By Dr. Phoenyx of Dr.Phoenyx.com
I remember years ago when my mother told me that if I seriously planned on becoming a doctor, I would have to walk the walk, talk the talk, and most importantly, look the part- which meant that I would have to keep my hair relaxed and looking “professional.”
For years I took her words to heart, but it was only a matter of time before my independent and non-conformist nature took over. I respected my mom’s opinion, but I was also sick and tired of getting relaxers. So I went natural, ready to take on whatever negativity came my way. I really didn’t know what to expect and I had no clue what medical school admission committees or potential employers would think of my hair. And to be honest… I didn’t care. I was going to wear my hair in its natural state, and most importantly, I was going to wear my hair how I felt most comfortable. So I told myself that if a potential school or employer had an issue with it, then that was their problem, and obviously, not somewhere I wanted to be. Period.
Oftentimes I get approached by black women that are curious about my hair and transitioning to natural hair. And oftentimes these women tell me that they would’ve gone natural years ago, but feared what their family, their friends, their coworkers, or even their boss would say. What’s my response? I just ask them to answer this one simple question as honestly as they can: Is it really an issue of what others would say, or is it just that YOU have an issue with natural hair?
That question often brings about a moment of thoughtful silence, and in my opinion, helps to bring things into perspective.
Truth is, I’ve never had a problem getting into medical school or an issue with employment. In fact, I now get more compliments on my hair (compared to when I had relaxed hair). And when I did receive criticisms about my hair, they only came from black people- non-black people didn’t seem to care. So in my opinion, a lot of the “issues” with natural hair are issues that we as black people put on ourselves.
And let’s be clear, I’m not saying racism and prejudice doesn’t or never existed. Yes, there was a time when how we wore our hair greatly determined how we were treated in society. But times are changing and there is nothing holding us back from embracing and showcasing who we are. So be authentic and do you. If YOU want to go natural, just do it. Relaxed, natural, weaved up, or whatever… It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin. Because at the end of the day, IT’S YOUR HAIR. It’s beautiful. It’s versatile. And as long as you love it, nothing else matters.
Dr. Phoenyx Austin is a physician, media personality and author. Check out her awesome new book, If You Love It, It Will Grow: A Guide to Growing Long Afro-Textured Hair. Available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and iTunes (special autographed book copies are available for purchase through DrPhoenyx.com).
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Jenell Stewart, formally known as BlakIzBeautyful is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Kinky Curly Coily Me. Jenell has a MS in special education and dedicates her time to educating and uplifting women with kinky, curly, coily hair. She big chopped on March 26, 2010 and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.View all Jenell posts.