One of the biggest myths about natural hair that well-meaning-but-clueless relatives and friends might tell you is, there’s a lack of versatility to your style options. In my experience, it’s often the people who tend to wear their straight do’s in the same tired old styles anyway who have the audacity to say these kinds of things to you, but I digress.

I try not to buy into those natural-negative statements, but when it’s a relative pouring them into your ears, they can kind of get to you. I am totally speaking from experience, here. The dreaded “what are you going to do with your hair” discussion usually crops up before a big event, like a graduation, job interview, family reunion, or yup, you guessed it – a wedding. Which leads me to a recent Ask Afrobella question!

Hey Afrobella,

My name is Shantise. I’m a brand new bella; I had been transitioning off and on for roughly 3 yrs. I was gonna let my hair grow out more ,but I couldn’t take it anymore so I cut my hair. It is maybe 1 or 1 1/2 inches long. Well anyways, my best friend is getting married in January and I have no idea how to style my hair. I wouldn’t care if I was just attending her wedding. The problem is I’m in the bloody wedding and so I respect her enough to try to do something for her wedding. Besides I don’t want my mother getting on my last nerves about it. I don’t even have anyone I trust to do my hair, so I’m truly at lost on what to do. There is only one natural stylist I know of and the rest are these African ladies who braid hair but I’m not the most trusting person with my hair, between my mother and her enlisting people to destroy/’improve’ my hair. Please help me my only choice really is to press it if I cant find an alternative.

Shantise also sent a few pictures of her blossoming TWA, which looks so healthy and adorable. Good for you, Shantise. I think more than a few of the bellas who read this site can identify with those feelings of insecurity that family can give you about your hair decision. It’s not necessarily that they mean to hurt your feelings, most times they are just “trying to help” and because they believe that their hairstyle is best, that’s what they want for you as well. The most important question to ask yourself at that juncture is, am I keeping my hair natural for me, or for them? Forgive me if I’m presuming incorrectly, but your final statement, “my only choice really is to press it if I cant find an alternative” makes me think you really would prefer not to do that, and perhaps this has been suggested to you in the mistaken belief that straight hair = the only form of beauty that’s acceptable for fancy occasions.

I’m happy and proud to debunk that theory and share some afrobella inspiration for your wedding day ‘do.

Meet Nichelle — a proud afrobella who wore her free form fro in a unique style at her wedding. I answered her wedding hair question back in April, and here are her photos! Beautiful, bella!

She says, ” I decided to get my hair cornrowed a couple days before the wedding so it wouldn’t feel so tight. The lady who braided my hair did an excellent job and was careful not to pull my edges too tight. I found some cute hair pins at Claire’s of all places, and she put them in for me when she was done. The back was braided into a criss cross design. That was my favorite part of the style. I opted not to wear a veil just so I could show it off.”

Nichelle didn’t have any great pics of the back of her hair, but I think you get the picture from the photo above. And great tip – don’t sleep on Claire’s! I can’t tell you how many cute hair accessories and earrings I’ve gotten there. And even though you might feel silly picking out earrings alongside a nine-year-old who’s on a Hello Kitty shopping spree, you can still score some really chic (and cheap!) items. The best part is, no one will guess that your fly headband or clips are from there. For example, this lovely wedding headband costs $53, and you can score a rip off at Claire’s for less than $10. Nobody will be any the wiser.

Because your hair’s short, Shantise – you could wear these butterfly clips, and they won’t get lost in the mass. Or you could rock this gem hairband, and work the look with big earrings — they look striking and great on bellas with short curls, and could really set you apart at the wedding. Just don’t show up the bride!

You might also want to work your ‘do with a styling product — have you tried Miss Jessie’s yet? Now that there are smaller sizes available for less, you could get the 2oz, $7 size of Curly Pudding just for the occasion.

Make sure you try out your hair, accessories, dress, and makeup at least a week before the actual event, just so you’re completely sure you feel as beautiful as you are on the special day. Wear your natural hair with pride, and I am confident that with time, your mom will quit enlisting people to “improve” your hair. And try not to get mad at her for it — sometimes moms have old-school ideas that really center around Eurocentric standards of beauty. Give her time. She’ll get it eventually and back off. Mama Bella did, and now, finally, after years of back-and-forthing over “what are you doing with your hair,” I actually think she likes it this way and realizes (and accepts) that this is who I am.

If you’re preparing for a fancy event and you have slightly longer natural kinks and curls, you should check out the Hair Zing. It’s basically two accessory combs attached by beautiful beaded stretchy hair jewelry. I have the kind for short thick hair — I personally wish they had more of a hair texture variety on their site, because short STRAIGHT thick hair is completely different than short kinky curly thick hair… but anyways. The combs give good grip, and the in-between beaded jewelry part is indeed stretchy enough to rein in my crazy curls.

My Zing is similar to the diamond large black and turquoise, and it does help me create a chic updo of cascading coils. Word to the wise if you have dark hair — the darker Hair Zings won’t Zing as much for you. If you really want an eye catching look-at-me wedding day (or holiday party) do, go for a light, bright zing like the clear and gold or large tortoise. They’re pretty easy to use, the website comes laden with step-by-step photos and videos, and they’re cheaper than $15 – sweet!

Most importantly, have fun at the wedding, Shantise! They are such beautiful, memorable, magical occasions. Enjoy the day, send pictures and let me know what you went with. Hope my two cents helps. And THANK YOU Nichelle for allowing me to share your photos with afrobellas everywhere! Any wedding day do’ advice for her, bellas? Share your knowledge!

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Nerd Girl says:
November 2, 2007, 11:11 am
Congratulations Shantise! I don't have any wedding-hairdo advice, but I think Bella did a great job with her tips and suggestions, I'm sure you'll look great however you choose to style your hair. Ditto on the Claire's tip Bella! I have found the cutest stuff in there lately - from bracelets and necklaces for me to Hello Kitty stuff for my 3 year old and her friends. I probably hadn't been in a Claire's for 20 years until recently - good stuff, great prices!
Denise says:
November 2, 2007, 11:14 am
Well this was right on time for me becuase I'm having a destination wedding in St. Thomas in April and have been trying to figure out what to do with my hair. I'm wearing it natural of course, but I'm just not sure in what style. I assumed there would be many a natural stylists on the island, but I was wrong, so I may be going for broke and doing it myself, but we'll see. Thanks for sharing about the ZINGS, i'm going to order one and play around with it. Now, Shantise: don't feel like you can't wear your hair in an afro. did you friend request that you not wear it natural or are you just assuming? I've been natural for almost 3 years and have been in 4 weddings in that time. I've worn my hair natural twice and pressed twice. I think only one of my friends had a prefernce for how my hair was going to be. The other time I pressed it was just becuase I wanted to, not becuase I had to. Don't think that an afro can't be fabulous. I wore a huge and beautiful afro as the maid of honor in one of my friend's wedding and got mad compliments. In fact a stylist who was there, took my picture cuz she loved how it looked (the front was cornrowed with some funky, but classy braids). So don't think you can't wear your 'fro with pride and beauty, girl! ...hey, maybe that's how I'll wear it for my own wedding;)
Demetria says:
November 2, 2007, 12:14 pm
This is a fabulous post! I have natural hair (most days I'm rockin a big, full afro) and I got married in Antigua over the summer. I don't like a lot of fuss, so I didn't do anything too fancy. I just pulled it back (my hubby's favorite) and put a bright pink island flower in my hair. It looked great. Simple and elegant. I love wearing my hair out, but the heat and the humidity ruled that out. Shantise, since you have your twa action going on, just wear it out. Use something like Hair Milk from Carol's Daughter to define your natural curls and get a cute little headband. Get the bride's approval for the headband of course, but I think you'll be fine.
Bebroma says:
November 2, 2007, 12:20 pm
Nichelle's hair looks so regal. Claire's is also a great place if your ears aren't pierced (there are some of us out there, believe it or not!). Cute and classy clip-ons at a great price. My hair is about the length of yours right now, Shantise; give Miss Jessie's a try, even it your coils are really tight, it defines them, and then sometimes I spray on a little non-oil glosser that I get at a hair store. I also think when your hair's short a nice line in the back from your local barber really makes it look elegant. And like bella said, style it a bit before to see what you like the best, sometimes I part it to the side and use some industrial strength hair clips (cause girl my stuff is KINKY) to hold a little bit down on one or both sides.
Bebroma says:
November 2, 2007, 12:39 pm
Shantise, you could also do a itty bitty twist out -- it can give hair as short as ours a little more fluff and softness when you want a different look.
Peajai says:
November 2, 2007, 12:42 pm
@Bebroma, Where do you get "industrial strength" hair clips? My hair is super thick and hard to control too. I have been wanting to part on the side and clip it like that but I haven't been able to find anything that will hold it down.
Peajai says:
November 2, 2007, 12:44 pm
@Shantise, Also look into comb coils. They look great for TWA and can give you a beautiful defined style that lasts for days.
Mae B. says:
November 2, 2007, 1:19 pm
Before I loc'ed my hair, I'd wear coils or itsy bitsy twist (Thanks Bebroma)I didn't know what to call them. My stylist would do different designs-she'd do them in a swirl pattern like a wrap or a part, some up like a plume. I'm a color freak so coloring a TWA is sexy to me, get a lining, arch those brows then strut your stuff. Baby it's your crown wear it how you pleasure. (yes I mean pleasure)
Toneahh says:
November 2, 2007, 2:43 pm
@Shantise, I have been natural for years and this year was the first time that I felt confident to wear my hair in a natural style for not only one, not two formal but THREE formal events. Congrats for being strong so soon. What I did all three times was just wash my hair, put in the appropriate products to keep it curly, moisturized and soft and after letting it air dry some I strategically placed a flower in my hair. Not anything too big that changed the flower from an accessory to an outfit, but something that complimented my dresses. I have yet to get as many compliments on my hair as I did those nights. It was very pretty and elegant IMO. If you try this, which I suggest because it simple yet pretty, I recommend using small flowers and adding to if necessary instead on one huge flower. Please, let us know what you do.
Bebroma says:
November 2, 2007, 2:43 pm
Peajai, try the metal hair clips/clamps beauticians use (you can get them at beauty supply stores); you gotta get out the glue gun and glue some sparkles/costume jewels/shells/whatever on if you want some pretty to it, but that can be part of the fun. And I totally agree with Mae B. about getting the brows done. A nice wax or whatever of the brows really helps the TWA crown shine.
nikki j says:
November 2, 2007, 3:48 pm
Shantise, I was in the same boat for my own wedding (thats me in the pic). As you can see I finally decided on braids, I think it was the easiest, safest and healthiest option for my hair. I remembered being worried about my style choice, but you have to do what works for you. Run some ideas by the bride and see what she thinks too. Either way, I know everyone will look beautiful!
Jacquie says:
November 2, 2007, 4:56 pm
for my August wedding, 3 months after cutting the remaining relaxed ends, I wore a straw set separated and might i say it was fiesty and fierce. I worked on this from May until a week before my wedding. the others gave good advice re: comb coils or just wearing your fro in its natural glory with a hair accessory. the key is to start now so you have a plan and not wondering the week before what to do. check out and ask the ladies in your area, if they know of a natural hairstylist. also, check out photo's of women with TWA's and how they style their hair. (nappturality women are wonderful!!)
dettygirl says:
November 3, 2007, 10:49 am
I forgot who was looking for "industrial strength" hair clips, but I found some in H&M last year for cheap & I stocked up! They are pretty big; I only need one to hold a whole side of my thick hair down, and they had different colors too.
JahGyal says:
November 4, 2007, 7:47 pm
OOOOHHH, I wish I knew how to post photos, because I got married November 25 last year. And 6 weeks before the wedding I chopped off my afro again - wedding stress, couldn't shoot somebody so I chopped my hair and I wore my afro at my wedding with only a flower in my hair and some Sacha glitter (night wedding)as my accessories. Bella, how do I send you a photo, so that your wedding afrobelle can see that it can be done and look fabulous. Oh I know, here's a link:
Nerd Girl says:
November 5, 2007, 2:56 pm
@JahGyal - just looked at your pictures. Very, very pretty! You looked awesome - I hope that Shantise makes her way over to those pictures.
Shantise says:
February 9, 2008, 1:08 pm
My friend didnt care what I did with my hair.. actually it was my mother...So I got kinky twist.. bad mistake. I got them Jan 3rd. its been a week and im still taking it down.
demi says:
September 5, 2008, 3:48 pm
i have short kinky hair and apart from hidind it in braids,i dont know any other great style i can play around with.i don't want to use chemicals or relaxers for my hair and i'm not patient enough to wear it in cornrows. i'm a new bella and i need help!
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