My earliest memory of my experience with my hair is when I was little - elementary school days - probably like 6 years old. My mom always did my hair growing up so, you know that experience of your mom doing your hair. It always hurt, it was always painful and I always dreaded it especially because my mom - even though being a young black girl I had natural hair at that time - my mom didn’t really know how to take care of natural hair and I definitely didn’t know how to take care of it. She would wash my hair then just shampoo it and then straight out of the shower. No conditioner. *laughs* She would comb it out and put it into some sort of bun or whatever style she thought was cute. That was always our routine and I absolutely hated it because it hurt so much. So obviously after doing that for years, once I got to middle school my mom was like you know, maybe it’s time you got a perm because I don’t like it when I do your hair and you don’t like it when I do your hair. At that time some of my closest friends already had perms and I didn’t really like the way it looked on them. Like they loved it, everyone wanted straight hair, it was the move. It was very pretty but I noticed that because they got their perms pretty early on, the first one looked nice but as they kept continuing it didn’t look as nice as the first time. I always noticed that. Like, their hair would start changing color and it wasn’t as full as it was before, things like that. Basically it was damaged. And I could see that and I was like “I don’t want one.” My mom was like “But, all your friends have it - what makes you special?” *laughs* I was like “I don’t want it.” I know what I want and at a very young age I was like I don’t want a perm. I never wanted it. My mom was like, you made a decision, I can’t push you. But later on in school, like 7th, 8th grade I realized that there’s a way to have straight hair that wasn’t permanent. So, I started straightening my hair a lot - going to the hair salon, getting it straightened a lot. So it was either getting it straightened or getting it put into a protective style like braids. I loved the look of straight hair but it led to a lot of heat damage. By the time I entered high school, I had so much heat damage. It was really bad. I didn’t even realize it was heat damage - I just thought that I just didn’t have a curl pattern! *laughs* For some reason at that point I was just like “Oh! I don’t have curls!” Because I had straightened my hair so much and always had it in protective styles, I honestly forgot how my hair looked before. And I truly believe that I had never had any kinks or curls like that before so I was just like oh my hair is weird, it’s just like stringy and that’s just how it grows out of my head. But then, I discovered the natural community on YouTube and I was like “Oh!” *laughs* It’s so crazy to me because I was definitely like 14 years old not realizing that I had a curl pattern - something that wasn’t heat damaged. So my second semester of 10th grade, that’s when I started wearing my natural hair out - even with the heat damage. I watched so many YouTube videos and what was really popular was the Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie so I would just put that on my hair and it did not look good *laughs* It looked so bad but l people at my school - no one said anything. I look back at the pictures and I’m like I can’t believe no one said anything. I didn’t know how to take care of my hair so I would just put that on and it still looked really dry and I still had horrible heat damage and it just looked weird. But, I continued to watch YouTube videos and learn more about natural hair and more about my own hair and what my hair likes. I realized that the name to what I had was heat damage. I started progressively cutting off the damaged pieces and a year later I kind of Big Chopped. Not really all the way - I was basically transitioning for a year then cut the damaged parts off. It was really healthy and I was surprised because I actually had a texture. On TV it was always like the only women who had curly hair were light skinned women so I didn’t know what I had. They didn’t really portray dark skinned women with their natural hair on TV at the time so I just didn’t know. I thought that either you had an Afro - which my hair wasn’t as kinky or you just wear weave or a protective style. So it was really cool to discover what my hair actually looked like. From then on I continued taking care of it. The time between my Big Chop and college I was alternating between my natural hair and having braids in. Once I got into college - I’m a junior now - I started realizing that there were other protective styles I could do besides box braids. I just kind of went off *laughs* I love experimenting with my hair and different styles. This is the first time I’ve done twists before and in a different color. I started doing different colors and doing my own hair. I gave myself faux locks. I’ll watch a YouTube video and follow what they do. I pick it up pretty quickly. I started doing my friends’ hair because I actually enjoy doing it. I’ve been doing those long braided ponytails. I don’t straighten my hair as often but I’m open to it. Since starting college it’s been a really explorative hair journey for me - having fun with it. I see a new style and I want to try it and I can try it! I could either do it myself or find someone else to do it. I’ve tried blonde, this is like close to red. I wanted to try something different. I’ve had ginger faux locks. I’ve done mixes of dark brown. I also experiment on my friends. I’ll be like “you should try this color, let me do your hair!” My first time ever getting a sew in was this summer and I’m actually about to try a lace front wig around Christmas. I loved the sew in. I was like “Oh wow! This is what it feels like.” For prom, I wore a wig and it didn’t look very nice. It wasn’t a lace front, it was just a wig. I wanted to experiment with weave and wigs at the time but I was surprised by how much it was. I was used to getting braids and not paying that much for them, but extensions cost a lot. I was in this mindset of like - “No, I’ll just getting something cheap off of Amazon or YouTube” which is what I did. But when I actually got the closure and the sew in - I loved it. My stylist gave me big waves. It was so pretty to me. I’m obsessed with watching YouTube videos. Like even ones where I’m like I don’t even know if I would try it for myself but I know the whole process. So my next style is a blunt bob wig. After that I’m going to get Fulani braids. I always plan out my hair, like this month I’m going to do this, this season I’m going to do this! I change it like every 2-4 months. And a lot of times I’m like “I miss my natural hair” so I’ll keep it for awhile. I know I have so many options so now I just want to explore. That’s what I love about being a black woman and black hair is that you have so many options. At first it seems like you don’t, but you really do. There’s endless possibilities and you can really create any style.