Are you confident? Headstrong? Did you believe “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” So was I till the day I decided to do something different.
I was 17 going on 18 and I had been relaxing my hair for years. If it wasn’t relaxed it was always blow-dried and straightened. I would spend hours the night before frying my hair to bone straight perfection. That was what society deemed ‘acceptable’ so that was what I fed my mind until one day I decided to make a change. Little did I know that that change would come with hurt feelings and hiding a part of who I am once again.
I had learnt how to put my hair in twists at night and let it out in the morning. This was one of my go-to tricks when I’d wear my natural hair (there were times I’d go up to 8 months without relaxing and only blow & straighten). One day I decided I’d wear my hair natural at school and so I did.
When I walked into my first class the white kids started to laugh at my hair asking, “What did you do?” “Where you electrocuted?” The black kids felt my hair and would ask why it’s not coarse or why it felt like cotton; “You’re not really black then”, they’d say to me. After that day I was so overwhelmed with emotions of hurt and I knew then I wouldn’t wear my natural hair for a very very long time.
My big turnaround came towards the end of 2015. Mid-year I had bleached my hair and the ends were fried & dyed to death so I had to chop them off. My friend had been researching natural hair and I asked her to share with me tips on how to take care of my natural hair and I myself began to do my own research and I started buying the correct products and wearing my hair natural with the occasional straightening.
This time around I wasn’t in high school and over the years I had grown a thicker skin. The world around me had grown and was more socially aware and accepting of change so if there were negative comments I knew those words wouldn’t affect me as much as they had years before.
In 2016 after experimenting with different hair colours for months and bleaching more than I should, I went and did ‘the big chop’. I must admit I felt like “What did I do? Now I look like a boy.” But eventually I fell in love with my new look. My hair was growing at a steady pace and more importantly it was healthy and strong. This time around I was accepting of myself rather than accepting of what others expected.
My journey has been more than just switching lanes from chemical treatment to natural haircare. It’s been a journey of learning self-love; not letting the opinions of others affect me enough to change who I am and making sure I have beautiful strong hair to show for it.
Paloma ka-David Ncoco, is a 23 year old creative and designer who currently lives in Sandton, Johannesburg. Her passion in life is creating whilst using many different art forms to do so. She completed two courses in makeup and photography and is currently working as a photographer and makeup artist whilst making plans to complete her fashion degree. Paloma is a strong young woman who is determined to live life not bound by the opinions of others.
I’m so grateful to Paloma for sharing her personally painful but hopeful experience in seeking out her true identity. She has reminded us that your journey with your hair goes far deeper than the external. It is an expression of what is going on within you.
What has transitioning to natural hair meant for you personally? What challenges/obstacles have you faced in this journey? I would love to hear about your experiences too.