Over a year ago I set off into a new, life-changing path without really thinking about the depths of its implications. I decided to stop putting chemicals in my hair and go natural. This is where you ask yourself why does she think that going natural is such a big deal?
I also never thought it would be a big deal. I just wanted to be closer to the way I was made and embrace the natural gifts that were given to me. But I soon realized that during my entire life I was conditioned into thinking that having straight, sleek hair was the proper way for any serious professional woman. Seeing the frizz and untamed hair sent automatic red flag messages: “you are not presentable or professional;” “people will think that you are slacking off;” “if you keep it like this any longer, it will turn into locks and you will have to cut all your hair off”…
Having faced discrimination when I was growing up in France for most of my childhood up until adulthood, I always thought that I ended up victorious. I made it. I got a Master’s degree with honors, I integrated well into the society, and I had a healthy social life. All of this was achieved despite the ever-nagging difficulties of being “of color” and said to be “stealing the bread from the French people.” So my surprise was immense when I realized that, even though I thought I had made it, I had unconsciously used my long, straight hair to fit into a mold. I am so happy to break free from this self-imposed conditioning and to realize that what God, my parents and nature gave me is more than good enough and that I do not need to change my physical appearance to live a happy, successful life.
The other life-changing effect it has had was the confirmation that it was possible to have a fruitful professional career by being true to oneself regardless of the challenges being faced. So far, I have been able to engage meaningfully with people and build strong relationships even when tough decisions had to be made. Although the struggle to keep a healthy work-life balance is omnipresent, being natural and able to keep my values, morals and principles while dealing with difficult situations has been personally rewarding.
Someone told me that it was because I have been living in Barbados for the past three years that I took the decision to keep my hair natural. To this, I respond that I am thankful for all of the real life models I see throughout my Bajan experience as they validate my personal decision. Although there are still obstacles to overcome, right now it feels wonderful to be part of a new era where black women have confidence in their natural self and are accepted for their true worth without having to apply any filter to their appearance.