Ariel MaxieAriel, 2012.

My mom should’ve known that I’d one day return to my natural hair because I wanted curls just like Scary Spice when I was in elementary school. Although I never achieved Scary Spice curls, I wouldn’t trade the coils, kinks and curls I do have for another hair type.

I don’t remember my first relaxer, but I do remember getting my hair relaxed every 6 weeks. Mom would use the Just For Me relaxer and I’d be so excited because of the cassette tape that came in the box which played both the instructions and (catchy) jingle. From elementary school to middle school, relaxers were just another part of life. Despite getting my hair relaxed, I wore cornrows or braid extensions most of the time. I also wore uneven pigtails; I know I’m not the only one who’s guilty of one pigtail being higher than the other!

Testing the Natural Waters

Fast forward to high school when the thought of going natural entered my head. To this day, I don’t know what sparked my interest in natural hair again. I started doing my research about natural hair, and the first two sites I came across were Motown Girl and NaturallyCurly.

When I told my mom I wanted to go natural, she shrugged it off. I quit getting relaxers, but after missing my first touch up time, my mom told me there was no way she was going to be able to do my hair dealing with these two textures. Because my mom was the main person doing my hair, I took that into account and looked for an alternate to relaxers. Around this time, Just For Me had a “texture softener” on the market so I switched from relaxers to texture softeners. It was still changing my hair from its natural state, but at the time, I thought it was “better” because the word “relaxer” wasn’t on the box. During the second semester of my senior year in high school, I started to play around with curly hair. For the first half of the semester, I rocked a curly sew-in weave (the first sew-in of my life) and also wore my hair in a perm rod set as well as picking out that set to make it into an afro.

Growing Up Natural

Ariel Maxie in 2008Ariel, 2008.

Once I moved away from home for college in August 2008, I was ready for a change. The majority of black women I encountered wore sew-ins and relaxed hair, and I didn’t want to fit into the status quo. Those women who went against society with TWAs and locs were the ones who I admired.

I started transitioning as soon as I started college with braid extensions. Every two to four weeks, I had my hair rebraided, and when it wasn’t braided, I kept it in a clip or a ponytail. After three or four months of transitioning, winter break came around. My hair had grown a lot in that short period, but when my mom saw my hair without any extensions, she told me something needed to be done. At the time, I was scared to do the big chop, so I took the alternative route: I went back to texture softeners. As soon as I had this texture softener applied to my hair, I regretted it. Two days later, I went to the hair salon and had my hair cut in the short pixie cut that Rihanna had recently worn during the “Good Girl Gone Bad” album and went back to transitioning.

My first two months as a natural were pretty much under the radar. The day after I big chopped my hair, I got another sew-in weave and then more braid extensions. Once I took out my braid extensions and attempted to style my TWA, I noticed it was uneven. Instead of trying to work with it, I decided to have a professional cut my hair and “correct” my do-it-yourself attempt. A shorter TWA didn’t bother me much, but my family hoped that it was just a phase.

Throughout my first year and a half of natural hair, I didn’t wear my hair out often. I attempted fro-hawks and wore comb-coils from time to time, but my hair remained in braid extensions, weaves and kinky twists for most of the time. Despite the amount of time my hair was in protective styles, I enjoyed learning about my hair. My mom did my hair until I left home for college, so taking care of my natural hair on my own was representation of my new independence as a young adult.

Creating a Natural Environment

At the end of 2010, I decided to quit getting sew-in weaves. I felt that two years of experimenting with them on and off was enough for me. In 2011 and on, I wanted to truly learn my hair without any scapegoats. January 2011 was a pivotal point in my natural hair journey because I started my internship at NaturallyCurly which provided an atmosphere where I could walk in confidence with my hair. As a business major, I’m often asked how I plan to wear my hair for work and interviews. Going into a work environment where I was free to truly be me from head to toe meant a lot and boosted my self-esteem.

In July 2012, I will celebrate my three year anniversary as a natural. Along the way, I’ve inspired friends and family to go natural. My signature style of two-strand twists has even inspired me to start my loc journey after I graduate from college this May. The journey for me hasn’t been easy, but it’s been worth it. Truly loving myself and the quirks of my kinky coils gave me a confidence boost that has transcended into all areas of my life. Trying various products until I found my staple Creme of Nature shampoo and conditioner, Miss Jessie’s Baby Buttercreme, Jane Carter’s Twist and Lock and Karen’s Body Beautiful Hair Nectar taught me patience and how to take a risk at trying something new.

To women considering going natural, I have this advice: do the research, take the plunge and keep your head up. The journey won’t be easy, but it will be worth it and you will grow during the process in ways that go beyond hair growth.