I went natural in 2002, long after I’d left Trinidad. So every time I’ve returned since then, with my proudly natural curls and militant attitude firmly in place; I’ve been fascinated by the attitudes of others towards my ‘do. This last visit was among the most interesting.

Finally, my family has recognized that this is who I am, and even Mama Bella kept the straighten exhortations to a bare minimum. Family members even complimented my curls and when I tried putting my hair up in a bun, my mom and dad encouraged me to wear it down and loose. Yay!

I definitely felt watched when I went out in public. Just walking through the mall, I noticed people watching me walk by. Years ago, a friend explained to me that Trinis stare because I “look” different now. I dress more flamboyantly, in clothes that were obviously purchased abroad. My demeanor has somehow changed. And of course now, I wear my hair in a large and noticeable style that few others wear. But many of the stares seemed approving, and I saw quite a few other curly haired divas at Westmall – excuse me, The Falls (Why Trinidad copycat so? Hope they don’t get sued for that one) and Long Circular Mall which ahem, doesn’t have it’s own website.

I faced some ignorance when I encountered a friend of friends who I have known for years. Since I was 15, actually. “You could pass a brush through that thing?” he asked, in his usual laconic drawl. “Not a brush. But I can comb it!” I replied brightly. That shut him up and answered his dumb question.

When I accompanied my brother to his favorite watering hole, Trotters, I met some of his co-workers; a friendly dreadlocked dude who told me he loved my site! That made me happy and proud. (Also, hello ‘Rah! Thanks for your earlier comment, and ahem – I agree – too many cigars are not a good thing).

I went to get copper-colored highlights at a popular St. Claire-area hairdresser. He didn’t even blink when I strutted in with Mama Bella, and did a great job with the highlights. (if he said something about my hair, I couldn’t tell… this guy speaks so quietly I can hardly hear him! A big, big change from Bruno. Who I miss, dearly. The stories I heard at home were heartbreaking to say the least).

My hair only became an issue when the female co-owner came in to style my freshly-highlighted curls. “Ooh!” she squealed when she saw my hair – not in a delighted way, more in a concerned manner. “She say she not straightening it again,” my mom piped up. “Never, ever again,” I told her with a proud smile. She poured a too-small handful of Biolage Curl Defining Creme and proceeded to work her hands through my locks. I watched her face in the mirror, and (perhaps unintentionally), her brow was deeply furrowed and she wore an expression of extreme confusion. I wanted to grab the bottle of creme, pour a much bigger handful, and show her how to do the damn thing myself.

She said something about me “needing oil for my hair,” and the male co-owner made some kind of very quiet joke about me using the oil on my hands from eating chicken to style my hair. In retrospect, I’m extremely annoyed by that comment. Here in America, I’d definitely interpret it as having racist implications. But you have to remember that this happened in Trinidad, and I didn’t percieve a racist bias from these people. Plus, I was with Mama Bella at her new regular hair salon, so I just gave her “the look” in the mirror and she knew what I had to say about that.

Although I probably won’t return to that hairdresser, he did do a wicked job on my highlights and when I went home, I broke out a spray bottle of water and some Garnier Fructis curl cream and I was good to go.

The most sadly ignorant reaction to my hair came from a family friend, who said she liked my natural hair and would consider the style herself, but “it cost so much more to be natural than to straighten.” I was like, whaaaat? Are you kidding me? I set her straight immediately.

I mean, if you consider the cost of returning to a hairdresser or buying a box of relaxer every month or however often you do your hair (many relaxed women go back for at least a style or blowdry every fortnight), how can you even think that? I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve been to a hairdresser since 2002. I’ve learned how to style my hair myself, and while some natural haircare products are wicked expensive, for the most part my fave hair products cost me no more than $15.

I wish I could have shown that woman this video clip of a fabulously ‘froed New York diva, Fantcha Mendes, a Cape Verdean Singer who was interviewed for New York Magazine‘s Video Look Book in October. (I LOVE the Look Book! I wish there was a look book for every city. Someday, I’d love to do an Afrobella Look Book).

Miss Mendes has a fierce and vibrant fro, and makes the style sound so effortless: “I get up in the morning, I shake it, and I comb it with only my hands.” Hey, that’s pretty much how I style my hair!

She’s my Afrobella of the Week. Love her attitude and easy-breezy glamour.

Here’s to challenging attitudes and expressing ourselves without judgment in 2007!



alwayzalady22 says:
January 5, 2007, 11:49 am
hey afrobella! love the site, first of all! i live in chicago, so wearing my natural hair really isn't as big of a deal as it is where i go to school, in LA! people definitely stare me down when i rock my curls, but i just keep on walking and hold my head high...hey, it ain't my fault that even the black people there are colorist and brainwashed into thinking that everything white is right- including straightening your hair! my current plight is that i'm a broadcast journalism student, and i obviously want to be on tv...but i don't want to straighten my hair for it! i wore a weave this past semester just to have that newsy 'look', and that foolishness broke off so much of my hair, it was ridiculous! now i'm spending the majority of this year nursing my poor hair back to health, all because i wanted to mimic what i already see on tv! so now i'm confused about being a newsperson, because i worry about getting hired if i keep my curly hair! part of me wants to keep my hair curly because i don't think it's fair that i should have to do all this extra work to look a certain 'white' way, in my opinion, and part of me wants the little black girls who see me on tv to know that not only is dark skin beautiful, but so is your natural hair! that's a message we don't get through the media enough! ::sigh:: what to do, what to do? but i definitely love my natural hair, so i hope i don't have to sacrifice it for my career!
blackjade says:
January 5, 2007, 12:06 pm
I rocked my hair in a mini 'fro once I got to college and have had it loc'd now for 3 1/2 years. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so attitudes a more open and I've never been completed more, by friends and strangers alike, than after I went natural. But I still get looked at sideways sometimes - especially when I travel. But I agree with what your friend said - it's the entire package, once you find that confidence to go natural, it shows in more than just the way you style your hair.
Peajai says:
January 5, 2007, 12:35 pm
alwayzalady22, Here in Dayton, we have a newscaster named Marsha Bonhart on WDTN who has been on TV for many years. In the past few years, she has been rocking a TWA and she looks great! I say, don't be afraid to let your curl show. Change people's attitudes who think natural hair is unprofessional. You can see a picture of Marsha at http://www.wdtn.com/
coiltastic says:
January 5, 2007, 1:15 pm
I'm feeling Fantcha's fro. Can't wait to pop mine out in about 6 weeks. I don't pay attention to on-lookers anymore. And you were so right about the cheapness of being natural. Well if you don't go through a product junkie phase. I did have an experience a couple of weeks ago. An aquaintance asked me if I had ever had a relaxer and if I ever straightened. I told her yes I had my last relaxer over 3 years ago and I have given up on straightening(too tiring). Of course she goes on to tell me how my hair would look straight and how a wrap style would make it look good. Length came up too and how she thought my hair looked so long. as if that would make me want to run and straighten it to show off length. I sat there in silence for the rest of the convo, which consisted of her confessional of how her hair won't grow but she lives in the salon getting it fried by heat or by chemical. I don't even get flustered about stuff like this anymore. I know that what I am doing with my hair is what's best for me and I could careless about anything else, and my fiance loves it to boot. I don't give out tips or product suggestions anyomre either because they are all pretty simple but people dont want to hear that. they want a laundry list of things to do with products to match then whine about hair troubles and how nothing works.
Peajai says:
January 5, 2007, 1:23 pm
Bella, Where can we see a picture of these fabulous new highlights??
jerseybred says:
January 5, 2007, 1:31 pm
alwayzalady22, please don't give up on your dreams. I'm sure you will find a way to be a natural newswoman and make all naturals proud in the process. coiltastic, I stopped with suggestions as well because people just don't think olive oil, castor oil, etc work. Now I say "Goggle".
Indigo says:
January 5, 2007, 2:03 pm
What happened to your beloved Bruno?
Kamika says:
January 5, 2007, 2:58 pm
Afrobella, thanks for hipping me to Fantcha. I love Cesaria Evora who is also from Cape Verde and now I have another melodious singer to revel in. Thanks!
FenixStar says:
January 5, 2007, 3:00 pm
Fantcha e minha Patricia! (Fantcha is from my country!) While CapeVerdeans are plagued with a lot of the same issues it seems Trinis are (my own mother loves my 3As smoothed out so that I look more like her Chinese father), Fantcha is an example of a newer generation of Cape Verdean beauty. Parabens! (Congrats!)
nikki says:
January 5, 2007, 3:48 pm
I've been wearing my hair natural since April of 2006 and I love it. Its very easy for me to take care of much more so than a relaxed hair. My family and close friend were very supportive of me when I made the decision to cut my hair. Especially my mother who lost all of her hair from a hormonal disorder. However, the people where I work have been very negative. I recall one day I decided to blow my hair straight, just for a change and a co-worker said to me, its about time you did something with that mess. I was taken aback. But I don't care what other people think. Its funny because I get the most compliments from my white friends and co-workers.
1969 says:
January 5, 2007, 4:41 pm
Glad you had a good trip. You know how Trinis are...they always have to offer their opinion :) Keep being you. Beautiful by nature not by manufacturing. I know your mother was proud of you for being true to yourself. Happy New Year!
Christine says:
January 5, 2007, 4:48 pm
Why, WHY do hair stylists not know what to do with curly hair? Mine is not nearly as curly as yours, but any non-ethnic stylist I've ever been to has always exclaimed glee over the curls before sending me away with too little product in it and the effect of a brushed out 'fro, only since my hair is not that curly it's a frizzy triangular shaped mess. Gah. The only and best and much missed hairdresser who ever knew how to handle my curls now lives too far away. Oh well. Now I just get a trim and then restyle myself when I go home.
Jocelyn says:
January 5, 2007, 4:49 pm
Happy New Year to all the fabulous Afrobella's out there. Girl I feel you on this article. I did the BC in June of 2006 and my hair has grown past my shoulders already in 6 months. I needed a good trim so I went Dominican the salon I frequented while I was transistioning. My hair had been in a twist set so it wasn't obvious I was natural until after my hair had been washed and conditioned. When I sat up out of the bowl all eyes were on me as everyone in the salon looked in desbelief at the wet curly mop of hair that sat on my head. Shrinkage of course. I saw quite a few raised eyebrows as I walked by to the stylist chair. I'm darkskinned with yes curly hair. For some ignorant reason people can't seem to grasp that mixture. I get the "Ooh you got good hair" comment all the time and it annoys me. Any how I told the stylist to blow me out and trim my ends. When she finished blowing out my mass of curls I had a fro almost the size of our girl Leela James. I threw a head band on and strutted out of that salon with the jaws of onlookers sweeping the floor. I rocked that big wild fro the entire New Year weekend and was feirce with it. I love being free to be me and no matter how many people disapprove or make ignorant comments I plan to be FREE the rest of my life. Sorry so long but I was feeling this.
nattygirl says:
January 5, 2007, 5:18 pm
Hi Bella, I know exactly what you mean, I've been rocking my 'fro for sometime now and everytime I go to TnT it is always some stupid comment. I have learned to completely ignore their wasteless references of why I should "do something about my hair". I also dress somewhat flamboyant and there is always some backward comment about that too....I chalk it up to ignorance! Anyhow, I wanted to ask you what products can I use to keep in the moisture (since I will be going home in Feb) because of the heat my hair always seems to be dry (I live in NYC) I am not a products kind of girl, but any advice will be welcomed....A fellow Trini Bella
pam says:
January 5, 2007, 10:44 pm
Happy new year bella. First off, i too want to see the highlights, sure hope you share soon. Second, my sister has "sported" her fro since 2001. She's 5'9" and confident, so she gets a ton of stares and coments on her hair, mostly positive. IMO I think any hairstyle looks faboulous on a person if they are confident with themselves.
FlyestChick says:
January 5, 2007, 10:45 pm
I am Cape Verdean and african american and I love the fact that you focused in on a Cape Verdean woman, no one knows who they are. I was unaware of what a look book was and I am in New York!!! hahaha thanks again I love her hair, and many of the women wear thier hair natural so its nothing! AND I LOVE IT!
Brunsli says:
January 6, 2007, 3:12 am
Bella, Now I'm afraid to go home this summer. I haven't been to Trinidad in over ten years, and I don't think my locks will go over well. But hopefully things have changed - my cousin has great locks. Brunsli
Kino Kid says:
January 6, 2007, 3:48 am
That's why my father left Trinidad and never looked back, but you used to find some of the same attitude here in Montreal. I am over 30 and had my hair straightened for about 6 years (about 1995-2000), but its been braids, cornrows, afros, crops, twists and afropuffs otherwise. So I didn't really have a hair journey. I'm fine with my hair the way it is, but there will always be people who aren't. As long as you're fine with it, nobody else matters (but I'm sure there are a lot of people who are fine with it too).
FenixStar says:
January 6, 2007, 9:39 am
FlyestChick! We NYC Crioulas need 2 get together! be in touch, ok?
Gaia, the non-blonde says:
January 6, 2007, 11:00 am
This post should be sent to every hair stylist and published in the major newspapers. My hair isn't really a Jew-fro, just curly. I stll get pressured to cut and blow-dry it. I haven't done it in more than a decade. I don't get those people who think that we all need to look a certain way, no matter what's natural for us.
Nakole says:
January 6, 2007, 11:31 am
It is SO refreshing to know that someone else goes through what I go through! My sister and I are both natural and I love in a town where there aren't many African Americans! Its so tiring to hear "Why don't you straighten it?" or " Why don't you get those micro BEADS (braids)". This blog makes me really proud to be natural.
newnaps4me says:
January 6, 2007, 11:49 am
Niki says:
January 8, 2007, 5:55 pm
Happy New Year Bella! Your hair looks wonderful--I aspire to your fabulousness, woman! LOL Mr. Man was too wrong for his "chicken" comment, but he did a good job on your color!
Ally says:
January 12, 2007, 7:28 pm
For the record, I love your hair, the colour's really pretty. I'm not so sure about the anti-relaxer comments though. I'm 100% African, and have a proper AFRO, i.e. not pretty ringlets like yours. I can't just leave my hair out, unless I want a solid mass of un-combable mess. So I texturise my hair and mostly wear it straight - because it's easier. AND I still only visit a salon three times a year max. Stereotypes come from both sides, you know... Love the blog x
Carlos says:
March 12, 2007, 10:38 pm
I believe it can be a liberating thing for many to go natural and yes of course the naive will tease others about getting thier hair done natural. Comments will hurt unless your somewhat untouched by words which most human beings are not so it's not expected to be strong as a rock always, but just hang in there. I am multiracial and I still struggle with my hair and I just get my hair cut short almost marine like fashin but it feels like I just can't live right at times. I look non black very fair but my hair is basically a black type without any mixed look. I am a male but I tried to live in a way it won't let me which is a lie. So what I mean by this is going natural is great if it's freedom but it can also be painful to take and still make you feel captive from doing so. If your going natural you should do it for finding peace with yourself not because your tired of doing your hair. It is a half life trying to live a lie but it is also a non life to call it quits. We can take our background into consideration but for me it has always been about wanting to try a new style not to remove the fact I have black in me. I have never had a problem with what I am but why live limited because everyone else wants to just say well thats that and thats it. I love art and I can express myself in that way but it's hard to not have reasonable options but I have to accept it so I don't ruin the other things in life I have over my head.
Madame Zenobia says:
April 24, 2007, 6:47 pm
Hi Afrobella, I know this post is old, but for the past hour, I've been perusing your site. I have decided to go au naturale. I've been relaxing my hair since junior high and even then, I had a jheri curl. I haven't worn my hair natural since grade school. I'm just sick of the relaxing and the styling and I want to do something different with my hair. I want to be more 'real' in my life and changing my hair back to what God intended I think will help me do that. Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you for your site. I have you bookmarked and will continue to visit and read. And thanks for all the links about natural afrobellas and hair tips and all the stuff you do here. Thanks so much! -Tamara
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