Free Form Locs: My Natural Hair Journey

When I was a little girl my mom and grandma would braid my hair every few days. As the only black girl in my elementary school class, I longed for the free-flowing Polly Pocket hair I saw on my friends.

Namaste Katie J Namaste Podcast
Circa 1995

It felt awful to have my kinky, curly hair forced into braids. With naturally course hair, tangles were constant and brushing was painful.

“Beauty is pain” my mother and grandmother repeated. That was the norm. Change yourself to be perceived as beautiful. That’s what I was taught.

We started relaxing my hair in the 5th grade. When it was finally “strong enough” to withstand the chemicals of a relaxer. I loved that it was straighter but felt like I looked more like my mom and not so much how my friends wore their hair. I wanted bangs, I wanted free flowing flippy hair. But once my hair was set, it didn’t move. We’d have to use a tremendous amount of hairspray to prevent it from curling right in the Texas humidity.

Namaste Podcast Free From Hair Journey Episode
Circa 2006

Finally, in my sophomore year in High School I took the plunge and cut my hair into an afro. I stopped relaxing it and allowed my natural curls to take over.

People loved it! Everyone wanted to touch it and know how I got my hair to make these tight spirals. “It’s natural” I’d proudly reply 🙂

Namaste Katie J Namaste Podcast Free Form Loc Journey
2009

I felt so freaking fly. The photo above is from my trip to Sevilla, Spain in the summer of 2009. This was my first study abroad trip and I felt SO cool and SO grown-up with my afro and (fake) red frame glasses. Check out that adorable vintage romper y’all!

In college, I continued to rebel against relaxing my hair and as such, I was the ONLY black cheerleader that was allowed to wear my hair naturally. It took about 3-4 hours to wash, blow dry, straighten, and then style my hair for a football game and ain’t NOBODY got time for that. So my coach let it slide, just for me.

Namaste Podcast Namaste Katie J
Circa 2011

As a young adult out of college, I still wasn’t 100% comfortable with my natural hair and often did minor relaxers to make it more “manageable”. In the professional world, I felt a slight sense of pressure to look like everyone else…plus…I really just wanted the long flowy curls I saw on IG but didn’t want to admit it. I don’t even think I told people I still relaxed my hair at this point.

Free Form Loc Journey Namaste Katie J
Circa 2015

But it seems obvious now.

2018 was a transformative year for me. I learned how to do a scalp cleanse (explained in the podcast episode) and at the end of the year, I decided to stop painfully scraping out the tangles and knots in my hair.

It’s also worth sharing that I haven’t had my hair cut since 2010. All of the changed in length you see are dependent on how “relaxed” the curls were from the chemicals I used to straighten out the kink.

Namaste Katie J Namaste Podcast @NamasteKatieJ
Feb. 2019

The other day (March 16th) I took a snorkeling tour and afterward my hair shrunk about half its size (see below). That’s why I decided to record this podcast. It’s been a long time coming and the journey will continue far past this episode.

My #freeformlocjourney is an exploration of my own self-worth. Can I still see myself as beautiful when I don’t succumb to society’s expectations? Can I continue to love myself with a head full of knots? Am I my hair? Am I my skin? Or am I the soul that lives within?

Stay tuned to see the mind my hair takes on over the next months, years, and decades. Who knows where it will go!

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