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True Life: I’ve Spent $25,000 on Weave in My Lifetime

Avatar • Apr 20, 2013

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A quick preamble to this post: HuffingtonPost recently featured the story of documentary filmmaker, Erikka Yancy, who, due to insecurity about her appearance, spent $25,000 on weaves over the course of her adult life. The story is honest and eye-opening, and HuffingtonPost invited me (Leila) on HuffingtonPost Live to speak with Erikka and Celebrity stylist Elgin Charles about the article. I’ve included a clip of the article and embedded the discussion we had about it below.

It was a long road to recognizing my racial identity crisis. I did not realize it in junior high when I basked in the glory of being told by my friends that they did not consider me black because I “wasn’t loud and didn’t talk like the other two or three black girls [in our grade.]” I did not catch a whiff of it in high school when I would spend hours of my freshman year with a test tube clamp on my nose, desperately trying to make it smaller and narrower. It was years later, when I was in my 30s and I proudly proclaimed, “I am the least intimidating black woman I know!” The words had barely left my mouth before the shame and awkwardness of that statement hit me. My stylist and I were talking about my latest crush and the chance he may not like black women while I sat in her chair and she weaved fourteen beautiful inches of slick straight Indian Remi hair onto my head. The nausea came with the following thought, “Since when do I buy into that ‘intimidating’ stereotype?” Do I really mean whitest black woman? Am I still trying to be white?”

Before anyone gets upset I am not saying that women who get hair weaves have fantasies of being white. This is my story and my experience. If you see yourself in it or feel indicted after it, think about it — then forget it; or don’t, it’s up to you.

I grew up going to predominately white schools and continued to do so throughout my entire educational career. From kindergarten through graduate school I was the one or one of the few black students. I am also very much a product of my family lineage; no matter how thin or heavy I am, I always have full hips and thighs — and they started to look that way when I was about 13. Just around the time when my white female classmates all looked like what Vogue idealizes as the perfect woman, super thin and lanky. My body image took a beating until I went to acting school (college for me) and my voice and speech teacher told me to get over myself; “some woman somewhere is spending tens of thousands of dollars to implant the lips and hips that you were born with.” I saw myself differently after that. But nothing could make me appreciate my hair.

I have always hated my hair. That is not true — I can remember a time, pre-kindergarten, when I wore afro-puffs and would go to my Aunt Georgia’s house and she would cornrow my hair for the summer. During that time I was indifferent about my hair because I was four. I remember being little and running around with a half-slip on my head, pretending it was my long blonde (sometimes dark brown) super straight and shiny hair. I would fling it over my shoulder and whip it back and fourth, decades ahead of Willow Smith. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I imagined my eyes were blue which should have been a warning. But I was a little kid; I didn’t know to look out for these things.

My real hair did not blow in the wind or swing back and forth. It was not yellow and shiny like Karen’s, or brown and slick like Judith’s or even braid-able like the other black girl’s hair. It never got long; it was just frizzy and big. Kids would touch it and say “Eww greasy.” My mom would tell me to tell them not to touch it, which I’m sure you know was super effective in second grade. There was this one kid who loved to complain he couldn’t see over my Afro in class. Grade school seriously sucked.

When I got to high school, I discovered relaxers — but that was a nightmare. I had grown my hair out to my shoulders at the start of freshman year, but I damaged it so badly with curling irons and blow dryers and whipping it around, that by second semester I had to have it cut into a permanent Halle Berry hair cut until I graduated. But the year before my graduation, a film that would change everything had been released — Poetic Justice. If you haven’t seen Poetic Justice you’re crazy and there’s no hope for you and also you missed the dawn of the box braid. Janet Jackson and Regina King wore these beautiful long box braids in the film. Black women with long hair that they did not have to grow! What?! I wanted them immediately.

My sister knew someone that knew someone who knew this woman that could give me the hook up. I finally convinced my mother that braids would be a good thing, and she took me to this woman named Star’s house and left me there for nine hours. That’s right, nine hours. That’s how long it takes to have long hair. Star braided my hair so tightly I couldn’t lay my head down to sleep. I took Advil for three days. She smoked a pack of cigarettes as she braided, cussed out her kids and a host of other things I wish I didn’t know. But when she was finished, I could put my hair in a pony tail and wear it on top of my head. I could whip it, and throw it over my shoulder. I was never going back to my hair again.

I left for college in Chicago two days later. While at school, I tried all different types of extensions and braids. I explored the African hair braiders that were famous up and down Clark Street, I found students willing to do hair for pennies and I discovered weaves! I got so much attention for my hair. I changed it nearly every two months and everyone always thought it was really my hair, or at least I convinced myself they did. I prided myself on getting realistic styles. I didn’t even really know what my own hair looked like. I was cast in roles based on my hair — but which hair? Once I had to reshoot a scene for a movie and could not remember which hair I had for continuity. That was pretty funny.

But even with my weaves and extensions, I still felt like an outsider. I felt like I was not black enough for one group or white enough for another. I felt like I confused people and that they did not know what to make of me, but in reality I didn’t know what to make of myself. Trying to “fit in” had made me feel more misshapen and gray than ever. So one day I just decided — because I only operate from two points, inaction and impulse — to walk into the salon and have them remove my weave and cut all of my hair down to its natural state. I loved it. I felt free and centered and beautiful. Then I walked onto the street and immediately felt like everyone was looking at me differently and I did not like it. They did not smile at me the same way. Men didn’t look at me the same way. Friends did not know what to make of it. “It makes you look more severe”, “You look more ‘ethnic’ ” and “I liked it long” were the most common responses. Twice in the grocery store a clerk called me “sir.”

I bought a wig.

Over the next 15 years, I spent 90 percent of the time in some form of weave, wig, extension or braids and 10 percent of the time impulsively cutting it all off and trying to wear my hair natural. Inevitably a day or two into being natural I would go running back to the beauty supply store to buy more hair of some type. I was so confused that once after watching Chris Rock’s Good Hair, I literally had an emotional breakdown in my stylist’s chair. I have done the math and from the time I was 18 until early 2013, I have spent $25,000 getting my hair weaved, braided or extended and just over one and a half years sitting in a chair having it done. When you want to fit in you’ll do just about anything. I am not saying that people that wear extensions want to be something they aren’t anymore than someone who drinks is automatically an alcoholic. But I was still a little girl with a slip on her head, flipping her blonde hair around, imagining herself with blue eyes. I just didn’t realize I was still doing it.

Click here for the full article on HuffingtonPost.com

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Valerie
Valerie
7 years ago

So Sad but I can relate in some ways. I went natural because I wanted healthier AND longer hair. I’ve spent a lot of money, frustration, and time trying to achieve those goals. Sometimes I think that some of us, including myself have gone from embracing our hair to becoming more overly obsessed with it. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. Kudos to Erika for recognizing the problem and doing something about it.

Ro
Ro
7 years ago
Reply to  Valerie

I did my bigchop 2weeks ago. I couldn’t be bothered with transitioning so I cut it all off. I uploaded a pic on facebook, expecting all my black sisters to be happy for me. But all I got was “are you okay?” and “why would you do that?” “why would you cut off your lovely locks“even after much explaining no one seemed even a bit happy for me. I didn’t know black people had this sort of attitude to our natural hair. By the way when I cut all my hair off, I realized I have a patch on my… Read more »

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago
Reply to  Ro

Good for you! The B/C IS CAUSE FOR A CELEBRATION OF YOU!

If you want to email me, you can! Keep up the good work and have a HHJ ahen205@aol.com

Deb
Deb
7 years ago
Reply to  Ro

congrats! just wanted to say that it could be about you cutting it to such a short length and not just the fact you are natural. It’s a drastic hair change and we know how many societies around the world associate longer hair with femininity.

Cleo
Cleo
7 years ago

I like weaves they have been great for growing my hair hair and the best protective style options for me during the winter. Weave/wigs can be great when done properly ie. Angela Simmons. Not every black woman who wears weave is ashamed or hates her hair! I wear them and I love my hair, I actually wear an Afro kinky weave that is close to my hair texture. I like this site but you all need stop with the negative post on weaves.

cece marie
cece marie
7 years ago
Reply to  Cleo

this site is a natural nazi website. they are always putting celebrities on blast that would rather wear weave (even though it saves thier real hair from daily styling and heat use) then their own nautral hair. you are right, not all black women that wear weave hate themselves or are ashamed of their hair. weaves are great protective styles when done correctly.

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago
Reply to  cece marie

@ cece marie i would find it weird for a natural website to be promoting weaves. it would not be a natural hair site anymore. if you want to see weave-wearing women i’m sure you can find tons of websites and youtube videos. i personnally don’t mind people wearing weaves on their heads but if you come to praise the virtues of weaves on this special post it seems to me that you’ve completely missed the point of it.
the lady was not wearing weaves as a protective style but because she was ashamed of her own hair two different things.

D.K.
7 years ago
Reply to  eve-audrey

That’s completely right, eve-audrey; you took the words right out of my mouth. 🙂

maralondon
maralondon
7 years ago
Reply to  cece marie

There are plenty of black women who relax their hair who wouldn’t dream of wearing a weave just as there are plenty of natural haired women who do wear weaves(I believe).

DreAdams1
DreAdams1
7 years ago
Reply to  maralondon

This is definitely true. When I had a relaxer I would not dare wear a weave. I used to say I have my own hair and don’t need a weave but since transitioning to natural hair almost a year ago I’ve had Kinky Twist twice and possibly considering getting then a third time.

JENNID
JENNID
7 years ago
Reply to  cece marie

Negro Please! There is nothing wrong with having open dialog about something so obviously wrong in the black community as far as our hair and identity. Calling people mass murderers because you disagree about wearing false hair is just so ugh. That term seriously needs to go away. I think this type of articles and dialog are needed. Many black women fall into the trap of thinking they NEED a weave or wig to be considered pretty or presentable. At that point its no longer a choice but a crutch, physically and mentally. Lets not pretend that our hair be it… Read more »

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago
Reply to  JENNID

@jennid i completely agree on everything you said. it seems like some people just feel attacked or offended whenever you underline something that’s going wrong. there’s nothing inherently wrong with a weave as long as you wear it BY CHOICE. and this is still not the case for many black women. if some people on this site like wearing weaves to protect their hair then fine but there’s no need to get defensive to the point that they look like they just did not understand the meaning of the post. and the term “natural nazi” indeed needs to go away i highly… Read more »

breanne
breanne
7 years ago
Reply to  cece marie

Cece, no one is forcing you to visit this site. Secondly, genocide and individuals expressing opinions that you don’t agree with are two completely different concepts. Girl, bye.

thefwordprod
thefwordprod
7 years ago
Reply to  cece marie

I wouldn’t say the site is a natural nazi site as much as the people who visit it and make it seem like a natural nazi site. But I do agree with you about weave as a protective style thing, weave is just another option amongst many. I’m not a weave wearer but I do feel like women(mostly black) who wear them get a lot of flack.

Valerie
Valerie
7 years ago

Well said.

lovelycee
lovelycee
7 years ago
Reply to  Valerie

Exactly!!! Weave are a means to an end, not the only way one can be attractive!

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago

Congratulations to BGLH for being featured on Huffington Post! Everyone should look at it. Like it was said wigs and weaves are great but let it NOT be a clutch for NOT wearing your natural hair out sometime. I think fear and lack of hair education may stop a lot of women from going natural.

Nicole
Nicole
7 years ago
Reply to  Cleo

I don’t think this is meant to be a negative post on weaves, as the writer stated, she is just expressing her experience.

AC
AC
7 years ago

Such a powerful message, definitely been there done that so I completely understand, but luckily I had a rather.. more positive self image I guess? My father instilled some things in me at an early age about being Black and being proud, my mother on the other hand more closely resembles the girl that always tries to fit in thus consequently forcing her views upon me at an early age by relaxing and weaving my hair. At first I was angry when I went natural because I felt like i’ve been missing out on something so great but now I… Read more »

eve-audrey
eve-audrey
7 years ago

“i was told by friends that they did not consider me black because i was not loud like the other two or three black girls in our grade” what?! i’m sorry the whole post is very emotional but this line caught my attention. i’m glad i’ve never been confronted to that kind of comment. like really? with all the loud/rude/unarticulate non black people i’ve met i would be like are you kidding me? well i understand the story teller did not notice it because she had some misconceptions about her identity and thus just accepted that king of stereotype put… Read more »

Reese
Reese
7 years ago

My only issue with weaves/wigs is that by and large the look ridiculous! It’s really funny to see a group of women all with weaves. Looks like a gaggle of trannys. But if you think it looks good hey do you lol

Kay
Kay
7 years ago

I do not think the posts on the weaves are meant to be negative. They are meant to be a learning tool. I read the insert and watched the entire video and nothing bad was said about weaves they even had Elgin Charles as a point of reference. I love the article and how candid and vulnerable the author is. She’s basically telling us about her natural hair journey. And no one should be offended by that.

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago

WOW! Powerful! I see a little bit of me in her article. We need to discuss this more and get to the evil root of it once and for all! Why don’t most of us ok a few why do we dislike our hair? Why don’t we wear it out more? Why do we hide the hair 99% ok 80% of the time under the: wig, weave, relaxer, and braids most of the time. Spending so much money on weaves and such… Where did this self-loathing of our God-given hair come from? What steps can we take so we can have… Read more »

lovelycee
lovelycee
7 years ago
Reply to  TWA4now

This is one of the issues I have with celebrities with weaves. I understand that they want ‑and need- to protect their own hair but seeing a few more celebrities proudly flaunting afro hair styles would go some way to making people feel less like some types of afro hair are not good enough.

imani
imani
7 years ago
Reply to  lovelycee

I agreee. I applaud any celebs proactive attempt to protect their natural hair. My issue is that most wear it all the time…never rock the natural even occassionally. Either hollywood has told them their natural hair isn’t desirable for films but what abt the red carpet or other events?protective styles is one thing, changing it up for fun & fashion is cool but we almost never see the socalled “naturals” that have articles celebrating their hair. For me its kinda like having a top of the line car,I never drive it. I just buff,polish and take good care of it… Read more »

Debra
7 years ago

I have experienced that, I always worn a relaxer starting at the age of 12. That was the Best thing ever happened for Black ppl, I thought, Until I started get weaves, extensions, Micro braids, that was the last straw, it took all my hair out, Now, I am natural, with a short crop, still not comfortable with it, Men look at you different, assume you are gay, but I have RA, so I a sure my meds have something to do within, But is hard embracing my natural hair, because I have always hated my “Nappy Head” LOL.I am… Read more »

TWA4now
TWA4now
7 years ago
Reply to  Debra

Thank you! Again, there are DEEPER issues here than just weaves, wigs, braids and Relaxers etc…90% of black women corner the market on weaves etc…why is that? What is so wrong with our own hair? When I was having a bad hair day and decided to wear a wig, why did my black classmate clap as a entered the classroom and sat down with that wig vice natural hair. She was so happy for me? Why is that? I was wearing a natural for about 5 months and on THAT day, I get a hand clap for wearing a wig?… Read more »

Barbara
Barbara
7 years ago
Reply to  TWA4now

There’s obviously a deeper issue going on and it is indeed more than “just hair” when the average single black woman has less than a 100 dollars in savings yet spends tens of thousands on purchasing something she can grow for free.

Caramelcurls
Caramelcurls
7 years ago

There is a standard of beauty in every culture: For Caucasians it is tan skin, blond hair, and blue eyes, for Asians it is pale skin and long dark hair, for African-Americans it is light skin and long hair. Weaves/Wigs are fine in my opinion, but I think one has to examine the motivation behind the reason to do so. If it has anything to do with not feeling beautiful or accepted without a weave/wig, then that’s a problem, and unfortunately I think that it is the case with a lot of African-American women.I have friends that I have NEVER… Read more »

maria
maria
7 years ago

That was such a great conversation! I wish it could’ve been 10 hours long LOL I could talk about hair all day.
I did the math and I was at the salon every week for about 13 years. I probably dished out close to $30,000 and nothing to show for it except short, fried, limp hair. I’m so glad my hair is natural, long, and I am my favorite stylist.

SHELIKES
SHELIKES
7 years ago

the picture is hideous. why are her edges so thin and rough looking? i love color, and love pinks, oranges blues purples etc, but those rough crackly orange edges do not match the long straight orange weave. why is the color along her edges so much brighter than the color of her weave. this is a no bueno, in my opinion. weave can be pretty and at least according to the opinions of many, good for retention, but if this is an example of such, no thanks.

Karin
Karin
7 years ago
Reply to  SHELIKES

I was going to say the same thing. I know that is not part of the $25,000 that she spent on weaves. Because it does not look right. I’ve seen so many women with jacked up weaves and said to myself, I hoped she didn’t pay a lot for that. Plus her problems go way deeper than weaves.

sabrina
7 years ago

What type of weave is that in the picture?

Rhandi Williams
Rhandi Williams
7 years ago

This couldn’t have been said any better! I am 18 years old and a freshman in college now. I battle day to day about not having my weaves anymore. Honestly, I’ve worn weave since I was 13. Every two weeks I’d pay to get a new one, so that many would believe it was mine. I recently decided to embrace my natural beauty. I’ve had bad and good responses. I’m extremely light skin with hazel eyes and my weave would be a Spanish wave, because I thought that was how all light skin girls had to look. Long story short,… Read more »

Junnie
Junnie
7 years ago

Honestly when you look at it depending on what products you use, butters, oils, conditioners, shampoo, deep conditioner, protein treatments accessories and so on. Depending on how much you use from let’s say age 14 when you get your first part time job to the time you retire at age 60 it will porbably average out to the same amount you know.

Jalynn
Jalynn
6 years ago

I Seriously don’t see the problem with wearing weave or just being natiral or having perms in their hair. Well let me just say something. We may be in the same race/ethnicity/nationality, whatever, but we’re all different. We all have different opinions for our hair and how we wear it. There’s no reason to bash on those who don’t agree with the same thing. There’s no reason for people to hate on women that wear different hairstyles because they feel comfortable with it. I’m 14 years old, I don’t know if this is bad or good that I never had a perm in… Read more »

TWA4now
TWA4now
6 years ago
Reply to  Jalynn

Sure, it’s not about bashing or judging people. A woman most must do what she thinks is best for her and her hair to look, feel, and be beautiful. I say again, there are deeper issue underneath it all. Some people don’t want to embrace their natural hair and that is okay too. To each her own…do you…be the best “you” possible.

Cosita
Cosita
5 years ago

Wow. I have never heard of people clipping their noses. Why is a big nose associated with being black. I know plenty of big nose whites and Asians.

sanjidude
sanjidude
5 years ago

There are a few secrets to black women having long hair. The straight haired folks don’t want you to know, but I’ll tell you what it is. I discovered it after relaxing mine for 45 years but never having it grow past my shoulders. Now, after only 4 years, it’s mid back length approaching my waist. So here are the secrets…ready? Ok… STOP USING RELAXERS. STOP TIGHTLY BRAIDING IT. BE GENTLE. MOISTURIZE OFTEN. That’s it. Hair can’t grow if it’s not healthy and it’s not healthy if you’re slathering lye on it every 2 months. Or suffocating your scalp with… Read more »

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