Like most people, my relationship with my hair has changed over the years. Some days I prefer it longer and lighter, and other days I want it jet black and cropped close. I would love to say my hair decisions have never been influenced by society's idea of beauty, but sadly, I know they have.
So when 2018 arrived, I decided to get rid of that mindset and do something drastic with my look. That meant returning to a hairstyle that always made me feel beautiful, even when others couldn't see it.
But as much as I loved those looks, the style I felt most confident in was this "Big Chop" look from college. Unfortunately, I was afraid to return to it for a pretty embarrassing reason.
While in college, I liked a guy who ended up not feeling the same way (which is totally OK). When I told my friend about it she replied, "Maybe it's because of your hair."
I was taken aback at what she said, although it sadly wasn't surprising. As a woman (and especially as a Black woman), I am well-aware of the stigmas those with short (and kinky) hair face and I knew then I didn't fit into society's traditional views of beauty.
But rather than ignore what my friend said, I took it to heart and chose hairstyles that fit into conventional standards of beauty.
I've worn wigs, weaves, braids, and everything in between over the years, and I wish I could confidently say all of my hair decisions were simply because I liked them, but they weren't. Sometimes (OK, a lot of the time), I felt like in order to be "beautiful," my hair had to fit a certain mold. And unfortunately, that mold usually wasn't something I liked, but what I felt others would like me to wear.
But now, I feel like it's time to return to a style I've always remembered fondly.
With a LOT of help (and emotional support) from DevaCurl stylist Dominique LyVar and Revelist's two video producers (shout-out to Jess and Brittany!), I went under the razor.
I wish I could say that I was calm, cool, and collected, but my hands were shaking and clammy the whole time. I was honestly having a mini-panic attack ON CAMERA.
"Are you OK?" Jess repeatedly asked me while we were filming.
I think she could see the fear on my face as very large chunks of my hair fell to the floor. It was a waaay bigger pile of hair than I thought it would be. I was already disappointed that I felt so anxious and wasn't feeling as confident as I did when I had the same hairstyle in college.
When I saw the final result, I was more than pleased. I felt like the fierce woman I always dreamt of being.
When I looked at myself in the mirror, all my fears (almost) instantly went away. It was a relief. I could see my ears! My cheeks! My forehead!
I was suddenly very aware of my face, and the fact that I couldn't use my hair, real or not, as a shield or a way to feel more "beautiful."
But most importantly, I was happy it was a new look that was 100% my decision and one that I felt beautiful in.
I didn't have to wonder if I was truly happy, or if the look was really me. Instead, I knew that I had chosen this hairstyle because *I* fully wanted it. (I will also admit that I'm blessed to work in an environment where different hairstyles are accepted — not everyone has that advantage.)
In the future, who knows? I may decide to switch to long waterfall hair like Nicki Minaj one day and then try out a closely-cropped Lupita Nyong'o look the next. But if I do, it'll be because I want to, not because I feel pressured to look attractive in a way society deems acceptable.