What I Learned From: “Going Natural” (And Why I’m Back on the Creamy Crack)

I don’t regret “going natural” 4 years ago. I mainly did so to teach my daughter to love herself as she is.

She’s worn her natural hair all her life. I started “relaxing” since about age 13 for manageability, independent styling (Mom was no longer braiding me as a teen), and to fit in.  20+ years later, I bravely did the big chop.

When I took my daughter to the airport to visit other family members for the summer of ’13, she sternly told me not to cut my hair while she was gone. “You should let it grow back and get long the way it used to be,” she said.

She missed my long straight hair, and honestly, I did too.

Continue reading “What I Learned From: “Going Natural” (And Why I’m Back on the Creamy Crack)”

Size Matters… If You Let It

woman holding an ugly Christmas sweater
Source: The Gloss

The most hilarious Christmas-themed commercial I’ve seen this season is from the Georgia Lottery about unwanted gifts. Often, these gifts are either clothing or accessories that we know we would never wear.

It’s hard to buy gifts for some people, especially when it comes to style. But what about when you’re unsure of how to best shop or dress for your style, size, and personal preferences.  I find shopping to be exhausting, and my unhappiest shopping memories by have been (and still are) for shoes.  I’ve been wearing a women’s size 11 shoe since I was 11 years old. My feet don’t always look that big (it depends on the shoe style), but they got wider as became an adult. It seems that many retailers (or shoe manufacturers) do not make beautiful, stylish women’s shoes above a certain size. Sometimes it’s the brand or manufacturer. Sometimes the store will only stock a limited number of shoes over size 9. Whatever the case, it’s always been rough. I’ve heard the same kind of complaints from others regarding finding stylish clothes for plus size girls and women. It’s a great opportunity for a designer to get into, because there’s such a void in the fashion market for it.

I realize that I have a lot of plain-jane clothes like one-color hoodies, shirts and ribbed turtlenecks, and they have me in a fashion rut of sorts. Only with my recent weight loss have I started to consider buying new clothes for myself. So I was excited to find out that one of my favorite stylists* and What Not to Wear co-host Stacy London has written another book this year: The Truth About Style  (Viking) goes into depth about some of the psychology of how we dress, indecisiveness, how the way we feel about ourselves and others’ opinions and judgments of us influence how we dress, and why we choose (or refuse to choose) to give weight to those beliefs and opinions. Continue reading “Size Matters… If You Let It”

Thanks-and-Giving: How Much Do Compliments Cost?

Have you ever purposely changed something about your appearance–maybe your hairdo or a special outfit–and wondered if anyone (or a specific person like your partner) would notice?  Since my appearance has started to change from weight loss (17 pounds and counting), I’ve gotten some unexpected compliments from people who I didn’t expect to notice.

Upon arriving to youth ministry service one day about two months ago, I greeted the youth minister and he asked me if I was losing weight. I can’t remember his language verbatim, but he said could tell (the way he said it was complimentary). At that time, I had not noticed a change in my figure, so I was surprised to get the compliment.  Then a week or two later when I served again, his wife hugged me and mentioned that every time she sees me, she sees less and less of me because I’m shrinking (making gestures to indicate that I keep getting smaller).  Note that the youth minister and his wife are a good bit younger than me (I’ll touch on age in a bit).

It feels good to hear stuff like that. I love food, but there’s no food that tastes as good as being smaller feels. Continue reading “Thanks-and-Giving: How Much Do Compliments Cost?”

Happy Nappyversary to Me

Me, Jan. 2010

Do you know what today is?

It’s my “nappyversary.” It was one year ago today that I let go of a whole lot when I chopped all my hair off.

I found two pieces of my straight relaxed hair in one of my Bibles, among all places. That old hair was a symbol of a part of me who always felt self-conscious unless her hair was “done” professionally. I’ve come a long way since then.

Fear of the Unknown

Many Black women are afraid to do the big chop for fear of:

a) what their face will look like without hair framing it

b) what their natural texture looks like

c) what others comments (especially significant others and close family members)

d) learning to care for their natural hair without chemicals

e) any combination of the above

Me and mini-me, Aug. 2010

But not me. Continue reading “Happy Nappyversary to Me”

The Pursuit of Nappyness: Oh My Nappy Hair!

I’m starting what I hope to be a series entitled “The Pursuit of Nappyness,” where I profile people that will enlighten you about natural hair salons, events, and just all-around fly people to watch in the natural hair community. This is my first “natural hair interview,” courtesy of Elaine M. Truesdale, VP of Business Development for Atlanta Natural Hair Care in Atlanta, GA. I have not written many posts about natural hair, but being new to Atlanta and new to the natural hair world (I big chopped last summer), I felt this interview was a great opportunity to learn more about the subject, as well as explore a different part of town!

I talked with Erica Blevins, who manages one of three “Oh My Nappy Hair” (OMNH) salons (they’re in L.A., Oakland, and Atlanta) and founder, Rosario Schuler (her mom). They’ve been in business for 22 years–the first exclusively-natural hair salon on the West Coast! Erica has styled celebrities such as Stevie Wonder and Halle Berry, and took some time from her management duties (and her June wedding planning!) to talk with me about:

  • How the business got started, and feelings about the word “nappy”
  • Why she wears her hair natural
  • The lack of natural hair curriculum in beauty schools
  • Fear of natural hair acceptance from others
  • Natural hair “nazis”

Continue reading “The Pursuit of Nappyness: Oh My Nappy Hair!”

Goal Call (May Edition)

Since my last goal call 2 months ago,  I’ve accomplished a lot.

Accepted!

I have submitted my book to a publisher and it was accepted! The editors at Brown Books Small Press were pleased with my manuscript and followed up with a publishing proposal, which I accepted. I have been requesting endorsements from friends, colleagues, and a few celebrities in the meantime. For those of you who don’t know, my book is a self-esteem/memoir book to empower teen girls to celebrate their uniqueness and use the good sense God gave them. It touches on aspects of every day life for them. Continue reading “Goal Call (May Edition)”

Curls, Cupcakes, and Conversation

One of my meetup groups attended the Curls, Cupcakes, and Conversation event in Atlanta the other day. There, I saw a demo of a new product line for curly-haired tresses, had some yummy cupcakes from Whole Foods, and learned about common foods and dietary supplements that can negatively impact our health and well-being.

Rhian “Rhee” Sharpe says she spent a great chunk of her life wearing weaves. She would faithfully relax her hair, braid it, and re-weave it like clockwork for 18 years. When she had children, the thought occurred to her, “How can I teach my children to embrace and love their natural hair texture when I’m not?” I can totally relate.

She also mentioned that she liked the Kinky Curly products, except for the synthetic preservatives in them. To that end, she developed her own line of products called Curls of the World, using all natural ingredients and preservatives and is free of parabens, silicone, petroleum, plastics, mineral oils, alcohol wax, carbomers, and acrylics. Currently, Curls of the World is comprised of four styling products, but a shampoo and conditioner are in the works, and Rhian said they would be available later this year.

Three hair models demonstrated using the Curls of the World (each with different hair textures of 2, 3, and 4).   I recorded a portion of one model’s twist/twist-out regime with Rhee (see below).

Curls of the World is based in Stockbridge, GA and all orders ship free in the month of April 2011.

After the demos, two natural health experts from Bee Well Life Corporation from Roswell, GA gave us information and answered questions about common mistakes we make when it comes to our diet, vitamins, and supplements. I was familiar with some, but not all of the advice they gave. You can peruse their variety of tips on Twitter by searching the hashtag #curlscupcakesconvo (my Twitter name is @DareeAllen).

**Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links in this post, and I was not asked to write this post by anyone, nor compensated in any way for writing this post. I just like to support good people.**

Position, Purim, and Providence

The first time I read the Bible all the way through, I was 8 years old. Needless to say, I didn’t understand everything I read back then, but as I grew in Christ and became more knowledgeable, I realized that consistent study of the Word equips you in ways you never imagine. The Bible is, after all, the sword of the Spirit. You don’t usually internalize something just from reading it or hearing it only once. So regular study is a discipline that I have resumed this year. Ideally, I’d like to set aside quiet time for it daily, but I give myself the grace to miss a day here or there.

In 2007 I attended a 9-week women’s bible study on the book of Esther, right around the time the movie One Night With the King, (somewhat based on Esther), was released. I still have those notes, but decided to study the book again for another 9 weeks using Beth Moore’s guide, entitled Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman. Moore approached the book in a totally different way, and I’ve just finished it. My initial hope was that I would gain a lot of insight into Esther’s redeeming character traits, plus anything new revelations God wanted to send my way for this season in my life. After all, a lot has happened in my life since ’07.

One of the things that strikes me, despite no mention of God in the whole book, is His presence in Esther’s life from beginning to end. She was a female, an orphan, and a Jew– three things that would normally give someone of her time unfavorable status.  Although she was very beautiful, she was also wise and humble. God’s favor and His hand in her life were apparent from the very first mention of her in Chapter 2 (there are 10 dramatic chapters in all). It started with the position Esther took on (she was crowned Queen of Persia in 479 B.C.), wisdom in conflict “for such a time as this,” (Es 4:14) and the resulting establishment of the Jewish celebration of Purim (473 B.C.).

God’s presence and providence are shown throughout the book, as several ironies unfold and scripts are flipped. I specifically remember in these last few years how God turned my feelings of depression, entrapment, hopelessness, and discouragement to happiness, freedom, hope, and optimism. (Followers of this blog can see my progression.) How has God turned the tables in your life of late? If you’re coming up blank, what would you like to see change?

Below are some notes from Moore’s study that I think can stand alone without the context of the story of Esther. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, these snippets won’t give it all away. I encourage you to read it for yourself– you’ll be blessed.

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Meanness always identifies a threat, whether it’s real or imagined. (Haman)

Because Satan has a limited leash where believers are concerned (God and Satan > Job 1), his most powerful tactics are psychological. He can profoundly and destructively influence our thoughts (if we let him).

God designed conviction to be uncomfortable so that we would hurry to repentance and find relief in restoration.

God told His people (the Israelites) from the time of Moses that He’d protect them and fight their battles for them as long as they worshipped Him only. If they forgot Him, He would still love them but not shield them; He used their enemies to turn His people back to Him. [God has blessed me tremendously, but He never lets me go too long without reminding me, through various circumstances, that I need Him every day of my life.]

We are significant. We may not have the title of “King/Queen,” but we are royalty and have been placed in our own sphere of influence no matter how great or small, “for such a time as this.” (See also Ephesians 1:1.) [Our lives matter more than we know, hope, or realize!]

You are not called to live an easy life, but a purposeful one. When you walk in your purpose, you will have to make some of the most difficult decisions of our lives. Just when we think we can’t do it, God steps in and does something miraculous, and we become something that we’re not, and “Who knows?” becomes “I know.”

Fasting with prayer allows you to wholeheartedly focus your petition before God. Refusing sustenance demonstrates desperation and sincerity to receive direction and deliverance.

In a crisis situation, there is no neutral position. Failure to decide brings personal loss and misses the opportunity to fulfill God’s purpose. [No decision is a decision.] Failure to decide is to decide on failure.

Our distrust of God tells our enemy exactly how to get to us.

Ironically, a person is never less aware of divine intervention than when s/he has been chosen to render it.

We don’t realize that our stronghold can be a person until it is one. A person becomes a snare to us anytime s/he consumes an excessive or unhealthy space in our thoughts (negative or positive). [Who is your obsession?] It’s not the person that emotionally masters us– it’s our thoughts about the person that emotionally master us.

Admitting you have an area of brokenness is a huge first step toward wholeness.

If the Jews had been annihilated, Jesus could not have come from their bloodline. Why do you think Satan tried so often to destroy the Jews? Jesus was a threat to him.

God cannot break His promises. His Word is not only His bond but His very breath.

There is shelter in the Most High (see also Ps 91), in whom we find our significance and the only satisfaction of our insatiable need to be noticed.

In the end, people don’t get away with murder or its premeditation.

Sometimes God wants to show us what we can do rather than let us find someone who can do it for us.

Getting the credit is the wrong reason to do the right thing.

Every time God shifts us/our circumstances around, He’s not just fulfilling His own pleasure (Phil 2:13) but He’s also working every detail, good and bad, for our good (Rom 8:28). No matter what evils schemes come against us, God will work it out, work it in, and work it well. (God specializes in reversals.)

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining.
I believe in love, even when I do not feel it.
I believe in God, even when He is silent. ~ Author Unknown

 

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How you ever been were you aware of being placed in a situation or position for a critical purpose (“for such a time as this”)? Did you expect God to use you? Have you ever seen Him turn the tables and ‘flip the script’ in your favor?

Respect the Architect

http://ilovemyhair.bigcartel.com/contact
"Self-Love" Art by Andrea Pippins

Wearing my hair natural continues to be something I get questions and comments on. In the natural hair documentary entitled, Natural Beauty: Happy to be Nappy, I explained why I “went natural” (around the 2:20 mark). HINT: see the artwork to the left. The video is linked below and courtesy of Shakethia Robertson of Respect My Crown Productions.

Several of my friends that are a part of the Atlanta Naturally Fierce meetup group are also featured in this video, who proudly, fearlessly, and FIERCELY rock their hair in a natural state, the way that God made us.

I’ve gone back and forth about whether to grow out my TWA or head back to my barber for a fresh cut like one in this video, but either way, I feel so free. Enjoy and comment!

Natural Beauty: Happy to be Nappy from Respect My Crown on Vimeo

 

Hair Envy and Hair Rules

A lot of women think about going natural but decide against it because of fear or lack of knowledge.

Ready Or Not

At Sephora the other day, just to pick up my free birthday gift a little early, and a lady walked up to the counter at the same time I did. She had long twists, but I could tell her hair was not natural. (It didn’t matter to me–I don’t make judgments on how other Black women wear their hair now that I chosen to wear my hair natural.)  When I complimented her, she told me she wanted to go natural, but didn’t know what to do with it, so for now she just twists it. She told me I looked good natural because of my texture, but I told her I didn’t know what my texture would be like after my big chop. Until a few months ago, I faithfully relaxed my hair every month or so for the past 20 years.

Courtesy of American Girl

My daughter recently confessed that she doesn’t like my TWA (teeny weeny afro); she prefers it “down.” But that’s fine with me, as long as she likes her own hair. She doesn’t particularly prefer brown dolls either at this point, but I just want to continue a sense of self-love in her.

Check out this premiere episode of Living No Lye featuring my daughter and other girls with “Tiny Tresses” at the Carol’s Daughter store in Buckhead, Atlanta. Shouts out to Tress Talk ATL for putting on the event (starting at the 4:15 mark)! All the girls are shown at the 5:36 mark (mini-me is the one with the big pink flower).

Continue reading “Hair Envy and Hair Rules”