Please introduce yourself (or like my Nigerian folks like to say, let us meet you!)
Hey! I'm Vanessa. I'm a British Afro-Caribbean in Lagos. Wow that's a mouthful!
Have you always worn your hair natural?
I was natural till I was 18, then mostly relaxed, except for a couple of years in my early 20s. My last relaxer was 2 years ago.
Has it been difficult maintaining it (e.g. people’s reactions, finding products, styling it, getting help with your hair)
The transition was the toughest, because I used to get stressed out of 2 months regrowth between relaxers so the first year was difficult. People also had a tough time dealing with my transition – thinking I should stay relaxed because it looked better. But a few people were supportive. I've always been okay with styling my own hair. I believe self help is the best help so unless I'm getting braided extensions, its all me, Baby!
Hair swept to one side
Apart from returning to Natural Hair, have you incorporated a more natural/healthy lifestyle?
Yes – something I didn't expect, going natural made me look more at other areas where I use chemicals and replacing those with natural products for myself and my family. I'm even looking more at Vegetarian options. We have Veggie Wednesday in my house. It’s a journey. I even have stepped back from a more consumerist lifestyle to supporting more local entrepreneurs and talent rather than wearing imported designer labels.
Do you think that there is a link? Would you have incorporated those changes if you had not gone natural?
There was definitely a link. Going natural was a catalyst for a lot of things. I think having relaxed hair creates a big disconnect as a woman and prevents you from seeing clearly other ways in which you use chemicals unnecessarily.
The key is a little makeup. It tells people, 'Look I meant to do this – okay!'
What is your current hair regimen?
I'm trying to grow my hair – waist length dreaming – neck length living lol! I spritz with aloe vera, water and coconut oil, daily. I use Shea butter/Jamaican black castor oil to seal ends and keep my hair in twists unless I need to glam up. I avoid combs and blow drys unless it’s a special occasion.
How do you balance having natural hair and the need to be/look professional?
It’s tough but it’s definitely possible to pull that rabbit out of the hat when you need to – even without prepping. My go-tos are my Princess Leia braids daytime smarts and my French braid up the back for evening. The key is a little makeup. It tells people, 'Look I meant to do this – okay!'
Do you have a healthy goal (hair, nutrition, exercise?)
I try to keep healthy not just for my hair. I mean if you get sick its not going to help with hair growth. I take vitamins, calcium, silica and spirulina. I try to remember water.
Based on all you know now, what would you do for your children (male and female in terms of hair, nutrition, natural living as opposed to the way you were brought up e.t.c)?
I have boys so I like that I'm showing them how black women can celebrate their natural hair. I wouldn't want them to make women with natural hair feel inferior aesthetically. I believe “show, don't tell” is the most powerful way to influence children.
Vanessa when her hair was relaxed
Any words of wisdom or advice for others?
Natural hair is not as scary as people think – I'm sure there's a Youtube video out there representing every hair type showcasing beautiful styles. As you get to know your hair, it gets easier. It’s also financially empowering – being happy with your looks leaves you with more money for other things.
Continue to see more pictures of Vanessa