Hair transforms women’s self-esteem, leads back to natural hair
By JoAnna LeFlore – December 2010
Originally published in 101 Magazine (A Howard University online publication)
Fashion icons and celebrities influence many women to mimic popular styles no matter how expensive the look. Enter Monica Hobbs, 23-year-old hair stylist and hair care specialist from Omaha, Neb. who maintains her natural hair after years of experimenting in the dangerous territory of hair styling.
Her most dangerous attempt was in 5th grade when she tried to press her own hair.
“I wanted my hair straight. I had never had it straightened before,” Hobbs explains. I got a pressing comb, put it on the stove, left it on there for 20 minutes. I didn’t know you had to let it cool off. I combed right through my hair and it melted the whole entire side off instantly. I had to wear my hair in a ponytail for almost two years.”
When Hobbs first learned to do hair, she was 10 years old with curls and the motivation to figure out how to manipulate her hair. She says she learned from doing hair that not everybody’s hair can be straight and to accept curly hair. But she will never use a pressing comb again.
The influence of styles and changes women go through with their hair stems down from Hollywood into the neighborhood salons across the country. They all want to look like Beyonce or Rihanna, but few really know to what extent that means. For Hobbs, the measures women take for “Rodeo Drive” beauty seem unrealistic.
“They don’t understand that first of all, you don’t look anything like that girl. You don’t have the same skin color tone as her so it’s not going to look good on you like it looks in the magazine,” Hobbs adds.
When people come to her, they usually show a picture from a hair magazine and tell her they want their hair to look exactly like that style, Hobbs says.
On average, she sees 140 women a day who want hair care advice. She understands that women care about how they look.
“Our hair is the biggest accessory that women have,” Monica adds. “That’s what we base our whole appearance on. You do your hair and then you get dressed. It gives us a confidence. When our hair looks good we feel good.”
Chayla Harrison, a 21-year-old California native, who labels her hair as a natural Spiral curl and says she changes her hairstyles quite often. She has tried lace fronts, glued extensions, ponytails, wigs and anything she could experiment with to test out the styles she sees around her. Eventually she made it back to her natural, curly look.
“Black is beautiful,” Harrison says. “This is what I’m born with so I’m rocking it!”
Harrison adds that these feelings of self-embrace have evolved as she learns to accept herself despite peer pressure growing up.
“When you’re younger there is peer pressure to do what everybody else is doing,” Harrison says. “And now you are adapting and building character for yourself.”
Harrison says she knows that her hair will not look like someone else’s hair but she will try to stay unique to herself.
Just a year ago, comedian and actor Chris Rock produced the documentary “Good Hair,” a portrayal of women and their hair in an effort to see how important a hairstyle is to American Black women.
Rock interviewed almost a dozen women, mostly celebrities, who all wore extensions rather than their natural hair. Surprisingly, most women seemed comfortable with explaining the type of hair they wore. But few of them explained why they prefer the wigs or weave over their natural hair, even when they are not on the camera.
When Rock interviewed a group of high school women asking them if they could get a job based on how they wear their hair, it was a tough topic to discuss. It is hard to talk about how a hair style could influence a woman’s confidence.
Aspiring artist and poet Shukuura Huggins, 22, expresses her self-confidence freely by wearing locks despite what people may think about her.
“A lot of people are fearful of locks because they feel like they are permanent. I was just ready to try something different. I think a lot of times I never really did anything that was for me and so I felt like locking was just for me.”
She says her mother personally doesn’t like her locks and she also received flack from other family members. But regardless of her family’s views she still wants to stick with this style and her reasons for wearing them are clear to her.
“For me, a lot of it is aesthetics. I like the way locks look,” Huggins says. “And I’ve always been natural. I’ve done them straightened out, pressing comb or flat-iron, curls, ecetera. I like to see how things transform over time and so the process is ever-changing. There is always a continuous change and a way to document a certain period in my life.”