Sometimes the only thing that can make me feel like I'm not a walking bag of chaos is having my hair done. It can be something as simple as a wash and go, but knowing my crown is straight gives me the extra confidence I need, sometimes, to get shit done.
Up until my first semester of college my hairstyle was pretty much ALWAYS the same–– microbraids. Seems like the easiest and most versatile way to go as a natural girl in her teens, right? Sure, when you have the confidence and the ability to explore other natural hairstyles. My microbraids were more like a mask I wore to hide the fact that I had absolutely no clue how to care for my natural hair.
My crown belonged to everyone but me and that absolutely killed my confidence.
Insane, I know. Natural for 16 of 18 years of my life and not nary an idea on how to take care it. Why didn't I just learn or 'look it up on YouTube?' Well, to be quite honest, that meant I had to run the risk of seeming even blacker than I already was (sidenote: I was the only black girl in my class all four years of highschool). Even worse, I would run the risk of messing up and looking stupid at school. Sure I can look back now and think how silly that sounds, but when you're 15 years old and you're the only person of color in every classroom for every period of the day, it's sometimes easier to just assimilate and stay quiet.
College was my chance to transform
About 2 weeks after I moved to Baton Rouge I realized that meant I had to do one of the hardest things I'd ever have to do–– find a new hair dresser. You see, going to a new hair salon is a lot like going to a new country. You need to do your RESEARCH. There could be language barriers or different standards of hygiene. When you sit in the chair for your first appointment your hairdresser is, essentially, either going to stamp your passport and accept you into their salon family with open arms, or flat out tell you to come back when your hair is healthier and send you out the door.
The universe brought me my first natural haircare specialist, a beautiful soul named Linda Johnson-Franks. Ms. Linda (as my sister and I affectionately call her) introduced me to the world of natural haircare and has ultimately given me the confidence to own my natural hair and my blackness. She patiently let me explore styles and play with colors, allowing me to feel confident that my hair could be creative and still look great! This unapologetic Kat did not spring up overnight, however. I started with sew-ins, then wigs, then moved to different braided styles and finally, after a year, started wearing twist outs.
(Archives from 2014 to 2019)
But it wasn't all sunshine and rainbows from there...
Natural hair can be daunting without proper guidance. Although Ms. Linda put me on the path, it was up to me to do the work and learn what my body and lifestyle needed to give me the healthiest hair I could have. When I moved to New York I knew I couldn't waste any time finding someone who could help keep me on track. After trying a few people I found on Yelp, I started to lose hope. I would wear scarves and wigs as much as possible and whenever I went back to New Orleans I knew my girl Synclaire (recommended to me by Ms. Linda) could hook me up. Thankfully, the universe surrounds me with incredible friends. I finally found someone.
I found my hair haven in Harlem...
My friend Trish recommended her go-to salon in Harlem, Paloma Blush Room. Booking was simple, the salon was adorable and the vibe was RIGHT. I walked in to my first appointment having 0 ideas for what style I wanted... it must've been destiny because my new stylist, Kriissy, met me with the same patience and creative confidence that I found when I first met Ms. Linda. She listened to me and answered all of my questions. She made me feel seen, heard and valued. I'd found my new happy place.
Growing up, I felt like I could never be considered "pretty" because my hair seemed to have an identity of her own. She didn't abide by conventional beauty standards. She didn't "fit in." She took time and patience and years of love. Before I could understand the power of my crown I had to understand the source of my pain. My younger self wanted to feel like she belonged; like she was "just like everybody else." When girls would braid eachother's hair in the locker room, younger Kat would anxiously joke about how 'mine were already done.' I would conceal my insecurity with humor. No one knew how I felt.
When I started showing my hair the love and respect she needed, she started blessing me with the confidence and inspiration to love myself without limits. Taking care of yourself is such an important journey. It's hard and can be emotionally exhausting but, the growth is absolutely worth it. Ready to start the journey back to your roots?
Check out the incredible stylists who helped me fix my crown and my confidence! If you caught this vibe, hit subscribe and join the SelfLove Saturdaze wave.