My Hair Is Part Of My Identity — But It No Longer Defines Me

Photo: Courtesy of Venesa Coger.
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Cutting my hair off was a way for me to stop holding myself to the frustrating eurocentric beauty standards that persist for Black women. I’ve worn my hair in its natural state, relaxed, in wigs, and hair extensions — I love all Black hairstyles — but I also started to believe in the false narrative of which hairstyles were deemed “professional” or “classy”. If my hair wasn’t a certain style, I felt like I wasn’t put together. If my hair was in its naturally curly state, it needed to be defined in perfect spirals (but my 4C hair didn’t naturally do that), and I didn’t think I could dye my hair because then I would be seen as sloppy or incompetent. Those are just some of the ridiculous notions I was swept up in when it came to my hair. 
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In 2014, I suffered from depression and stress alopecia that caused my hair to break off. I had a medium-sized bald spot on the back of my head. Even though it wasn’t visible to others because of the length of my hair at the time, I noticed and felt it. I was also dealing with the regular college life struggles like classes, work, and personal life drama so my confidence shattered even more. I felt as though my hair defined me and if it wasn’t “perfect” (whatever that means) then I wasn’t good enough. I put so much pressure on myself to look a certain way because I needed my ego boosted. To me, I was prettiest when my hair was in box braids, straight, or slicked back in a bun.
Going natural and embracing the movement was not easy at all. I was so used to having my mom style my hair or sitting in a salon chair that I had no clue where to begin. This caused me to stress out more and that, on top of coping with alopecia, was so frustrating. I needed a change because no amount of YouTube tutorials was helping me emotionally. 
In 2015, during spring break weekend I went to a barbershop and shaved the back and sides of my head. I left a bit of hair on top so that I could still have some versatility. I was able to flat iron and style it like Rihanna during her Rated R era but also to be able to put box braids in (like my faves Keke Palmer and Meagan Good). 
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I felt liberated but at first, I wasn’t sure I could pull off such a bold look. As I settled into the look, it was the first time I didn’t seek validation outside of my own opinion to feel good. Oftentimes, Black women are told the way we wear our hair defines us and that the hair that simply grows out of hair is not good enough. Fighting back against that rhetoric started with me stepping outside of the boxes Black hair is constantly put in and trying styles and colors I didn’t have the confidence to wear before. The journey to accepting my hair — in all its forms —  has been a long but fulfilling process. Here are three hairstyles I’ve worn that have helped me continue to feel bold, confident, and stylish.
Blue Curly Tapered Frohawk: 
Photo: Courtesy of Venesa Coger.
Towards the end of 2021, I dyed my real hair blue because it’s my favorite color, but I also wanted something fun that would stand out. My hair was still in its naturally curly state and I loved doing wash-and-gos and twists to really make my new hair color pop. With this style, I opted for a more tapered look on the sides and back of my hair because of breakage. It was easier for my hair to be around the same length and texture. I didn’t go back to the salon to touch up the color and roots, but I was able to start a hair care routine and manage my hair better than before. 
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Voluminous Pixie Cut & Highlights:
In February 2022, I decided that I wanted to try a pixie cut. I went to a Black-owned local salon, Shona Stylez, and relaxed my hair. This was the first time since I was 14-years-old that I had relaxed my hair and I  loved it. The low-maintenance style was better for my schedule at the time since I knew I would be traveling a lot for work. I enjoyed styling them in mini curls and swooping the curls over for a more defined look. This style reminded me of the women in Hype Hair magazine that I loved so much growing up. I felt like a model out of the 90s.
Classic Buzz Cut:
Photo: Courtesy of Venesa Coger.
Earlier this month, I shaved my head. Starting fresh and shaving my hair off felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. All those years of crying and fighting with my hair were laying on the floor along with tufts of curls. With this cut, I began to truly see who I am and where I’ve been. This cut is low maintenance, classy, and showstopping. I would have never thought that removing all of my hair would make me happier than having hair. I’m looking forward to adding designs and color throughout this new journey. And most importantly, I know that while my hair is one part of my identity, the only thing that can define me is me.

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