Where are you from and what do you do?
L: I live in London and I work as a User Experience Consultant. That probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people (I always find it hard to define!). I basically work with digital products (mobiles, websites, touch screen ticket machines etc) and help to improve the experience of the average person using it. To do that, I have a background in geekery (engineering & software) and cognitive psychology.
To say I love what I do is an understatement, I regularly bore people with it all and I have a passionate dislike for anything that requires reading of an instruction manual. I’m actively involved in my professional community running events and things as well as doing small projects on the side for friends. If I have one criticism of my field, its that there isn’t yet enough diversity. As an IT specialist, its unique in the sense that although male dominated, women probably make up a larger proportion than is usual (up to 40% I’d say), but we are missing the black and asian presence. I recently went to a conference in America and of about 350 attendees, I was one of only 3 black people.
When did you go natural? Why?
L: I’d had my hair in a relaxed short style for about 7 years and I didn’t plan going natural as a big life decision. It came about when I was planning to go traveling for 6 months and I was worrying about how I was going to maintain my hair. My hairdresser Michael was the only person allowed to bring relaxer anywhere near it and I knew there was no way I was going to allow a random in some far off country to do the same.
When I got back and took my extensions out, I had about an inch and a half of supreme kink, with another 4 inches of under-nourished relaxed hair above it. The first thing I did after washing it was go to a barber shop, I wanted all the relaxed bits off asap and then I was going to make an appointment to have some more twists put in. The barbers looked at me like I was crazy, but I told him to go ahead! When he’d finished, I realised I actually really liked it so I never got the twists and the rest is history.
What style do you love to rock?
L: I like doing the twist out, it’s dynamic and once I’ve got that I can pin my hair up, wear it in a full fro, do a fro-hawk, all sorts. I’m a low-maintenance hair person so my current ethos is that I wear my hair as it wants to be worn. When I take the twists out each morning, they naturally fall a certain way and if my hair is taking longer than 3 minutes, then I’m trying to put it in the wrong style for that day! I avoid packing it up too much or doing any styles that put too much stress on my roots, so my favourite hair accessory would have to be the good old black bobby pins.
What do you use in your hair?
L: I don’t use too many products in my hair, I really dislike build up and I subscribe to the notion that hair needs moisture and air, not product clumps. I wash it once every 7–8 days alternating with a conditioner and shampoo wash. I use Organics Olive Oil Shampoo and Organic Root Stimulator Hair Mayonnaise with an extra egg. Whenever I wash, I always deep condition for about an hour. I use Parnevu t‑tree Herbal Grow hair moisturiser because I find it’s not clumpy. I moisturise my scalp every other day, again to avoid too much build up and occasionally, in the mornings, I will add a bit more of it to the ends of my hair. I do want to move towards chemical free products but I have a lack of natural hair shops around me, any recommendations of places to try in London would be most welcome!
We’ve discussed before on BGLH how natural hair is not particularly embraced in Nigeria. How has your experience been as a Nigerian/English woman?
L: My experience is that Nigerians have a real problem with natural hair. When I first had my big chop, people were asking me if I did it because my hair was damaged, one uncle asked me why would I do such a thing to myself! As far as they were concerned, I had really good relaxed hair so why revert?! Even my mother had some mild issues with me wanting to keep it natural after a while, it was ok for a bit but didn’t I want some extentions? Or how about a weave?! Thankfully she has gotten over it now.
Personally, I think Nigerian women are truly in crisis with their hair issues. I would rather a woman wear her hair short and natural than continously put relaxer in it so she ends up with the thinnest, dryest pony tails a person has ever seen. I also can’t stand that many Nigerians would rather wear a horrific weave and let it get old but would never just wear their own hair out. When I was in Nigeria last year, I got some funny looks and comments but I paid little attention. I’m quite thick skinned and ultimately, because I was ‘Oyinbo’ (meaning white, due to my accent) it was obviously a symptom of living in England so I was given much sympathy.
When I’m in England, if someone looks at me odd because of my hair, I can ignore them, especially when they have half a horse tail oddly perched on their own head. I sound flippant, but I have gotten quite defensive about it. My community needs to find its own identity again, and as far as our hair identity goes, Nigerian women don’t really have a clue at the moment.
The biggest issue is not knowing what looks good, or how to handle their own hair. We should detach the hair and the hair style, rediscover your own textures and play with it to see what styles you can achieve. Don’t look at another person’s hair and say ‘I want that’, because in my experience, it doesn’t work. You have to be willing to go on a journey with your own hair. If we all took this approach now, it would make life a lot simpler and make natural hair much less of an issue for our children.
UK naturals have started a thread in the BGLH forum. Check it out!