*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
H: My name is Harmony. I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida. Currently residing in Tallahassee, Florida. I am a Fashion Designer of my women’s wear line ‘A Beautiful Piece by Harmony’, Style Correspondent for Carols Daughter and a part-time Retail Associate.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
H: My mother was a cosmetologist, so she was my sole hair care provider until I went to college. My hair was relaxed and I rocked a short Halle Berry cut for most of my teenage years. Upon entering college, I realized that I would need to incur a new hair maintenance bill that had been free of charge all my life. Not to mention, have a whole new set of hands in my head, something that I just was not accustomed to. Not very long after a few salon visits and my best friend applying a very harsh box perm in my hair, I noticed severe breakage and damage. It was at this point that I realized I needed a change, although the natural route was not in my sights just yet. I owe that awakening to my college experience and the many diverse individuals who helped shape a new direction for me, which for now, I will call cultural consciousness.
Of course this was at a very surface level initially, something that people sometimes seem reluctant to admit, afraid that it may suggest a sort of shallowness. However, I find that this is a very important stage in the process, particularly with going natural because most of our big chop stories involve being inspired by the appearance of a friend or even a stranger who enchanted us with the presence of their natural beauty. This is a powerful energy and although surface in nature, it runs very deep and often initiates an entire lifestyle change, from hair to food to clothing and child rearing. A good friend and co-worker of mine carried that magic. I fell under the spell and have been happily and nappily intoxicated by it ever since.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
H: In 2001, after building great friendships with people already on the path, I decided to go all the way. My plan was to wear braids and let the new-growth reach a length that could be styled. However, I am very tender-headed and was never one to wear braids very often, so that plan fizzled within the first month. In addition, while allowing my new growth to come in, I noticed how strong my roots were, literally. The contrast between my natural hair texture and that of my perm was quite an awakening. The perm was so limp, thin and lifeless, while my roots felt alive, elastic, kinky coily and full of character. It was like a eureka moment! Why was I hindering such luscious texture from seeing the light of day? I went to the barber that same day and asked him to take it all off. No transition necessary for me!
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
H: Going natural is not just an issue of aesthetics. It serves as a gateway to an entire lifestyle change if you are open to the discovery of self. There is a natural progression that happens, from research of products that work best for various hair types, to networking and making life-long friends who have chosen to take that journey as well. I’ve met some of the most amazing individuals at natural hair shows, through YouTube, social networks and just passers-by while out and about, who are intrigued by my hair and want to know more about it.
Three years after my big chop I became vegetarian, and began to study more about African spiritual traditions as well as other world religions. I feel that the physical act of chopping away the harsh chemicals that surround your crown clears your mental capacities and quite literally frees your mind to discover yourself and the world. It is indeed a beautiful and necessary transformation for our people.
How would you describe your hair?
H: I’ve always said that I have ‘Power to the People’ texture. It’s a full fist in the air with no apologies, lol. When I rocked my fro, it was a perfect sphere and now that I am locked, I love the fullness at my roots. I do not like to see my scalp, and a full, thick base gives my locks the lion’s mane look that I love.
What is your regimen?
H: Early on, I would blow my hair out a lot to wear my full fro. If I had to do it all over again there are products I would use now that I was unaware of then, like those which protect against heat damage. When I began locking 4 years ago, (after having 3 consecutive dreams that I was locked, which was my cue to make that move) I would wear bantu knots about every 3–4 months. This was my regimen to insure that my locks did not join into one giant mass, although I did and still do let many of them double and triple up for added thickness. I enjoy wearing tall Badu-esque head wraps as well for an up-do effect and a great pop of color.
How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
H: Fresh aloe gel and olive oil were my primary products of choice in my beginning stages. I kept it simple and still do in many ways. I recently started using Carols Daughters Black Vanilla Leave-in Conditioner for a quick and simple way to keep my hair happy and hydrated. I love the smell and ease of this product.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
H: As I mentioned earlier, I’m sure my hair suffered from heat damage during my blow out days, so if I were ever to cut my hair and start anew, I would be more mindful of the stress I put my hair through. Another lesson that I actually still have yet to learn is to sleep with my hair covered up. I’ve never been a fan of sleeping caps because they refuse to stay on. I’ve given up that fight and just sleep on a satin pillowcase occasionally.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
H: Allowing my hair to be itself is honestly my most consistent routine. I don’t fuss about it and I am not obsessed with length. All of the stages of the natural hair process are fun, frustrating and an overall learning experience. I honestly miss some of my shorter length stages because my hair would sit up and out more easily and create a cool, wild style. I’d also like to add a thought about our hair and the issue of people touching it. Most of the comments I hear about this issue are extremely negative and unfortunately, many people view this gesture as an attack on their personal space. I totally understand that one’s space should be respected, but I would like to offer a different perspective to consider in this regard. When someone asks to touch my hair, I experience it as Mother Nature admiring her creation. Most people ask because they are genuinely intrigued by our essence. It is powerful, so look at it as an opportunity, not to have negative energy passed unto you, but you passing the beauty of our ancestors and heritage to the world.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
H: Please check out my Facebook Fashion Fan page:
https://www.facebook.com/abeautifulpiece View my newest pieces and share feedback. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions~
Visit my Etsy store: http://www.etsy.com/people/fashionsbyharmony to see what is currently available for purchase. I cater to women who appreciate a modern African aesthetic that celebrates the beauty of Us!
https://www.facebook.com/iheartmyhair I Heart My Hair is my new family with whom I will be sharing fashion and style information under the title of Fashion Ambassador? Very excited to build with these awesome individuals, See you There~
Twitter: @harmonyrashel — if you’re into that sort of social network, lol
Anything else you want to add?
H: I’d like to send a special thank you to all who helped me to secure the title of Carols Daughter Style Icon, which awarded me an up-coming trip to Paris and a spot on their site as Style correspondent for the entire year of 2012, starting in January. Please stay tuned to my fan page for updates. I have many great vlogs in store for everyone. And remember to love yourself inside and out, unapologetically and with no question. We are all a part of a mission to redeem and maintain the Dignity, Grace and Beauty of the Black Woman. Be the example and watch the world smile at us with gratitude. Peace and Love ~ Harmony