My name is Stephanie and I am 21 years old. My hair is everything to me. I have been hair obsessed forever. I feel like a lot of black girls are. Especially just growing up and not really knowing - like my mom didn’t know how to do my hair at all - she wasn’t the best at braiding, she didn’t know how to cornrow or do any of those styles. I just remember I hated barrettes. My mom would always put my hair in the two pigtails with the barrettes and when she would pick me up, the barrettes would be gone *laughs* She tells me that I used to tell her that I gave them to my friends because they didn’t have them but in reality I think I just didn’t want them because no one else had them. In hindsight, at the time I didn’t really think about this, but a lot of my friends had looser texture hair and my Barbies - I was obsessed with Barbies - I had so many dolls growing up and I would always do their hair. I think I just became obsessed with long hair and my hair just wasn’t long. It didn’t make me upset but it did make me obsessed with hair. And that was my idea of what “good hair” was for a long time. I remember I got my first relaxer at maybe 5 or 6 years old. My mom tells me she did it because she said that my hair is very thick and I would cry whenever she did it so she got a relaxer. I literally loved my relaxer and I know the reasons why now but I loved getting my hair relaxed. Every time I would leave the salon my hair was all shaking and I was just doing everything *laughs* And compared to the rest of my cousins my hair was pretty long. This sounds bad but I was kind of happy that I had “good hair” compared to like my cousins or my family. But compared to my friends at school my hair wasn’t as long so it was this weird thing where my family was so jealous of my hair but when I went to school I was jealous of other people’s hair. So that was the first stages of my own hair obsession. Then I just became obsessed with hair in general. I always used to braid my Barbies’ hair. I learned how to braid when I was like four or five years old from my preschool teacher. She taught me how to three strand braid then I just started braiding. Then when I would get my hair braided, like micro braids, I would take it out and save the hair and I would use that hair to do it on my Barbies. So I learned how to do braids that way on other people. So when the micro braids fell out, I knew how to put them back in. I kept practicing hair and eventually learned how to really do hair. I had my first weave at like six or seven. I was in my uncle’s wedding and I had the little ponytail thing and I literally rocked that ponytail for like two weeks after like I did not want to take it out of my hair. And I was in camp too - my hair was obviously a mess, the gel was coming out, whatever. But my mom was really like “express yourself” like she wasn’t very controlling about it. And I knew how to do hair better than her at this point. At least I thought *laughs* So I’m happy that she just let me do it. But I’ll never forget, we had a Field Day at school and I was doing a relay race and I was running and the ponytail came out. I’ll never forget that day. I literally was so embarrassed - I was crying. It was a mess. From then I started going to a stylist and she started putting in the twists like you know how Tia and Tamara used to have, she would do that but then in the ponytail, she would add weave. That literally like - I was like “Ya, I’m the shit.” From there I became obsessed with weave. I was like “I need weave.” I put my first extensions into my own hair in 5th grade for my graduation. I found a pack of synthetic hair from my mom and I literally sewed it in. It was horrible. It was barely even blended. I looked crazy. I still had a relaxer at this point and I was going to my hairstylist - his name was Jerry. He was really good. He was also my first male hairstylist. That’s when I decided guys do the best hair *laughs* My mom would just drop me off at the salon and give me the money and be like “Call me when you’re done.” So I told him: I want tracks in my hair. He glued them into my hair. I was like “wow. this is life changing” My mom picked me up and she was like “Whoa what is going on?” Mind you, this was like 12, 14 inches - nothing crazy, but still obviously longer than my real hair. So my mom was like “Who do you think you are?” From then I just kept getting that same style. That was my style from like 6th grade to 8th grade. I was just gluing tracks in. I stopped going to him because we moved but I realized ”I can literally do this myself,” so I used to just glue tracks into my hair which was so bad for my hair. It literally gave me bald spots around my ear from the glue pulling my hair. Then I learned what a quick weave was. So I started doing quick weaves - I would braid my hair and then I would sew the stocking cap on and cut it to my leave out and me and my mom would glue the tracks. It would be a mess - we’d be in the mirror like “It’s not straight!” like every other Sunday. But it was a thing - like my hair always has to be perfect if I do it myself. I always make a point to make it look natural because when people would ask “is it real?” I would say “Yes!” That became a thing in middle school. I would be like “Yeah, it’s real but don’t touch it!” I had a sort of embarrassment about weave. I think a lot of people did, up until really recently. Like to say that you have a weave was just kind of like “Ok well you must have a weave because your hair is too short” Whereas now, people can say “I wear a wig because I want to” There’s more liberation like I’m wearing this because I choose to. Before, it was like if you’re wearing weave it’s because you obviously don’t have “good hair.” So I was still doing the tracks, still doing the quick weaves. I had so much damage. I have been rocking a middle part since high school and this whole part *indicates the front of the the head* was so short compared to all the hair that I was braiding that had become so long. And eventually I transitioned - I did kind of a big chop then I just kept cutting my hair slowly and slowly and finally until it was natural from like 8th grade to 9th grade. And I realized that the hair that I wasn’t putting heat on was really flourishing. I was like “Wow, my hair can actually really grow” But the front wasn’t growing. The front was 3, 4 inches and the rest was like 6-10. So I came to college and I just didn’t like frontals and closures. There’s just something - for me - about having my scalp exposed, even if I have extensions. Closures obviously blend better with hair [extensions] but I would just prefer to blend a leave out if it didn’t damage my hair. So, I think freshman year of college is when I started wearing wigs. So now, I basically wear wigs most of the time. This year I’ve started to wear more natural styles. I had braids from September to October. I tried the worst wig I’ve literally ever bought. It matted so bad in the back. I just threw the whole thing away two days ago. I do my own hair so - I haven’t been to the salon since I went to Atlanta four or five years ago with my whole family to get my hair done. I wanted to get a frontal but I wanted it to be very, very natural. I wanted to get it professionally done. The night before I was supposed to get it done I got put in a group chat with myself and four other numbers with different area codes. It was his assistant cancelling, saying that a family emergency had come up and he couldn’t do our hair. Turns out he was doing hair for the BET Awards in LA. I don’t really blame him but it was really shitty because I went all the way there. Honestly, in hindsight I wouldn’t have been able to maintain it so it was kind of dumb anyway. But still it was really disappointing. I ended up just searching hashtags and found someone in Atlanta to do it. That was the last time I went to a salon. I do hair here on campus. Mostly braids. I love doing hair. I’m slowly trying to become natural because I really like my natural hair now. I think if I took care of it, it could really flourish. I change my hair more now than ever. I used to keep my hair just straight, middle part, with layers. But in the past year I think I’ve had 6 or 7 hairstyles. Because I used to try to pass my hair as my own, I didn’t like the idea of like short hair yesterday, long hair today. It used to be so weird to me. But now I do that! I feel like everyone knows. I’m active in the black community here and everyone knows what’s up. And at a certain point I just don’t care. I don’t care to finesse my wig everyday. At a certain point I just want to put it on and go about my day, so I do.