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Why go natural?

POPULAR: Janelle Monae

LASK WEEK we ran a feature about black women's renewed love affair with natural hair.

Voice journalist, Elizabeth Pears, wrote: "We have suffered braids that are too tight, weaves that are too itchy, burned ears, broken hairlines and, lest we forget, the jheri curl in all its greasy glory. And we have done this with one goal in mind: to drag our hair – sometimes kicking and screaming – to a place that bears no resemblance to what grows naturally on the top of our heads."

Here, two readers share their natural hair experiences with The Voice:

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Netsai Mashingaidze, 29, runs her own employment agency

“I went natural in 2009 after growing bored with my relaxed hair. I like to change my look and it was the only thing I had never tried in my adult life. I decided to transition because I wasn’t ready for the big chop.

“Every time I relaxed my hair, my scalp used to burn. I thought, ‘if this was my body, I wouldn’t do this. If I ate something that made me sick, I’d stop eating it’. It was time to face facts: my skin does not like relaxer and I needed to listen to that.

“One of the biggest things that keeps me natural is that my hair is a lot thicker, healthier and easier to style. I was shocked when it wasn’t the coarse dry mess I had been conditioned to believe it would be. I keep wondering how long it took me to get to this point.

“I also think about what happens when I have a daughter. I want her to be proud of her natural hair, and if I have relaxed hair that does not exactly help send that message.

“I love my hair like this and that’s what is important. Men who would rather date a woman with a long weave I find bizarre. Is that sexier? Are they just conforming to what society dictates is attractive?”

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Akwokor Thompson, 24, MA student at the Institute of Education

“Going natural was something I always wanted to do. There were many elements to it: I wanted a fresh look; it was low maintenance; it was cheaper. I used to spend nearly £100 every six weeks at the hair salon getting a relaxer and a steam treatment, etc. Now I spend nowhere near that.

“I could never go back to using any chemicals on my hair because it feels and looks so much healthier.

“I have had different reactions, but really it depends on the person. If it’s another black woman, you get the questions and the comments, from ‘how could you cut your hair?’ to ‘wow - you’re brave’. I’ve even had a man come up to me and say ‘well done, sis’ and shake my hand. It’s quite patronising.

“There is this stereotype that if you have natural hair you’re a certain type of person – this ‘Nubian sister girl’. I am proud of my roots but this is just a hairstyle.

“With white people, they tend not to notice. They just assume that this is how black hair is and it’s normal.

“I shaved my head before I went travelling for a year in 2009. I wasn’t going to be here, so I guess I knew I wouldn’t have to face so many questions, and that’s what made it easier. It gave me the space to digest it and decide for myself if I liked it or not. I now realise that a low afro suits me best.

“Natural hair isn’t for everyone and I would never look down my nose at another woman for weaving, braiding or relaxing. You’ve just got to do what makes you happy.”

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