Our next conversation is with Jacqueline
Tell me about your child hood memories of your hair experience
I first became aware of my hair at the age of 7 when I started an English Primary School. We had been posted home as my Dad was in the army. He left about this time as the marriage failed and Mum who was white became a single parent. At School I had one Black friend. She left after the first term, my reference point after that, was little girls with straight silky hair. I wanted to fit in, to be like them. They sometime commented on my “frizzy” hair. I felt embarrassed.
Mum did what she could allowing me to grow it (before this it was always cut short and curled around her fingers). Still it would go in all directions and one determined piece at the front broke free of the hair forced into a bobble and stuck up in the air. Mum took me to the hairdresser who advised olive oil treatment and large rollers. (She was white). This worked well for a day and so it was washed and oiled on a Sunday but by Wednesday was back to its dry state with a little halo effect so unloved by me.
Did your mother have natural hair? Was this throughout your entire childhood or not.
Mum’s hair was thick and bouncy. It had waves and it wasn’t like mine. She preferred a’ bob’. Ideal for 60’s and 70’s fashion. I knew we were different and I knew why
Can you remember how your mother described your hair? Or other female family members?
Curly but also frizzy. Mum tried to find products to tame it. One had a lion on it and smelt lovely but it was for white girls and dried my hair out. We had a joke because she pulled my hair so tight in a bobble I felt like my eyes were going around the corner of my head.
How did others view your hair in the family, As something funny. My brother teased endlessly as his was like Mum’s. Quite straight. My Auntie combed it which hurt and put a huge pink ribbon in it which hurt me more. I was a tomboy and she did not have a little girl so I got the buttons and bows.
School – something to mock and bully me over. At my secondary girls School I was bullied by white and Black girls. Any change of style was laughed at uproariously. I kept trying different things to fit in but it never worked. The closest I got to cool was in 76 when I sported the biggest afro in the School. When I got home I shook the paper clips and bit of papers out that someone had invariably inserted. Once I found a rolled up paper with a message on. I think it read “Don’t forget to comb your hair”.
Work – Ha by the time I got to work I was 28 and it was more than Colleagues life was worth to mention my hair. They did touch and comment on my curls from time to time. Most say: “Is your hair natural”. So tempting to say “no”. to such a ridiculous enquiry.
Have you always had natural hair ?
No. When I was 18 and I had succeeded in growing it without my Mother intervening with an order to cut it finally made my shoulders. I washed it and let it dry naturally and voila! I began to be me.
What stages of regime ( permed, relax, gericurl hot iron pressed) of your hair did you go through, before being natural or have you been natural all your life?
Well first short then grown and pulled into a bobble. Then various styles, once Mum cut it and gave me a short back and sides. I went to a shop and got called ‘son’. I cried all the way home. After the fro I tried the ‘flower’ which required many hair grips and was an absolute failure. Then I managed to grow and straighten it and get It under control (I was checking and brushing so many times in the day!). Along camefunk punk and mod and I chose my own short cut with kiss curls at the side. Then I grew it and grew it again to get to the natural look,
When you transitioned to natural hair where did you get the support, friends family, internet colleagues?
Mostly from kind friends
Who has influenced you most in wearing your natural hair?
It was the 80’s! I was learning about hair as a political statement and the natural Sistas of the 60’s and 70’s. We had our own politics of free expression. At that time I guess I could be described as Boho. I was still mainly in the white community and my hair marked me out as different. I mainly wanted to look romantic, trailing broderie anglaise petticoats over Victorian boots and my long and slightly unkempt hair adding to the effect! Lord…..
If you have children or young girl relatives, what have their hair experiences been at school ?
My daughter is black her hair has a different texture. She’s been raised to value her blackness and to see herself as beautiful as she is but she wears extensions and straightens her hair. I let her do what she wants. I do want to her to develop pride in her natural hair but its her journey and I believe she will eventually embrace her natural beauty.
How do you instil positivity in our girls particularly when they have a negative experience ?
For me it starts early with books and positive role models. I think you should tell your child they are beautiful and ensure they have stories and positive images around them. Also mind your language. We can inadvertently praise someone who is rocking a look which is not natural. We need to ensure we guard against any negative reinforcement and being over anxious about our children being perfectly groomed and turned out so that their natural hair is trained to within an inch of its life.
Describe your hair now in one word?
Curly and ringletty and a bit frizzy too.
What do you love about your hair
It’s a big part of my identity. I love that I don’t have to comb it everyday, it’s washngo. It’s like my calling card. Wild don’t care, hair. I think it’s sexy too and I don’t care if no-one else thinks so.
Do you have any favorite styles?
Yes, just washed. Sometimes I put in ringlets.
Do you have any favorite products?
Not really. Just a good quality deep moisture mask now and again,
What positive message would you like to say to a young girl about their hair?
You were created this way and the one that made you loves you. You are his concept of beauty. Your hair is uniquely you and is a part of your beautiful creation. Play with it, have fun with it. These days there are so many products and ways to style your natural. Don’t let anyone put you down. You are a beautiful reflection of your Mum and Dad and so uniquely you. xx