“Being black is such a special thing. And not everybody is Black, and we should embrace our natural hair,” said Loyola student Mia Upshaw.
“We have to get out of this mindset that the only way to wear professional hair is for it to be straight, or for it to be shoulder length,” said Charisse Gibson, anchor at WWLTV.
For years going natural has been a movement on its own. However, it isn’t always accepted by those in the media, in the workplace or even by strangers.
Growing up I enjoyed my straight, but I am now also a part of this movement. Back in 2012, I went natural by accident. The weather was good that fall. I didn’t need to chemically straighten my hair. Once those curls grew in, I got curious but also a little afraid. But now I love my curls and I embrace them. That's my story.
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Recently I decided to talk to several local Black hair professionals and to people who work in professional settings to find out if there is a shift in whether African American woman care to conform to society when it comes to hair.
The shift to natural
“I'm Anastasia Ebel, I own Baby Bangs Natural Hair Salon, I am the owner, the lead stylist and the educator.”
Anastasia and her stylist can be considered the counselors of hair. If anyone would know how the mindset of women has changed when it comes to hair, they would know. Anastasia says she has seen a shift.
“I think that natural hair kind of hit the world really hard maybe 6-8 years ago. And I think that's in a gradual acceptance.
"I think acceptance comes with our confidence. I think before I’ve noticed my clients were more nervous. So, before anyone could even say anything, they would straighten their hair before a big event, or a job interview or a special occasion. Now they are challenging themselves to step outside the box and they have more confidence in everything about themselves,” Anastasia said.
For years we have gone natural for different reasons. For our health, because it is trending or like me, by accident or curiosity. Social media can also play a big role in the influence of some going natural as well.
“Some of the things that inspired me, is some of the women that I noticed with the natural hair. And they are so beautiful that it keeps me going to stay with the natural look,” Said Michelle Alcindor.
Anastacia mentioned that many women come into their salon with photos of other women. Including local news reporters and anchors that are natural, asking for their hair to be styled in a similar fashion.
Changing because of the pandemic
Our very own Charisse Gibson decided to start wearing her hair naturally during this pandemic. She said she always wanted to wear it naturally and the extra time at home gave her the perfect opportunity.
“It's still a growing process and a learning process. But I do see it's some acceptance that people are taking with themselves. And given what we’re seeing in this country right now there is a growing acceptance within the community as well. Because since I’ve gone natural, I’ve gotten nothing but love, honestly. Maybe one or two negative e-mails but really nothing but love,” Gibson said.
'This is how my hair grows'
“When it comes to my hair it’s almost like the movement we’re seeing right now. Everyone is asking for the decent treatment. To be treated fairly. To be treated like everyone else. And like everyone else I would like for people to understand just like how your hair grows out of your head a certain way, this is how my hair grows out of my head. And that's just what it is,” Gibson said.
While some have gone natural proudly, there are still worries about how it can affect aspects of their life.
“There have been times where should I where I ask myself, should I wear my curly hair or should I put on a wig, like a straight wig or should I get my hair straightened," said Loyola student Destiny Sanders. "Even though I’ve grown out of that as I’ve gotten older and more accepting of my hair, it is also just a fear because we are in a society that is very judgmental towards Black hair. You never know if you go into a certain situation, or an interview or just meeting someone how they would perceive you. Because you may qualify but they might see your hair and they’re like oh never mind."
“Hair comes in all sort of colors, textures, shapes. It comes all sorts of ways. There is nothing wrong with your twist, there is nothing wrong with your braids, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your afro. There is nothing wrong with you period,” Said Gibson.
While there does appear to be a shift shown by the strong woman in this video there is plenty of room for growth. Our story has been defined by others for too long. Our hair it’s a narrative we can choose to change and make our own, and it is happening.
“It's who we are, it’s our culture our heritage. If you don't like it oh well,” said Mia Upshaw.