Ciara Rae
“I just can’t take it anymore.”
These were the six words that came out of my mouth when I finally made the decision to go back to relaxers. It was a decision I’d been turning over in my mind since the beginning of the year and in July, it was settled: after 7 years of being natural, I was officially done.

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Essentially, I felt like a traitor: how could you blog about natural hair for years and then turn around and go back to the creamy crack? Becoming a natural hair blogger was really about this quest to learn how to love my own natural hair. So when I really thought about it, I came to this shocking realization that I don’t love my natural hair. I always wanted to, but I really never did. I spent all of my time keeping it stretched out or in box braids, trying to avoid knots and tangles. I never even attempted a “wash and go,” rarely wore a twist-out, and stopped attempting curly rod sets after humidity reminded me it was not my friend for the last time. I was natural, but my hair was always tucked away. Even after all those years of being told, “Love your natural hair! Rock your fro!” None of it ever stuck.

And when it comes to natural hair, there are several schools of thought. Some believe that if you’re not happy with your natural hair, you’re not happy with or don’t love yourself because that’s the hair the good Lord gave you. That if you don’t have natural hair, you’re not woke. That if you relax your hair, you’re trying to be white. I had allowed the opinions of others to shape how I felt about natural and relaxed hair. It was time to take a step back and decide what was best for me and my lifestyle, without allowing the opinions of society be a factor.

The first time I seriously thought about getting a relaxer was one day shortly after getting my hair flat ironed. It had been about 10 months since the last time I used heat, so I was really looking forward to seeing how much my hair had grown. Long story short, my hair didn’t even last a full day. Looking back, my natural hair never stayed straight beyond a week, and I love my hair straight. So I was constantly disappointed. In fact, all of the styles that I really love on myself—straight and sleek, flexi rods, CurlFormers—never last on my natural hair.

I started really doing my research, delving into the world of relaxed hair again, and I discovered that many women went natural because of haunting relaxer experiences, which often happened at the salon. The truth is, it wasn’t that I couldn’t grow long, healthy relaxed hair: I just never learned how. I had been going to stylist after stylist for years, depending on them to make my hair grow and yet it still stayed at neck length. In 2009, I started researching healthy hair care practices and learned basics like staying away from heat and using sulfate-free shampoo. In 3 months’ time, my hair had vastly improved. Shortly thereafter, my cousin suggested that I should go natural, like her. I didn’t even know what “going natural” meant. After looking into it and seeing so many women whose hair seemed to “take off” after they stopped getting relaxers, I was hooked. I would finally have long hair, like I’d always wanted. And to be honest, my hair did thrive, especially in the beginning. I did the big chop in 2010 and within two years, my hair was shoulder length, the longest it had ever been. After a bout with heat damage, I finally reached APL (arm pit length) at year 5, and despite trying everything possible to surpass this growth plateau (scalp massages, protective styling, hair vitamins, healthy eating), my hair has remained there. I attribute the stunt in my hair growth to a constant struggle with dryness that has resulted in an endless cycle of growing and trimming, growing and trimming. When it comes to length retention, the struggle has been real.

In my quest to find other women who had gone from natural to relaxed, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn’t alone. I reached out to four women, and all of them touted some of the same reasons for relaxing as I had.

Caitlynn Collins 
Caitlynn Collins, who was natural for one year before going back relaxed, says, “I made the decision because I went natural without doing my research and that hurt me rather than helped me. I didn't have the knowledge I needed and my natural hair just wasn't flourishing. I love my decision and wouldn’t change anything.” In her video, entitled, “From Natural to Relaxed Hair,” she elaborates further.

Shantel Brooklyn
Shantel Brooklyn, who was natural for four years before relaxing again, also struggled with being natural. In her video “I Relaxed My 4C Hair,” she states:
For me, it was very hard being natural. I had very, very thick, very porous hair. It wouldn’t hold moisture. All the little cute hairstyles I would see other naturals do on YouTube, I would try it and it would look nothing like theirs. It would look so horrible. I was over it!
Shantel also shared with me:
I have been openly judged by complete strangers. My family and friends support my decision because they saw how much I struggled. With me being a YouTuber, a lot of naturals left very long, nasty comments under my video. One lady even went as far to say that all of my hair was going to fall out! I just ignore them because they don't know my story.
 Keshia Pierre
Like me, Keshia Pierre was natural 7 years before relaxing again. “At the time, I had just started my graduate program and was really busy with school, church, social activities, etc. My hair was constantly being thrown up in a puff (neglected) because I simply did not have the time or energy to give it the care it needed and deserved. Who had 3 hours to wash, detangle, and then flat twist some hair JUST to PREP for a style that couldn't be worn until the next day?! Not I says the duck.” See more in her video “I Relaxed My Hair.”

Kanisha Parks (Me)
I relaxed on August 24, 2017 and over the course of the last month, there hasn’t been one second that I’ve regretted my decision. The week before getting a relaxer, I was so worried. I had horror visions of my hair falling out. But from start to finish, I had the best experience. The relaxer took well and did not burn. My hair retained a bit of texture and was not over-processed, and in the end, my hair was straight, sleek, and swingin.’ And the best part of all: it didn’t revert. For the last few weeks, I’ve been wearing CurlFormer sets out like there’s no tomorrow. I honestly feel like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders and only wish I had done it sooner. There’s nothing difficult or cumbersome about maintaining relaxed hair. Wash day took a significant amount of time and dedication when natural. Obviously, it’s easier to get to my scalp now when I wash my hair, and detangling my natural hair took 30-45 minutes while relaxed, it takes 2-3.

I love natural hair—I think it’s so versatile and beautiful. There are so many types, textures, colors, and styles. I love the natural hair movement and I think realistically, that’s what I was so excited to be a part of, this wave of acceptance that gave women such an important gift: the tools and the knowledge to take care of and grow our own hair.

This really isn’t about #teamnatural or #teamrelaxed. It’s about the fact that no one should have to feel bad about doing what’s best for them and their lifestyle, especially when it comes to hair. I witness so much hate on the internet directed at women who choose to get relaxers. It’s just plain wrong. Rather than judge one another, it’d be nice to just have a conversation and offer understanding.


Ciara Rae
Ciara Rae, who was natural for 9 years before relaxing says, “I feel judged all the time because I was once that girl. I was a ride or die anti-relaxer advocate. It's insane to think I was because now, I'm all about the perm life. When I created my video, about why I'm relaxed, I wasn't expecting to hear that women all over the world felt the same way I did. Due to that reaction, I want black women to know it's okay to do whatever is best for you! Being natural isn't for everyone and neither is being relaxed. I think it's important for black women to just embrace their hair regardless of their styling choice. We truly do have the best of both worlds!”

Have you thought about going from natural to relaxed?
Kanisha is a Christian writer/author based in Augusta, GA. Other than CurlyNikki.com, she has also written for BlackNaps.organd Devozine, and has authored a book of poetry entitled, "Love Letters from the Master." Kanisha can be contacted for business inquiries at [email protected]
Singer Vivian Green and son Jordan
Pregnant with her first child, it was supposed to be one of the happiest times of R&B singer/songwriter Vivian Green’s life. Unfortunately, things didn’t pan out that way. In her second trimester of pregnancy, doctors told her that the baby she was carrying had a severe undiagnosable illness that would leave it seriously disabled, and if she had the baby it was likely to die within one week.

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“It was horrible,” Vivian says of hearing the news. “Stuff like he had no fingers or toes, his entire cardiovascular system was undeveloped; things that you never want to hear as a mother.” Indeed. As a mom, it’s hard to imagine being told such horrific news. But it also begs the question, why didn’t she abort since it’s legal in cases where doctors can predict these types of issues?

In fact, there was a couple in Australia that aborted a pregnancy at 28 weeks when they discovered their baby would have a deformed left hand–though most would consider that an extreme reaction. Sometimes, the pressure comes from doctors who discourage parents from bringing kids into the world when they know ahead of time the massive challenges the future holds.

For Vivian, it was simple. “By the time I got the diagnosis I was in my second trimester and he was already moving. So I knew I couldn’t do it.”

Constant prayer and strong family support got Vivian through the pregnancy.
What happened next was a miracle.

“Once my son was born it was nothing like what the doctors said,” says Vivian. “He does have some issues. Like he has no opposition in his thumbs, he was born very small, his skull was flat–it’s gotten a lot better–and he sometimes has some random things that don’t necessarily go together, but still, it’s not what they said.”

Clearly, the fact that he is going on 12-years-old when they only predicted he’d live a week is a testament to something Vivian learned from her mom, “doctors are not always right.”

It was this knowing that she would rely on again when pressure mounted to get him plastic surgery. “One doctor really wanted to start plastic surgery and I felt that he was too young. Let’s watch to see how things develop.” Once she received a second opinion from another doctor who agreed, she felt convinced that her motherly instinct was right once again, and let her son be.
Vivian Green's son, Jordan
Today, Jordan does everything for himself, even if it takes him a little longer. She says her parenting style is often compared to the mom of singer Ray Charles: “After I see you can do it one time I’m not going to help you again because I know you can do it.”

Vivian has been homeschooling Jordan since kindergarten, but plans to transition him to a regular school now that he’s in the 6th grade. A few years ago, she had him tested to make sure he was mentally up to par. While his mental process is a little different, he’s fine. “Jordan’s doctors are some of the best in the country and they are amazed at his progress,” Vivian says. And while things may not be nearly as dire as the doctors predicted, Vivian’s life is far from a walk in the park. Has she ever regretted her decision to have her son?

“Not at all,” she explains, “He’s very much a loved child wherever he goes. He’s touched so many people in the past 11 years. It’s really amazing.”

Given how things worked out for Vivian, one might think that she would discourage moms-to-be from listening to doctors, but not so.

“I always urge mothers to do what’s best for them because many children are born with horrible diseases and doctors sometimes are right about what they see. So I don’t want to give any false hope that every case is going to be like mine. I just happen to know that doctors aren’t always right.”
Vivian also urges mothers to do their own research and trust their instincts.

This article first appeared on Mommynoire.com 

 What would you do if doctors said your baby would be severely deformed?
Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  
 
By Valarie Stephens 
 What does it mean to be a black woman? Is it the way we walk? Is it the way we talk? Or is it something that comes from within? Or just maybe it's none of those things at all. Maybe it’s simply our melanated skin.

I often wondered if I were ever enough. I, the quiet awkward introvert who never quite fit into the black woman stereotype (labels) but just happened to be a black woman. Would my color ever be enough or did I have to be more than my color? Did I have to be the stereotype of what others envisioned my color to be? Or, could I simply just be? These were some of my insecurities growing up. That we must all fit within some type of category in order to fit in. That color isn't as broad as the spectrum we truly are but that we are only relegated to a category. So the question then becomes are we more than a stereotype?

Growing up I was an introvert who happened to be black. I define introverts as internal souls who live within. Introverts don't necessarily have the need to be social, outgoing or the life of the party. There is that contentedness of being solitary and having that quiet private time. It is a way to regroup and recharge from being in the world. And though there are many different types of introverted personalities the idea of being internal and private still rings true for many.

As a black woman who is an introvert I've faced some unique challenges that my conscious mind has now learned to process. Those challenges included being content with my own identity. From time to time I would get the 'You don't act black enough' or 'You don't talk black enough' comments. I would often wonder what that even meant. Are our minds that narrow that we have to limit ourselves to an accent or mannerism? Is that really all that we are as a race or can we reach beyond the superficial? Of course we can! There was a strong desire for me to fit in growing up because I was opposite of others and too scared to be me. By opposite I mean quiet, shy and unsure of myself while others were more vocal and fearless. And by the way, shy and quiet are two completely separate things. Although there may be introverts that are shy, it’s a personality trait that can be tied to all personality types. At that time, I just happened to be both things.

Well, I didn't want to be the shy, quiet one who stuck out like a sore thumb. I didn't want to be different. I wanted to blend right in. So my subconscious mind looked to the stereotype of what black is as who I should strive to be. This thought process caused a lot of problems for me because I simply covered up my authentic self. Instead of looking within I looked to others on how to be and who to be. I could not accept myself because I felt my differences were a negative. It was a rough time because self-love was not a present factor in my life at that time. I had no clue. But the bigger lesson in all of this is that instead of searching for an acceptable identity, realizing that I already 'am.' I was and I am the person God made me to be. I did not have to look beyond myself or try to be anything other than me. This is more of a universal message for all personality types. Self-acceptance/self-love is the key to embracing your genuine self.

Well, I finally came to realization that I was enough after my spiritual light grew inside and I became closer to God. Although it was later in life when I had this epiphany, my conscious mind began to digest the idea of what the essence of color is and then it all made sense to me. For me color is about culture and the idea of just being and nothing else. Black just is! And that’s it. There are no stereotypes that we should hold ourselves to. Being black is about accepting everything that black embodies and that’s a wide spectrum of who we are. One personality does not define another or an entire race so we must learn to accept everyone for who we are.

As an introverted soul I’ve accepted all facets that make up who I am as a human being. And what I’ve learned is that it is ok to be a black woman who is also an introvert and defy stereotypes associated with what it’s supposed to mean to be black. What’s most important is that we can all learn from one another regardless of race or personality type. We each bring a unique aspect to the table in this journey we call life.

What does being an introvert mean to you?

Valarie Stephens is a self-proclaimed introvert who lives life as a free-spirit and creative soul. Her life's journey of ups and downs, personal pain and setbacks are just some of her topics of discussion from her first book titled ‘The Quiet Thinker.' Through spiritual growth and prayer she's been able to get through dark times in her life and completely transform herself into the positive role model she is today. Whether you consider yourself an internal spirit or an extrovert, she has a universal message for everyone. Healing the world and helping others walk in their best light is her life's purpose.


Erickka Sy Savané
I was on the phone the other day with a receptionist. The woman was having me spell my daughter’s name for what had to be the 100th time. I try to be patient when this happens because I know her first name is a doozy–11 letters–and African. It’s like nothing most of us Americans have ever heard before. So when I begin to detect this woman’s tone changing, I make sure to chill. We’ll get there eventually.

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 And when we do, she lets out an exasperated sigh and says, “Why’d you give that child that name?”

“Excuse me?” I say, not sure if I heard her correctly.

“Why’d you give her a name that she’d be lucky if she can pronounce, let alone spell?”


I put the phone down and start taking off my earrings. Had this woman lost her mind? Of all the rude comments! And to think that she was representing someone’s business. I’m a second away from reaching into the phone to grab her neck when I remind myself that I knew this would happen. In fact, I almost didn’t give my daughter her name because of people like that receptionist.

“You can’t name her that!” said just about everyone when I told them the name I had chosen for my unborn child. Others would just start singing, ‘Mama Say Mama Sa Mama Coosa’ from Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.’” They said it reminded them of that song. At one point, I stopped telling people because I didn’t want to hear it anymore.

What they failed to see was that I loved the name from the moment I first heard it. Ever fall in love with a sound? For some it’s the sweet cackle of a baby’s giggle, for me it was the rhythm of this name. Like music to my ears. The fact that it was African made it even better. Not just because my husband is African, but because I wanted a name that my child could live in to, a name that whenever spoken would create images of gold lit skies, and blackness, like the continent itself.

Yet, it’s funny how I still had doubts.

“Do you have a name?” asked the doctor who delivered my daughter as she placed her on top of me, still wet and slippery like a fish freshly out of the water. I was tired. Exhausted from a natural birth that had me laboring for 24 hours. Finally, I told her the short version because in that moment, I was no longer sure. Would I dare give her a name with 11 letters and five syllables? Would she be able to get a job? What if she was a gentle soul incapable of handling the teasing and insults that might come her way? Heck, what if she didn’t like it?!

“Okay,” said the doctor, letting the name roll off of her tongue. “What’s the long version?” I spit it out. Every. Last. Syllable. There. Say what you want. “Girl, you betta give that child all that name!”

We both laughed and in that moment I knew that I couldn’t go halfway. Why? To make it easy? To please other people? I’d been doing that my whole life and where had it gotten me? If I couldn’t stand for the name I wanted to give my child when would I ever stand for anything? This name was for both my child and me.

I think about the receptionist on the other end of the phone. Right now she represents all the ignorance and prejudice that will likely be a part of my daughter’s future.
How would I want her or anyone for that matter to respond?
Patience? Tried that.
Maybe I’d meet fire with fire.
I pick up the phone, and this time it is my tone that has changed. “Listen, Ma’am, I’m sorry if this name isn’t convenient for you, but you’re a receptionist not the name police. Mind your business.”
 Click. 

How do you respond to name shaming?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  

Issa Rae & Ayesha Curry 
Black women spend a lot on beauty products- $7.5 billion annually- to be exact. Yet, we are grossly misrepresented in beauty advertising. In fact, a survey from 2015 found that of all the fashion advertising done for Spring and Summer, 85% of the models were white, and just 5% black. Hold the mascara! However, we can't ignore when certain cosmetic giants get it right. Enter CoverGirl, who has been consistently using black models for years. When news broke of Issa Rae and now Ayesha Curry being added to the prestigious CoverGirl list, we decided to highlight some other CG beauties, past and present, who have represented us well!

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Actress Zendaya


Singer/Actress Janelle Monae

Actress/Singer/Rapper Queen Latifah

Singer Rihanna



Model-preneure Tyra Banks


Singer/Actress Brandy

Model/Actress Eva Marcille 


America's Next Top Model Krista White


Model Sheila Johnson

Who is your favorite CoverGirl?

Erickka Sy Savané is managing editor of CurlyNikki.com, a wife, mom, and freelance writer based in Jersey, City, NJ. Her work has appeared in Essence.comEbony.com, Madamenoire.com, xoNecole.com, and more. When she’s not writing...wait, she’s always writing! Follow her on Twitter, Instagram or  
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