“It’s burning me, help!” These were the words I yelled out to my aunt as the pungent chemical penetrated my scalp. I was 8 years old when I got my first perm. Something that seemed so exciting as a young girl turned out to be so painful. It was my brother's wedding day, and I was a ring bearer. My mom asked my aunt to make my hair look nice. Little did my mother know, my aunt's idea of doing my hair was to perm it. She picked me up early that morning and brought me to her salon. I sat on a black leather seat and she stepped on the lever which lifted me up very high. I was so nervous, yet filled with anticipation. I just knew I was going to look like a Black Barbie doll one my hair was done.
I felt this cold, thick substance being applied to my scalp. Soon my hair was covered with the thick paste. My aunt stepped away for a moment, and after a while, the perm started to tingle. Then, it began burning. I tried looking for my aunt, but she was not around. Eventually, it was so unbearable that I couldn't stand it. I screamed out in pain and agony. My aunt came running in the room and shoved my head under the sink. My scalp felt so relieved as the cool water ran through the roots of my hair follicles. She styled my hair in the cutest candy curl style. My hair was long and bouncy, and I fell in love with it. When it was time for me to walk down the aisle at the wedding, I felt so pretty as my curlz bounced up and down.
Later that night, it came time to rinse the gel and spritz out of my hair. As my mom rinsed, hair fell into the sink in chunks. My mouth dropped wide open in total shock as I watched my beautiful candy curlz wash down the drain. The trauma from that night stayed with me throughout my childhood. Even until this day, I have flashbacks and remember the fear in my heart as my hair filled the sink. Shortly after that experience, we decided it was best to chop all the perm off and start over from scratch.
I wore protective styles such as braids throughout elementary and middle school. When I finally felt like I had enough growth in 7th grade, I began to wear my natural hair. When I became a freshman in high school, however, I was shocked to see that there weren't many girls wearing their natural hair. It was the "in thing" to wear your hair in a flat wrap. At that time, it was important for me to be popular and fit in with the crowd. I wanted to wear a flat wrap so badly. I continued to mention to my mother that I wanted to perm my hair. It wasn't long before she took me to the Dominican Salon to relax my natural curlz. My hair was silky and flowed down my back, and I was so excited to go back to school with my new hairstyle.
As time went on, I continued to get perms, but there was one particular day that my scalp burned a lot during the process, more than usual. Days later, my hair began breaking and shedding everywhere. Hair was on my pillow, in my sink, on the shoulders of my shirt, just everywhere! It was breaking off so badly, and I was once again devastated. Memories from my adolescent hair trauma began to replay in my head. This was my breaking point (literally) and I was ready to leave the creamy crack alone forever! I made the decision to cut all my damaged hair off and never look back.
In January of 2016, I did the Big Chop and decided to embrace my TWA (teeny weeny afro). It wasn't an easy journey trying to figure out how to manage my hair. I struggled to accept that my hair was borderline brush cut length. The first style I tried was Bantu knots. Shortly after that, I learned my go-to style was 2 strand twists. As time went on, embracing my natural hair resulted in so much self-love. I embraced the fact that my hair is thick, kinky, coarse, hard to manage, and takes hours to wash, versatile, strong, full of volume, and fun! I now see those characteristics of my natural hair are in direct correlation to the strength and power we embody as a race. Doing the big chop was one of the best decisions I have ever made! As the owner of Embrace Ya Curlz, I strive to use my personal experience as fuel to empower more women to embrace their natural hair textures, feel empowered, and most importantly, see the beauty in themselves the way God created them.