Friday, November 13, 2009

Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories (Michelle D.P.)

Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories
(Michelle D. P.'s Story)
Michelle D. Petelinz

Background / I'm 53 years old and I'm originally from Long Island, NY. I lived in Boston, MA for over 20 years and currently reside in Raleigh, NC. I am a mixed media artist, creating wall hangings, shadow boxes, mirrors and clocks with an Afrocentric flair. Along with my husband, I own Kindred Spirit Studios, displaying and selling my work throughout the southeast in juried shows and art festivals. I write a blog about my journey as an artist called Artventuring ( and show my work online on the Kindred Spirit Studios website (

Hairstyle / I wear my hair in two basic styles, mostly according to the season. In the spring and summer, when it's hot and humid here in NC, I wear my hair "natural," meaning I just wash, condition, air dry, and apply locking gel to smooth the frizz and enhance the natural wave. During the dryer months, I use a blow dryer and flat iron and wear it straight. I don't use a chemical relaxer and haven't for over 30 years.

Munira Ancestress of Radiance From Michelle's "Kindred Spirit" Collection

Reason for wearing a "natural' hairstyle / The most compelling reason is ease of handling; I learned that when I don't fight my hair, it and the weather come to an "understanding", and I'm much happier! I decided not to fight my hair's natural tendencies in the summer about 10 years ago.

Support of your natural look / My husband really likes it, and I receive positive comments from friends as well.

Negative reactions / My mother wasn't particularly fond of the look. She was a big proponent of straight hair, and saw to it that I wore it that way growing up. We did the whole home relaxer thing until I left for college. Once I was on my own, I decided not to continue with that. Questions from White women about my hair are sometimes irksome. They seem surprised that both straight and naturally curly styles are possible with my hair. I've had to educate many on the subject.

Response to negative commentary / I don't get negative comments.

Shadow Box From Michelle's "Kindred Spirit" Collection

Women with natural hair whose style you admire / I love seeing Jill Scott in The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency with her Afro; she looks comfortable in her own skin and hair, which is just great! And, I think the model Alex Wek is absolutely gorgeous!

Useful natural hair care tips, styling techniques or products / About 8 years ago, a stylist recommended Jamaican Mango and Lime Locking Gel for my natural style, and I love it. It works, smells great, and doesn't make my hair stiff like other alcohol-based gels.

Advice for women considering a natural hairstyle / Do what feels right for you and your hair. Don't worry about what other people think or say; it's your hair, your look, and your life! Do what makes you happy. Words to live by in all things, not just hair!

Your definition of a "natural woman" / I believe a natural woman is one who is comfortable in her own skin; one who doesn't feel the need for artificial things to be beautiful--she knows she's beautiful, and loves herself.

Tarishi From Michelle's "Kindred Spirit" Collection
If you'd like to learn more about
Michelle D. P
aka Michelle Davis Petelinz please visit her at




"Michelle D.P. '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 "Michelle D.P.'s Story," the "Natural Women: Our Hair, Our Stories" series or Black hair in general, in the section below marked for comments.

Thank You!


Sharon J said...

Thanks for sharing your story and your beautiful art!

Michelle said...

You're welcome, Sharon. I'm glad you enjoyed them. Thanks to Lori who suggested I become a part of this series.

vanessa richardson said...

Another great interview, Lori!

I agree with Sharon, thanking for sharing your story, Michelle. I am thankful that you accepted Lori's invite! You are close to my neck of the woods.

I love your artwork! I think I have to pay you a visit one of these days.:)