I wonder if, when the pony evolved a tail, it had any sense how important it would be in women’s hair styling. For many years, I was terrified of cutting my hair shorter than pony-tail length. I’d practically flinch when the hairdresser attempted anything more than a trim.
However, following a break up, I decided to get my hair cut – short. It was a big moment. From now on I’d have to ‘do’ my hair every day. But though it was scary, I loved having an actual hair style even if it was a bit ‘Newsreader.’
I loved that crop and how its shape changed as my hair grew. Then after a few weeks I’d head back to the salon to get it lopped off again.
However, despite this new style, I was still on the chemical-straightener carousel. And so, after about three years of rocking the crop, I did what I’d been quietly thinking about for a while – The Big Chop – cutting off processed hair and literally going back to my roots.
What a revelation. For the first time in my life, doing my hair took minutes and I could wash and go every day. I frickin’ loved it. No more hairdressers. 30 minutes at the barbers and I was done.
I loved not enduring those harsh chemicals and meeting my hair in its true natural state for the first time in aaaages. And as my hair grew out, I even discovered I had ringlets.
I went au naturale for a while but then the greatest/ worst invention hit the market – straighteners. And I used them – a lot. Because, despite rediscovering my natural hair, I still revered straight hair more. On top of the constant GHDing, I started dyeing my hair, cutting it myself and even did blond highlights. I was on fire! (literally…)
Over time though, my hair, as thick and hardy as it was, suffered. When I washed it, clumps started falling out.
I had to make an emergency visit to my hairdresser, Barbara. Between the spritz sprays and peroxide, the texturizing (yes I was back on the chemicals) and singeing straighteners, my experimenting had wreaked havoc. It took several monthly visits to Barbara to return my strong, Afro hair to its former state.
From then on I seriously dialled down the processing but still hadn’t fully embracing my natural locks. But all that changed, while catching up on a bit of TV. For a while, I co-hosted a Channel 4 show and before filming I’d heat-straighten my hair, thinking that looked professional.
Eventually, I left the show to work on other projects but one night I was watching my awesome replacement and noticed she had a really gorgeous natural hair style and I had an epiphany – or hair-pyphany if you will. Since first relaxing my hair, I’d been in this constant state of warfare with my barnet and it was all down to refusing to accept its true nature. I’d relaxed it, heat straightened it and got annoyed when it didn’t style as I wanted: i.e. sleek and straight.
But when I saw this woman on TV, looking great, it helped me embrace my own hair fully. And after all these years, at last I learned how to care for my natural locks (thank you, YouTubers!) and fall in love with what I’d been given. I saw that my hair type was not only as beautiful as any other but was not difficult or ‘unmanageable’ but glorious, versatile and oh did I mention, gravity-defying!
First published December 2012