If you caught my post Connecting Over Curls, you probably know I had the opportunity to interview a beautiful human being named Bréa.
I decided to meet up with Bréa personally, record and transcribe the conversation, then share the key points. This ended up taking a lot longer than I had anticipated, especially since I felt there were so many key points, but here it finally is! (It’s a long read, but a good read–in my bias opinion).
( If you haven’t had a chance to read my introductory post, check it out for some more context!)
So to kick it off, I asked her to introduce herself by describing herself outside of her hair, noting that it was a bit of a tricky question.
Well I’m 23. My name is Bréa. I love art… I’m very, very artsy now; I love singing, I love painting.”
She paused, thinking a bit longer.
That’s a very good question…
Actually, I feel like right now, I’m going through a–I feel like a death and rebirth. I’m going through a transition period. So I’d say I’m a little confusing right now, but just really excited to see where my life takes me.
That’s perfect! So walk me through your hair journey.
I first chemically straightened my hair at a salon in grade 5. I remember it because my dad was away, because he refused, he said that I could never do it. My mom took me, and it was literally probably down to my butt when I got it done. And I just totally felt like a princess!
And then my dad came home, and he told me… “Well, you ruined your hair, and that’s your problem now”. Those were his words.
At this point she was laughing, recalling the memory.
But I didn’t care — I was like “I don’t think I’ve ruined it.” But I definitely got it done as a–well my mom thought just that it was a fun thing to do; to try. And because I was a dancer, we both were like “Hey, it’s easier to get your hair back in a pony tail, to do the french braids that they needed you to do, to do whatever. So honestly it was just a fun thing in my mind.
And then, 12 years later of continuously straightening my roots… Because it’s just a cycle right? It’s like your roots are growing out and you’re like “Okay, time to do it”, without thinking why you’re doing it.
And I only went to the salon once; so I always just did it. My mom used the “Just for Kids” box because it’s very light on your hair. So that’s how we always did my roots; my mom would do them, or my friends would do it for me.
So then it was third year university, I was doing a lot of Women’s Studies Electives, and then I thought “Huh.. Why am I straightening my hair? It’s been like 12 years.. And then I literally thought, “Wait. Am I conforming to white beauty norms?”
It was kind of the first time, because I always thought “Well no, It’s just because it’s easier, you know.”
And I just thought “Huh”, and this little voice inside of me is like “Yeah, you are… You’re not embracing who you are.”
So I started doing a bunch of research, and I knew you could do the “big chop”, or you could let it grow out with both hair textures and I was like; my hair is disgusting, it’s dry, I’m going to do the big chop!
My brother’s girlfriend at the time was a hair stylist, so I asked her to do it. And I think everyone was like “Wait, what? You want to cut all your hair off?”
I think she was hesitant, she was like, “How about we do… like a Rihanna look. Instead of chopping off all your hair?” and I was like “Okay, whatever,” I just wanted it gone.
And so she gave me like the “Undercut Rihanna”, because I still had straight pieces. It was that edgy kind of look. I loved it, and rocked it for a couple months. Then it grew out, and then I chopped all that off and had a mini mohawk of curls, and then I went all one length, and since then I’ve been growing it out. And now my goal is just a really big mane… Except it’s very hard because I do like change, and there are so many times where I’m like “What if I just shaved the side of my head?” So I think dyeing my hair is me expressing myself, It’s like I really want to shave a part of my head, but I also want the mane, so I can’t…
Are you happy you went with the Big Chop option?
Yeah, it was a nice freeing and fresh kind of feeling. And I think I would have been annoyed with the two textures. I probably would have been like “Just get the kit–let’s straighten it!” I just really didn’t like the two textures, and I think that’s why the cycle always happened.
How do you feel that being natural ties into your identity now?
Well, I feel like I’m living more authentically… I don’t really know how, just from a visual standpoint?
But also embracing my “blackness”. I feel too, when people saw me with straight hair, it’s always like “What’s your ethnicity? What’s your nationality? Are you from Canada?”
But when they see me now, it’s like no, that black lady over there, it’s like my identity… It just makes sense, it makes more sense.
I think it also makes me feel unique, and I am that as a person. And honestly, I think it gives me more confidence. Where when I was younger it was like no, the confidence thing was from not having curly hair. So it’s funny; that was a insecurity when I was younger, but now it’s like no, this is what gives me confidence.
You mentioned ’embracing your blackness’, do you find that different from when you were younger?
When I was younger, I grew up in an Indian community, so everyone was my colour skin. You know, like everyone was brown. Like I’m half black, so yes, I’m you know, brown-looking. So I never thought of me as “standing out”, or “I’m really really different”.
She thinks some more to herself.
I guess when I was a kid, I don’t think I thought of myself as “Oh I’m half black/ half white and that really means something in the world,” because everyone around me kind of looked similar.
So I think now, I’m thinking about it like “Yes, I’m half white, but you know, I have the curliest curls… So it’s like this is part of my ‘blackness’– of my black genes– that I can embrace and show the world.
Other than “you are going to ruin your hair”, was that your dad’s biggest/only fear?
You now what, I actually don’t know…
It’s funny, I should ask him. Because honestly probably not, it was probably like “this a part of you, this a part of me, this is a part of our ancestors… and my family”. So maybe it hit him more to a core… I never thought about that.
Because yeah, he just looked down, and shook his head. I don’t think he wanted to see his baby girl with straight hair. It’s like no, you’re supposed to have a curly afro…
What do your parent’s say about your hair now?
They love it… I think….
No they do, I mean it’s my natural hair!
And honestly, it was when I got it done, and I was growing it out, and going through phases, and wearing my hair differently… I think it was almost nostalgic for my parents, because they’re like “We see you as the little girl you were”, like “You’re so cute”.
So yeah, I think that they really like it…
I think though, that my mom–when I did get it cut off– that she cried that day. She told me that she wasn’t crying because of my hair, and she blamed it on something else, but I knew she was crying because of my hair…
I think it was because it was like an undercut; it was a very bold and dramatic look… and too, I kept my goals about what my hair was going to be in the future to myself. As in, I knew I wanted the really long hair, and this was just going to be me going through a phase of chopping it off, and cutting it differently, and then once I was done with all that, I knew I was going to grow it out, I think she was just worried at first.
What did you use as inspiration when you were thinking of going natural?
I used Solange Knowles! That was in my google search, and I just kept looking at all the pictures. And the one, you’ve probably seen it; it’s the one where her hair’s really, really short, and she has the part. That was the one that was like “This is what I’m going to become!”
I can’t really think of another, because then it was like okay: any celebrity. And you know what I actually found very surprising? I know a lot of black actors and actresses names, so I would type in their names and be like “curly hair”. Like at one point in their career, there must have been their natural hair in something, but no, it was so hard finding someone.
I wanted to see them with straight hair and them with curly hair… that wasn’t a weave! And too, sometimes it’s “Yeah, this is my natural hair” and it’s like “is it? I don’t think so…”
But recently, I can’t remember her name, but Game of thrones? (Nathalie Emmanuel) She has really nice hair; like her natural afro hair, it’s pretty cool.”
I love seeing celebrities, or people in the street, with natural hair, it’s like “You are very inspriging, thank you!”
When you were researching it, were you looking at it more from a style perspective, or were you looking also at how to take care of it?
I think because of dance when I was younger, having curly hair, I remembered how to take care of it; what products I used, and all that stuff, so it was more so just styling it; will this look good on me? And the different hairstyles as it grows out, like what can I do with it?
And I think it’s because my mom educated herself so much when we were younger, that she’s also been a great source to go to.
I observed how healthy her hair was, especially dyed.
Did you have to do anything different when you dyed your hair to keep it healthy?
I think I was definitely scared, and my mom was like why are you dying your hair!? But I think honestly; condition, condition, condition. And I stopped shampooing. I never shampoo… maybe once in a blue moon.
Is there a particular question that you get asked about your hair? Whether from strangers or friends?
Strangers; Is it real? which I find surprising. Then of course, “Can I touch your hair?” which I am so open too. Usually, I’m also the one who’s like “Touch it!”
And “How do you do your hair?” thats a big one. “I jump in the shower… then I come out. I don’t do anything!”
What makes you so open to “Can I touch it?”
I think it’s because, they just don’t know… So it’s just kinda like yes, if I let you touch my hair or talk to you about it a little it more, you’ll go away with some new information.
A lot of the time they’re like “Oh my gosh I didn’t even know that! or “That’s so cool!” and then they’re not going to go up to another black person that might not like that question, because they know.
I just like to educate people on black hair! I think it’s important, and honestly, where else are they going to find that information? Because I mean too, the people that are like “Can I touch it?”… it isn’t the most appropriate question.. you know what I mean? and I acknowledge that.
And finally, is there any advice you would give to someone considering going natural, or who is just starting their journey?
Just own it.
And be patient with yourself. Because you don’t really know what to expect..And too, I think anyone starting their journey, their reasons are super personal, and their intention is completely in the right place. Don’t give up on yourself, it is a big decision, but in the end it’s all worth it. I’d be surprised if you talked to someone and they said it wasn’t worth it… Or that they didn’t like it–the end result anyways.
And that’s all she wrote! I want to give a huge “Thank You” to Bréa for sitting down and connecting with me, and for allowing me to share her journey with all of you!
~Comfy Girl With Curls