The As I Am mascot shares how she came to accept and embrace her natural hair.
As I Am Smoothing Gel
When the As I Am brand for natural hair was launched earlier this year, Joy became the official face of the brand. Joy represents the collective know-how of a number of real life natural-textured women who are highly knowledgeable and experienced in the care and styling of hair. Her mission is to help others embrace their natural hair.
NaturallyCurly wanted to learn more about Joy, and her own hair journey. She was thrilled to share her story in the hopes she could help others accept their coily, kinky texture.
NaturallyCurly: How old are you?
Joy: Joy doesn't tell her age. I just like to say I'm fully grown, but young at heart.
NC: Have you always embraced your natural texture?
Joy: As a young girl, I did not. Like many African American women, I somehow got the notion in early childhood that certain hairstyles and hair textures are “pretty” and my natural tight-coily texture was not. It would take teams of psychologists and sociologists to unravel all of the reasons why these notions are so entrenched in our culture; however, I am certain that the media and social norms play a major part. At the age of six, my hair was straightened (pressed) for the first time, and at age 13 or so, I got my first relaxer. Over the years, I attempted to “go natural” a number of times, only to go back to either chemically- or thermal- straightened hair when I could not seem to style it or get a look I was happy with. It’s been a little over two years since I made the decision to be forever natural… to joyously embrace the texture that nature provided.
NC: How would you describe your hair?
Joy: My hair is type 4b, a very typical texture among African descent people. It has a definite coil pattern, configured much like the small springs in retractable ink pens.
NC: What advice would you give women who want to transition?
Joy: I would first say to practice patience. As you grow in your natural texture, the new growth can make styling your hair in its usual style a virtual nightmare. You may be tempted to use a lot of heat to blend the coily with the straight. This is not the best approach because high heat styling can straighten natural coils permanently. Additionally, I have three main things to suggest: (1) As you transition, It’s a good idea to switch to styles that better match your natural texture, like those created with rod sets, straw sets and braids (that are not too tight). In this way, you are coaxing your chemically-treated hair to behave more like your natural texture and not the other way around, (2) trim your hair gradually if you are not one to go straight to the “big chop.” When you have only 2-3 inches of straight hair left, then go for it! Cut all of the straight portions off, and (3) begin to “baby” your hair during the transition, just like you will want to do once your hair is fully natural. Use only the gentlest, most hydrating sulfate-free cleansers, deep condition often with a great conditioner, avoiding high-protein conditioners, except perhaps on the relaxed part of your hair (animal protein can harden the hair). Avoid styling products that contain alcohol and keep your hair well moisturized with rich emollients.
In my case, I wore weaves for two years as my hair grew out. My stylist would go easy on the underneath cornrows so that my hair would not thin out. I got my weave redone fairly often – every 6 to 8 weeks – and made sure to deep condition my hair well before the next one was sewn in. And I think this is very important… begin to visualize yourself wearing your natural texture - starting now. If you do weave your hair, select textured hair and have it styled attractively so that you can begin to see yourself natural. Weaving is not for everyone. Some would say that wearing weaves defeats the purpose of going natural, in the sense that they fall short of accepting yourself as you are. This, however, is an emotional thing for many women and we’ve got to cut each other a break. Some women will continue to blow dry their hair straight, even after going all natural… others will not. Some will wear weaves and braid extensions as they move away from chemical straighteners… others won’t. Some brave ladies go for the big chop and look and feel absolutely beautiful in a matter of a few minutes… others can’t fathom this idea.