My project is inspired by my studies this semester and all that I’ve learned about black hair. I’ve found out about a lot of discrimination and the culture appropriation thrown against black hair. Due to the norm of having a “long-straightened haired norm,” black women were forced to follow this norm. A norm that has blinded the black culture of the beauty of their natural hair. They were told to “tame” down their hair for jobs in the workplace, schools, and other places just to be accepted in the community. In order to fit in the encouraging of relaxers were enforced. Relaxers that would damage and break of their natural hair.

My natural hair journey encouraged me to become my own person and ignore the norms. I grew up getting perms like other young girls. I hated the process, but once it was done, I felt great about myself. I saw myself as beautiful if my hair was flat-ironed and relaxed to the point that I was able to run my fingers through. My hair wasn’t processed with relaxers just for my liking, but for the liking of others. I was always complimented when I had my hair flat ironed and permed, but if my hair wasn’t permed nor straightened my hair was seen as a “nappy mess.” As I began middle school, perms and flat-ironing my hair really began damaging my hair. My hair started to show tremendous breakage. The length of my hair decreased from shoulder length to a bob. Not only was my hair breaking off, but my hair began to thin out. In high school, I began doing my own hair and I would literally put heat on my hair every day. I became very ashamed of my hair, because my hair started to look stiff and stringy. Since, I absolutely hated the way hair looked, I started to get sew-ins to make my hair look full and longer. After I started to get these sew-ins, I stopped getting perms and I noticed something different when I would wash my hair, CURLS! Seeing my new-growth encouraged me to grow out my natural curls and began my natural hair journey.

During this journey, I’ve discovered myself, as well as others, feel discouragement about growing out their natural hair. When starting a natural hair journey there is a “Big Chop” involved. This “Big Chop” involves cutting off the hair that has been processed and will help the hair grow in healthier.  Many women feel can feel really discouraged during this process because they have to start growing their hair back. Others can discourage women by saying that “they will look like a boy” or other discouraging things. Personally, a “Big Chop” means the beginning of learning more of natural beauty. After my “Big Chop”, my natural hair has taught me to be patient, encouraged me to learn more about my roots, and be more confident and find the beauty with my natural self.

The knowledge that I’ve learned this semester has encouraged this year’s project. My project is a painting of a black woman in her natural entirety. I used acrylic paints on the canvas. Due that the paints were cheap the coverage of the paints weren’t that good, but didn’t take away from the message. I decided to paint the background a light yellow to brighten up the painting. As well, the yellow color is a beautiful color that complimented the woman’s chocolate skin. I gave the woman an orange lid and applied a falsie for eyelashes in order to brighten up her eyes. On her lips, I used a neutral paint that will make the lips more natural. For the hair, I used synthetic hair. The synthetic hair was added to give the painting more of a realistic look and to show the beauty of a natural curl pattern. The glitter glued words on the painting, signify some words that can help how we define natural hair. Natural hair on black women has been slandered over the years and hasn’t really been accepted by others due to the lack of knowledge.

My message is for young black girls, black women, and others who are curious about natural hair that black hair is beautiful. I title the painting “My Hair Is…” because I am a part of the natural community and I would love to encourage the discouraged to following through in their natural hair journey. The natural community is growing and with this growth we need to encourage others to define natural hair with more empowering words. By using these empowering words for natural hair, it will encourage others to use them. These words will get rid the ignorant words that have blinded our view of our natural hair, because “MY/OUR hair is free, versatile, power, and empowering!”

LaShawna Gunn is currently a Junior that is majoring in Health Services Administration with a minor in Women’s Studies at Old Dominion University. She’s a small town girl with big expectations. She enjoys learning about the different topics in Women’s Studies. She is excited to learn more about  the understanding of Bodylore and all it’s fundamentals.