I vividly remember the day I got my first relaxer. I was 7 years old, and there I sat in my mother’s kitchen anxiously anticipating my chance to have straight hair. Before this monumental stage in life, my mother would struggle with my hair every week, washing and styling it was a two day ordeal — two days of torture! Washing, detangling, hot combing and then styling. I learned early on that my hair was both a virtue (so many people commented on how beautiful and long it was) as well as a curse.
Well on this day, the day of my first relaxer…those days of torture were behind me…or so I thought. What I experienced for the 20 years that followed was a ritual of putting this dangerous chemical on my hair every 8 weeks, enduring burns, breakage and dryness, in the quest for straight hair. A funny story — one time in college the salon’s water was shut off while the relaxer was on my head! I had to run across the street to an insurance office — my stylist frantically trying to rinse the relaxer off my burning scalp in the bathroom sink!
Early on as a television reporter, I felt it was a necessity to have bouncy straight hair. No one ever told me I had to have it, but I’d never seen anyone on television with natural hair.
Early on as a television reporter, I felt it was a necessity to have bouncy straight hair. No one ever told me I had to have it, but I’d never seen anyone on television with natural hair. The goal, or so I thought, was to blend in, and that’s what I tried desperately to do. When I first started out at a small station in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I’d often drive 4 hours to Chicago, just to get my “creamy crack.” What I would later realize is that by being my true authentic self — I am a stronger reporter. It really wasn’t until experiencing the life changing event of having a child that I realized this.
Two years ago, I had a daughter with a full head of curly hair. In my womb the ultrasound technician said she could see her hair floating in my amniotic fluid. Soon after she was born I started to stress. Even though I never thought about the pain and physical ramifications of putting chemicals on my head every month — I certainly didn’t want my daughter to take on this “tradition.” I wanted her to love herself — and her curls. This revelation also made me question my own feelings about my hair, and I realized I never had a chance to really know what my real texture was like. I’d only associated my curly kinks with pain — I decided to find out, for myself and my daughter.
This posed a bit of a problem for me, because I was certainly sure this decision would have an affect on my career in broadcasting. At the same time, I’d become so into being an example for my daughter, I decided to take the plunge. Last month I went to a salon and asked the stylist to chop off my relaxed ends. She wouldn’t do it, so I went home and did it myself.
After getting it lined up and shaped by a barber, I took another plunge and wore it to work! I don’t think I’ve ever been so nervous in my life! My heart was in my throat as I walked into the newsroom, where I was met by my boss. She said, “Oh my God! You look awesome!” I almost cried! The response has been overwhelmingly positive. What was I so afraid of?
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