*Prepared for BGLH by Meosha Tall of 1MeNaturally
A: My name is Ashley, but I’m also known to some as DeepImpact403 or NaturallyMeAshley. I’m a country girl for life, coming to you by way of my hometown of Center, Texas. I’ve been a Houstonian for over 10 years, so I’m reppin’ “Tha H” as well (H-Tahn Bay-beh)!!! I’m a middle school STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher here in Houston.
Why did you make the decision to go natural?
A: I was always known as the girl with the long, pretty hair and I got tired of always wearing straight hair during college. I was the girl that would always have some type of chemical burn from relaxers, no matter if my scalp was irritated or not. I would often find myself trying to wear styles that looked natural, such as having my hair braided while wet and then wearing a braid out after it dried. Eventually I began to see more and more women wearing natural styles and after saying that I was going to do it for while, I finally committed to doing away with relaxers three years after I graduated from college.
When and how did you transition into natural hair?
A: I began my transition in 2008 when I got my last relaxer. At first I thought I was just going to wear my hair straight as I transitioned by getting it flat ironed every couple of weeks…yeah RIGHT!! Once I realized that this was very unrealistic, especially considering the thickness of my hair, I decided to get some kinky twists that March. I wore the kinky twists for about two and a half months and decided to take on some transition styles during that summer from June to August. First I wore a rod set which I loved, and then a modified twist out (some of my ends were still relaxed). Throughout that summer, I got some of my relaxed ends cuts off little by little so my big chop wouldn’t be so drastic. At the end of July, I was ready for the big chop since I was basically 90% natural, but my stylist told me the back section of my hair was much shorter than the front and that I needed a little more time so I wouldn’t lose inches of natural hair just to even out the lengths. My last transition style was a sew-in that I wore from August to September 18, 2008. On that day, I wore my shortest length ever, a TWA that was about 3–4 inches in length. I experienced my big chop!
In what ways (if any) has going natural affected you?
A: Going natural has affected me in only positive ways. I was known as the girl with “pretty hair”, but since I’ve been natural, the amount of hair talk I have has literally gone through the roof. When I was relaxed, I would be asked things like “how did your hair get so long” or “what kind of perm do you use”. Now that I’m natural, I’m asked questions like “what’s your regimen”, “how can I go natural”, “what’s your best transitioning advice” and so on and so forth. I’ve been blessed with many different opportunities to model my natural hair in the past few years. I’ve also been in a magazine and on a couple of websites.
How would you describe your hair?
A: I’m not sure of what my hair type is, but one word to describe it is THICK. Maybe EXTREMELY THICK is more appropriate. I never knew how much hair I had on my head until I went natural and it grew to what it is now. The right side of my hair tends to be much curlier than the left, especially in the back. Whenever I get it straightened, it tends to last at least a couple of weeks without me having to flat iron or reapply heat everyday. With there being so much hair, I’ve luckily been able to do pretty much anything that I’ve attempted to do with it.
What is your regimen?
A: When I wash my hair, I begin by detangling it into 4–6 sections. I typically shampoo it section by section with Shea Moisture’s Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo. After washing a section, I twist and clip it back up until I have shampooed each section. Once washed, I apply Shea Moisture’s Deep Treatment Masque and tie my hair up inside a plastic grocery bag (due to the amount of hair that I have, plastic caps typically aren’t big enough). After letting the conditioner sit on my hair for about 20–30 minutes, I rinse the conditioner out. To style my hair, I start section by section working from the back to the front of my head. While my hair is still wet, I apply a mixture of Kinky Curly’s Knot Today, Hawaiian Silky Miracle Worker and coconut oil to each small section of hair. I detangle with my Denman brush and work the mixture into the hair while doing so. Once styling is complete, I either tie my hair up with a satin scarf or cover it with a satin bonnet, making sure that any parts that need to be pushed up away from the sides are moved to prevent crushed parts during sleep. Usually my hair is still damp in some sections in the morning, but I’m still able to style as usual (either untwisting, positioning, etc.).
How do you retain length and moisture in your hair?
A: My best methods for retaining length are keeping my ends clipped and only applying heat on my hair a couple of times a year and sporadically (never back to back). For maintaining moisture, I always mix coconut oil with my conditioners, especially after washing. This always works for me and prevents my hair from being dry or brittle.
What mistakes have you made with your hair that you’ve learned from?
A: One mistake I made was letting too many people deal with my hair during my first year of being natural. There was a time when I had one particular stylist and she was awesome…loved her to death. She knew how to handle my hair, especially considering the thickness of it and the length. Unfortunately due to the number of clients she would have, I would often end up having my hair shampooed by others who were not as successful with handling it. This resulted many times in me having a wet head of tangled hair and having a face full of tears when it was being detangled. It became so bad that I even discussed possibly getting a texturizer or even cutting my hair so it would not be too much to handle. Soon after that experience, I ended up changing salons and found a stylist who wasn’t intimidated by my hair. No matter how wild I think my hair can be, she knows how to maintain it and do things I never imagined it could do. My other stylist is the same way, and if I’m not able to go to one, I typically can go to the other without having to worry about having experiences like I had within my first year of being natural.
What’s the best/most effective thing you do for your hair?
A: The most effective thing I have done and could have ever done was learning how to manage my own hair when I can’t go to the salon. There was a time when I would have had an appointment every month and though my hair would be gorgeous, the dent in my wallet would not be. The main reason for this was the fact that I was scared to do my own hair and honestly didn’t know what I could do with it. In early 2011 I was determined to use some Kinky Curly products because I had heard such wonderful things about their line. Two of my close friends, Tamara (Naturalhairrules.com) and Lorece, said they would do my hair and I sat in the mirror and video taped different things they were doing to it. Once I saw them do it and determined I could do it myself, it was all good. Eventually YouTube became a good friend of mine as well. Now, even though I do go to the salon from time to time, I can effectively style my own hair.
Is there a blog/webpage where we can find you?
A: YES!!! My blog is www.naturallymeashley.tumblr.com and it mainly focuses on natural hair, music, and fashion DOPENESS from my perspective. I have also begun designing natural hair tees on my website www.naturallymebyashley.com. It’s a work in progress and I envision it blossoming more and more as time progresses. From my website, visitors can also access my blog and my Facebook page.
Anything else you want to add?
A: I’ve been blessed to have a wonderful head of hair that allows me diversity and flexibility. I always wanted to go natural and I’m beyond glad that I did so. I never imagined that embracing my natural hair would open up doors and opportunities like this one. I hope to do more modeling and work within the natural hair community in the future and I’m grateful to all of my family and the supporters that I’ve gained along the way.