanta in Feb and blogged about it!

  8. Raquel Says: May 8, 2015 at 9:20 pm

    Freedom to be me!!

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