My name is Ina. I'm a student at Boston University studying communications and women's studies. I'm 21 years old. I’m Haitian American. Both of my parents are straight from the Caribbean, so the whole narrative of like “fake hair equates to self-hate” is one I was definitely raised with. But I also grew up for most of my life in predominantly white areas. I grew up with a lot of frustration and self-consciousness and insecurity about my hair. My mom used to do small twists for me up until like sixth grade when yk, I too grown for that nonsense. I started to experiment with blow drying and curling my hair, doing gelled twist outs etc. A bunch of different experimental things. I had a brief stint with braids bc I went to the Bahamas for about a week. So ages like 12 to 14 were v experimental times. I felt myself growing out of the typically childish natural hairstyles but I also wanted to stay true to it, just to please my mother. So that was the end of middle school. Then like eighth grade, my mom surprises me and is like “you want to get a perm?” That was an utter shock to me because she had always like adamantly expressed how against chemical straightening and fake hair she was. But I think she sensed my frustration with my hair and she was growing tired of staying up until God knows when on a Sunday night twisting my hair. So she let me do the perm. I had it for all of high school. My hair was in a short bob style. I made it work for grad pictures but by mid-senior year it was a really thinning out. The relaxer had definitely taken its toll. So for prom, I did braids. The stylist used a whole pack of these thick, large, horsey textured crochet twists. But I'm a small person with a very small face so we ended up cutting a lot and then having to take it out before prom. That was one of the most traumatic hair moments in my life. I missed prom pictures with my friends because I was busy trying to fix the crisis. That was my first time ever delving into the realm of hair extensions. I was so conscious of how different I looked from all my peers. All I could think about was like I was in school yesterday and all my white friends saw me with like relatively straight short hair and now I’m walking into prom with this big ass thing on my head. Actually, to some degree I felt good but I also was just really self-conscious. I didn't know what to think of my friends who didn't necessarily understand hair braiding. Like “how did that pop out of her head?” So that ultimately lead to me doing the big chop at 18. I was getting ready to leave my small hometown in New Jersey to like come to school in Boston. I knew I wanted to create this new life for myself or whatever and that lent itself to questions about what I'm going to do with my hair. And my plan that I had was like “let me try to do like braids or something.” Freshman year I'll do something different but still like reflective of natural hair on a black woman. And then I'll do the big chop sophomore year like after I found my footing and hopefully found myself. But my hair was so botched after taking out those crochet braids that I really had no choice but to cut it. But I didn't want all the length to be gone. So what the stylist did was like she left as much of the straight so that my straight hair could look like curly hair and right and look natural until my natural hair grew out a little bit more like take up some of that length. I came into college like looking like a bald headed baby. I had no hair my freshman year. And as much as I wish I could have said it was like liberating and like made me realize that like I don't need my hair to be beautiful and all that I don't think I could ever go back. That was the most self-conscious I've been in my whole life. In like spring semester my freshman year my hair finally started growing out so that it was a bit more of a legitimate fro and I could deal with that. But, oh my God I was so self-conscious every day. Upon arriving at Bu and and thinking like yes this is more diverse than my predominantly white hometown in Middle of Nowhere New Jersey, but the more time you spend on this campus the more you realize it really isn't as racially diverse as markets itself to be. It’s certainly not the most diverse place. So I was really really trying to navigate and like not allowing the lack of hair on my head to define what I thought people thought of me. The number of debates I had with my girlfriends who - I love them dearly and they were trying to be like empowering and positive and saying like “What do you mean? Like of course guys would like you like your beautiful face like speaks for itself!” And I'm like yeah I feel like you're the one with long hair down to your waist. That was something I had to kind of reconcile with myself.
But that being said I knew I was like I'm I'm here now. I'm natural - I'm not going to go back to relaxing by any means bc of how it destroyed my hair. So I stayed natural sophomore year I started experimenting with braids and stuff because of maintenance and because my afro was kind of like an awkward length. I had to do something or else it was going to look like whack. So I started doing twists. I had a stylist here in Boston. And it wasn't the best experience like she was a professional but she had some learning I think still to be done because it was like falling out a night. And I was she was like “oh just dip it in hot water.” But, it's okay. She's starting. She was learning. But I did everything from a super long twist with like color and beads in it. And then I kind of like minimized it to like about shoulder length twists with my curls at the end. Those are the most consistent that felt most comfortable for me. I had long, like really large twists at one point, like a more boxy twisty. That was for about a year. What kept me from doing that was mostly the money. It gets expensive for sure, doing all those protective styles. whatever I had my last set of twists probably summer after sophomore year. I was like well I don’t really need these anymore because I'm able to do like little twists on my own hair and like put my hair up in a bun. That was the most satisfying feeling. The day I realized I could put it up. It was so satisfying. So then I was like alright, I'm not going back. So now it's Spring semester my junior year and I haven't done any sort of extensions or twists or anything since. Now my primary mode of styling is like if I have time I'll twist and slightly blow dry because with this weather I can never trust that I can go outside just like that. One second it's like 30 degrees in the next 70! But it’s partially for my health but also just to stretch it out a little bit to add some length. And I do a lot of ponytails and a lot of those things. Pineapples. Scarves. I've been experimenting a little bit. But it's at a length where I'm comfortable with it now and I can do some stuff :)