There’s no denying the rapid changes that women everywhere are going through as they transition and “big chop” their hair from chemical treatments and heat products, to its natural state. Styles and trends constantly repeat themselves and evidently, natural hair—in all its glory—is here to stay.
For many women, the change is liberating, marking a definitive choice to take back and rock what was already theirs. The overall response to how many women have “gone” natural in America alone is undoubtedly extensive. There are natural hair movements across all social media documenting the hair journeys women are experiencing all over the world, which has become a safe haven for “Naturalistas” to come read about natural hair, watch how to achieve creative natural hairstyles, learn about proper natural hair care and lay down their natural hair burdens to other women who can understand their journey; for better or worse.
Natural hair has been widely received, and is even making a large impact on the hair products on your supermarket shelves. Perm kit sales have declined over the years and some brands such as Dark & Lovely and Motions have tailored a new line of products specifically for natural hair. Natural hair is making a presence even throughout the media with celebrities such as Brandy, Solange Knowles, Janelle Monae, Gabrielle Union, Nicole Ari Parker, Keyshia Knight Pulliam, Tamera Mowry-Hously, Tia Mowry Hardict, and many others. These celebrities surprise and excite their fans, who are natural themselves, as they reveal their kinks, curls, coils, and naps that were always being hidden underneath wigs and weaves. Although many celebrities are embracing their natural tresses, there is still discrimination and negativity that circulates. During the Oscars in 2012, actress Viola Davis was scrutinized for wearing her hair naturally. Among the “Negative Nancys” was talk show host, Wendy Williams who implied that Davis’ T.W.A.—an acronym that the natural hair community has adapted for teenie weenie afro—made her look like a man. Even U.S. Olympic gold medal winner, Gabby Douglas received a brunt of cruel comments from people who judged and ridiculed her hair while she was competing to (oh, no big deal) win a gold medal in the Olympics.
Although many celebrities who are in the public eye have been scrutinized for wearing their natural hair in public and at events, actress Lupita Nyong’o won everyone’s hearts over with her award-winning talent in 12 Years a Slave, her grace, her style, and yes; her natural beauty—hair and all.
Just like anything else, there will always be positive and negative critique. The choice to go natural is not always an easy one, particularly for women who have been wearing their hair relaxed from a young age, and have now decided to defy the standards of societal beauty that they tried to adjust to in the first place. Every woman who has made the decision to go back to their natural roots—pun intended—has proven that it is possible to dispel fear of the critics and embrace what they were born with; proving that being natural is not a trend but a mindset and a lifestyle.
Up and coming YouTube Vlogger, Katherine Zapata big chopped on April 10, 2012. Zapata’s YouTube channel and Instagram are both dedicated to the maintenance and hairstyles of natural hair that provide a unique insight and personal testimony to her natural hair journey.
Q. When did you go natural and how long have you been natural?
A. I cut off all my hair on April 10, 2012. I've been natural for almost 2 years now.
Q. What made you decide to go natural?
A. I've always known I wanted to be bald at some point and have really short hair from the time I was younger. I remember joking around with my siblings and family about it. I was natural up until I was 16 before I knew what that really meant. I was overwhelmed with my hair, so I wanted to find a way to control it more. Cutting it seemed like a good idea. It was a reoccurring thought that I didn't think I would follow through with, but I knew somehow I had to so that I could be at peace with my own mental demons. My hair wasn't what I knew it could be, so I wanted to aim for my full potential and be comfortable with my hair, learn how to control it, and not let it control me. This is something I never knew how to do when I was younger, so I was never comfortable with my hair or myself. Also, I didn't want to be dependent on anyone when it came to my hair anymore. The more I started learning I didn't have to be, the better it felt. I don't think anyone knows what me or my body needs more than me. That's a pretty empowering feeling. This feeling started for me about a year and a half before I ultimately decided to go natural. I was still relaxed but I really started to care for my hair and I saw a difference in what I could do for myself and how much progress I was making on my own with fewer and fewer visits to the salons. Most times when I did go to the salons I dreaded it because I knew something would be done that I did not like, as far as technique for caring for my hair. The moment I decided to go natural was right after a relaxer a few days before Valentine’s Day. I was away with my boyfriend and I remember feeling so unhappy with how my hair was feeling and looking. It was so much thinner and very limp after having gotten my hair done, and I complained to him a lot that weekend about it. I said to myself I don't want to do this anymore. I didn't realize how serious I was until two months later when I was in the bathroom cutting off all my hair with my brother.
Q. What has your journey been like so far in terms of struggles with taking care and maintaining your natural hair?
A. This must be a trick question, where do I start? Have you taken a look at this thing? It's packed on packed on packed. My hair is really dense and I think that just takes everything to another level of difficulty because everything I do with my hair takes more time, I have to have a plan. When it was shorter, life was great; I was free to do whatever, but not anymore. My hair is also low porosity which I feel is a "special" type of hair because it’s all about technique with how you moisturize your hair and get it to stay hydrated so that it can be healthy. I have multiple curl patterns and textures throughout my head, for me that means more tangles and knots as well as more de-tangling time when I’m not careful, which can take hours if it’s really bad. Now that my hair is longer, I avoid that and look out for the signs my hair gives me that certain styles may make me pay for them later. Bottom line, I'm not an everyday wash-and-go girl.
Q. What has your journey been like so far in terms of the upsides to being natural and taking care/maintaining your hair?
A. Some of the upsides of being natural for me are gaining overall knowledge of not only hair, but my body and my health, and also seeing progress in my hair over time. I learn something new all the time and it's interesting to see how eventually all of those things tie into one another at some point. It's definitely changed how I think and view things, so ultimately I can say it's honestly changed my life which is a big deal, but a very good one.
Q. What products do you use on your hair now? Which products have worked well for you and which ones haven't worked so well?
A. Currently, I use Terressentials Lavender Mud Wash as a cleanser, and I also use Trader Joes Tea tree Tingle conditioner, and coconut oil or olive oil. Everything else I use I pretty much make myself at home. I buy things here and there to test it out, but as far as consistent products, I haven't had many. I used only conditioner and coconut oil for a very long time for everything. Tresseme Naturals was my go to conditioner up until recently when I found the Trader Joe's conditioner. I'm just starting to branch off a bit and try new things. But I do love the new things I've run into such as the Mud wash and Trader Joe's conditioner and they might be staples for a very long time. Products I've tried that did not work for me were Eco-Styler Gel and Shea Moisture the curl enhancing smoothie, and Curling Souffle. The one product from Shea Moisture My hair did like was the Shea Moisture Moisture Milk which is a much lighter consistency. I haven't tried anything else as far as store bought products.
Q. What are your thoughts about people who say going natural is a "fad" or a "trend" ?
A. ....And you care because?
Q. What are some basic hair care tips that you would give to a girl who has just gone natural and is still learning the ropes?
A. Moisture, moisture, moisture, and patience, patience, patience. I would also say, do your research and do not over look figuring out what your hair porosity level is. Many people do and I really feel this is key because then you'll avoid some of the frustration of why certain things may not work for your hair based off of what you see everyone else doing to theirs. Knowing this information helps you figure out how your hair works, why it does what it does, and what it needs. Knowing this information helps you figure out how to care for your hair in a way that caters to that, so that it's less stressful and no longer a constant guessing game, or a lot of wasted money.