(Sharon J.'s Story)
Background / I'm a Cleveland resident and native. I've worked as a newspaper and magazine reporter, substitute teacher, telemarketer, shoe saleswoman, hotel maid, hotel reservation clerk. I am currently a secretary at a state university and a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in English.
Hairstyle / I wear a short Afro. It's about a half an inch high. I have been wearing my hair natural for almost eight years. At one time, my natural hair reached my shoulders. I often wore twists and twist outs. Last year, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had to undergo chemo therapy and my hair began to fall out. I had thick twists hanging from one or two strands of hair. My sister, who is a hair stylist, shaved my head. I wore a short wig for about five months. My hair is starting to grow back now--a little grayer than before, but that's okay. People told me that my hair might be a different texture than it was prior to the chemo therapy; it would come back "nice" with a soft, wavy texture. I'm happy to say that my hair returned to its nice African texture.
Reason for wearing a "natural" hairstyle / I quit a job around the same time the economy took a nose dive. Rule number 1--don't quit a job if you don't have another one lined up. I couldn't afford to keep up my relaxed hair and it started to break off. Either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve of 2001, I decided to cut the perm out. It just got good to me, I guess. I wound up with a three-inch Afro. I haven't been to a hair salon since that time. I just can't afford it. Besides, I have always liked natural, African textured hair. I think women who wear natural styles look very modern and stylish.
Support for your natural look / I've gotten mixed responses. I began to wear my hair natural while working as a substitute teacher. One of the students told me I looked like Macy Gray, and she didn't mean it as a compliment. I told her, that's okay, at least Macy Gray can spell. I know I was wrong, but I could resist. Another time I was working in the ticket booth at a theater and these two Black female supervisors called me into the office to tell me they had problems with my grooming. My hair was fairly long and thick. I used to wear a hair band. One of these daughters of Satan told me that my hair style got in her craw, and if I knew how much Black women had to struggle to get ahead that I wouldn't wear my hair that way. I'm happy to say that I do get encouragement from a lot of people that I respect for their fashion sense and pride in being Black.
Response to negative commentary / I usually ignore insults directed at me. I'm braver when it comes to defending other people when they're insulted about their natural hair.
A woman or women with natural hair whose style you admire / Macy Gray, Jill Scott, Michel Martin, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Tracee Ellis Ross and Whoopi Goldberg.
Useful natural hair care tips, styling techniques or products / I got in the habit of washing my hair with baby shampoo daily after my hair fell out. I still do that now that I have hair. I follow that with either Miss Jessie's products or curl activator. My sister works well with natural hair. It's good to find a stylist who knows how to treat your hair.
Advice for women considering a natural hairstyle / Save yourself some money and go natural.
Any blogs, websites, books or print magazines, which deal with the subject of natural hair that you'd like to share or recommend / Missjessies.com is good. It shows before and after pictures featuring twist out styles. MotownGirl.com provides a lot of useful advice on caring for natural hair. Nappturality.com also is great. It helps dispel the myth that African textured hair can't get long. Essence Magazine is a wonderful source of encouragement. It offers lots of options for styling natural hair.
Definition of a natural woman / A natural woman appreciates the way God made her and is not afraid to show it.
"Sharon J.'s Story" is part of an on-going series I created that focuses on African American women who wear their hair au naturel. Check the archives (see sidebar on the right) for past segments, features and profiles. If you'd like to participate in the series, please email me for details (go to my blog's profile page or visit my website for contact information).
Your feedback is always appreciated. Please feel free to leave any questions or comments you might have about "Sharon J.'s Story," the "Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories" series or Black hair in general, in the section below marked for comments.