Rachel is a mother, educator, and powerful force when it comes to uncovering the power that we all have in the strands of our own hair. A few months ago, she let welcomed us in her Brooklyn home to shoot her and her daughter in their natural rhythm. Today, she shares more about her locs, what she hopes to teach her daughter, her transition process, and her personal hope for the media when it comes to natural hair.
What was your process, and how did you feel before you transitioned and after?
During pregnancy, I refused to get a relaxer, because of the possible transference of harmful chemicals. So I wore braids a lot. After I gave birth, I would go to the salon to get my hair washed and pressed, but anyone who knows me knows that THAT sort of upkeep is not at all for me. It’s too time consuming and reliant upon things outside of my control (i.e.: weather!). I couldn’t even exercise without worrying that if I sweat, my hair would “go back”. My aunt started locs at the end of 2014, and I was impressed by her leap! I paid attention to how she felt and looked and decided it was for me also. I mean, why not? If I didn’t like them, I could chop them off. It wouldn’t have been the first time I made a drastic hair change. And it’s just hair. Fortunately, mine grows back at a steady, measurable pace.
Early 2015, I took the plunge and went to an African shop in Boston to have my locs started. At first, I felt unattractive, but immediately determined to find my beauty in the process. I wore knit caps and make-up and got my eyebrows done more regularly until I became more comfortable with the length and style. And it genuinely propelled me into an acceptance and love of myself, my character, and personality especially, that I may not have reached as quickly had I not gone through the process. I’m really grateful.
As a mother, what message do you hope your personal love of hair teaches your daughter?I desperately hope that she absorbs the fact that her hair can do nearly ANYTHING she wants it to do, and that it is absolutely okay to look different that her peers. When I was growing up, bone-straight long hair was the goal, and it was a challenge to accept what I was gifted with. Now it is celebrated to know your curl pattern (??) and to wear your hair in accordance with the way it grows.
Any embarrassing moments before going natural?
Oh God…of course. I had a boyfriend who intimately ran his hand through my hair, only to discover my weave tracks. (I wore them a bit, mostly at the beginning of college.) I couldn’t stop his hand fast enough and when he reached the tracks, he stopped, looked at me, and said, “What’s on your head?” If I had the chance, I would have sunk directly into the couch cushions, never to be seen again.
Why is being natural so natural to you?
HA! I love this question. Being natural is so natural to me because it takes me away from the social construct and brings me back to the earth. In other words, it takes me away from what someone else says I should look like, and brings me back to what my own body says it should look like. It might sound a little “granola”, but it’s true. Just thinking of it makes me smile.
As far as the media goes, what do you hope for in the world of natural hair? Any obvious growth that you have witnessed?
I hope that we can see more natural-haired women in every single capacity: as news anchors, hosts, directors, and actors on children’s shows. And not only for WOC, but for all women in general. I understand the desire to feel attractive and beautiful, but I hope that women begin to possess that on their own and not because someone else said that it is OK. If you have thin hair, have thin hair! You can still report the news without having six extra inches down your back and poof-ed up to the moon! It’s not necessary, and it continually perpetuates this false standard of beauty.
That said, I think social media has actually played a positive role in the natural hair movement. I follow several natural hair pages on Instagram, and these women are PROUD. So many tutorials, so much information, so much kinky hair…YES! Keep it coming!
Any natural hair celebrities that you look up to?
My current source of inspiration is Ebony Riley. She is a beautiful woman who is an exceptional loc artist. She works out of Mahogany Hair Studio in Los Angeles. I adore her and the work that she does. Whenever I’m ready for a style change, she’s the one I’ll run to.
Any products you cannot live without?
COCONUT OIL!!!!!!! It is the best product for my daughter; she’s allergic to almonds, and many of the “natural” hair care products contain sweet almond oil. So instead of that, we simply use coconut oil and water. To wash, I love SheaNaturals brand shampoos.
What’s your morning routine?
It depends on where I am in my hair twisting cycle. If they are freshly twisted, then I may pin my locs up in a particular fashion, whatever suits me for the day. If I’m closer to the end and they are wild, then I may just let them be wild and walk right out of the house. I love the flexibility.
It depends on where I am in my twisting cycle. Freshly twisted: rubbed with a light layer of coconut oil, particularly on my scalp, every second or third night with a satin scarf. By the end of the cycle, I’m flopping into bed without a care.
I feel my most comfortable when________ I am in the kitchen, making a meal for my husband and daughter. Also when I’m naked. HAHA.
Thank you so very much, Rachel! Photography by Maia Harms for LaTonya Yvette.