By Aundréa Murray
“Individual” takes on a brand new meaning when an individual has natural hair. It is one thing to stand out due to what you decided to wear for the day, yet, wearing your natural hair can leave the upmost lasting impression.
Every six seconds, we forget what we saw once we blink. That means after scrolling through Instagram photos for 20 minutes, you would have already forgotten two minutes of what you looked at. Facts like that might change your perspective on the type of impression you are leaving with someone.
Those with afros, dreadlocks or whatever their natural state of hair is prove to endure a series of experiences by simply being themselves. Some people have entirely positive experiences while others have struggled with acceptance of their unique features. Either way, personalities are shaped once people choose to accept, express and embrace their individuality whether it be through their hair or through more.
Meet Alisha Winston: a northern belle who has been naturally herself since birth. Animated and charming, she has managed to gather an abundance of followers through a vibrancy felt through her photos. Another primary reason for all of the attention? That hair.
In many ways, Winston can be considered a “natural hair liberal”. She describes her experience with having such voluminous hair being a care-free one. Never relaxing, dying or adding chemicals to her tresses has benefited her in the long run. However, it does not take away from her open-minded attitude towards her hair.
“I do what I want. I’ll dye my hair if I want to. I’ll cut my hair if I want to. It’s all about how I’m feeling; it’s not about how my hair is going to make anyone else feel.”, she announced.
Women’s obsession with natural hair seems to have sky-rocketed over the past decade. Companies such as CurlBox have encouraged men, women and children to take their natural hair into special account. They also promote having healthy hair and all of the many ways one could manage and maintain their hair.
The information overload on how to take care of natural hair has formed a bit of OCD among folks and has unintentionally caused many to be more preoccupied with the condition of other people’s hair more than their own. Winston explains how far away from this stigma she is. The versatility of being natural has always intrigued her but never enough to form an obsession.
“It’s just hair”, she said. “People put more emphasis on [other things], while I take care of my hair.”
What is considered to be “just hair” for Winston proves to be much more for hundreds of others. How their natural hair looks and feels plays a role in how they are received by the public. For people like Winston, it creates a fan base of individuals wondering how to get hair similar to hers without having to buy it. However, not everyone has had the same positive experiences with their hair.
Jordan Wilson, a Rastafarian with a rebellious attitude, embraces his beliefs of an entirely natural lifestyle. That means no meat and no hair cuts for him. Once he decided that dreadlocks were the next step within his spirituality, it turned into a journey involving pressure and rejection–in the beginning stages, at least.
“People really did not like my hair in the beginning”, Wilson admitted. “They would call my [shorter dreads] ugly and ask me why I was even going dread.”
It was the freedom to do whatever he wanted to do with his life that kept him on the track he set out for himself. With a Muslim brother and sister and parents who are not particularly religious, Wilson was raised to believe in anything he wanted to.
The Jamaican Rastafarian culture has always had a significant effect on Americans. In fact, most assume that a person with dreads is automatically apart of the culture. But he explains that the choice of dreads were as much apart of him as the understanding of his spirituality was. And as years progressed, his confidence enhanced as well. Not even his ex-military father could persuade him to cut his hair.
“My father would always tell me to cut my hair. Kind of for professional reasons, too. But I always knew that once my hair got longer, everybody was gonna love them.”
The pressure to conform became less and less important the more his hair and his beliefs grew. Rather than being seen as a rebel without a cause, Wilson has acquired his own set of admirers for reasons like his rebellious attitude against nay-sayers. His pride in his beliefs, pride in himself and pride in his hair has continued to take him far in life.
And he is not the only one.
New York plus-sized model Jezra Matthews has propelled herself through life with her confidence and positivity. Being African-American, plus-sized and having dreads has isolated her into a league of her own.
She admits that her time being natural has been nothing short of great and experiences with her hair has helped contour her personality in multiple ways. When addressing any negativity towards natural hair, Matthews reminds people that how we are is entirely up to us; how others perceive you is entirely up to them. With that being said, how she should wear her hair has never been up for a debate.
“At the end of the day, it’s MY hair”, she stated. “For anyone not to accept that is their concern but I’m still going to do what it is that I need to do for ME.”
Dreads are often the black sheep in the natural hair family but Matthews embraces them in ways that attract and inspire others. She grows frustrated with ignorance from people who think that dreads are not as versatile as a curly head of hair. Through her modeling, she showcases the different styles one could do with their dreads, ultimately opening the minds of many.
Her lasting impression with most people is the certainty within herself and her dedication to remaining 100% herself at all times. It is a rarity that people still struggle with today. Matthews encourages those around her to not only embrace who they are but to discover the kind of person they are in the first place. For her, it began with wearing her hair in its natural state with no worries and no regrets.
“Having dreads makes me feel beautiful. This is my natural state. This is what reminds me every day that I am who I am.”