It’s been almost six months since I did the big chop.  I had just been laid off my 9-5 job in January, and after securing some freelance writing gigs to pay the rent and groceries, I realized my budget absolutely could not support visits to the hair salon or the weaves I usually rocked.  Could I do my own touchups? Sure, but for the last few years, my hair just wasn’t growing the way it used to. Besides the length issue, it lacked body and I actually had a bald spot right on the top of my head, which I had to cover up with a few weave tracks.
I was actually driving myself nuts the next couple of weeks, trying to find a DIY haircare regimen when a little voice said inside my head “You could always go natural.”  Of course I ignored said voice. Me do the big chop? Nah.  I just wasn’t “pretty” or “edgy” enough to rock a TWA (Teeny Weeny Afro). Mind you, as a film writer and culture critic, I’m a staunch advocate of Black actresses rocking their natural tresses and embracing a more diverse standard of beauty in Hollywood. I even wrote an opinion piece urging Viola Davis to wear her hair natural to last year’s Oscars  -which she did and looked super fab!  But for some reason I couldn’t extend this progressive thinking to my own hair.
 Ah, but that little voice in my head would not shut the hell up until one morning after brushing my teeth, I pulled my hair back, looked in the bathroom mirror and said aloud, “Fuck it all. Off with her hair!”
Going natural is a physical, spiritual and emotional journey and as such, you need to be 150% confident in your decision. Because trust and believe, there are those who will question and judge you and your hair.  Below I’ve listed some steps that made the transition more easy breezy.

Do Your Research!

Whether you decide to do the big chop like me, or transition (growing the relaxer out of your hair) you need to make sure it’s done right and will start you on the right path to healthy hair.  You can find a local hair salon that specializes in natural hair care in your city to do the chop. I was on limited funds, but luckily for me I was able to find a friend who’s been natural for over a decade to do mine. 

Know and Embrace Your Hair Type

Not knowing your hair type and how it works can bring tears and frustration to many a newly minted naturalista.  The biggest mistake we tend to make is looking at say, someone like Tracee Ellis Ross and think your hair will look similar. Celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker came up with a hair classification system to describe our various types of kinks, curls and waves. I fall between a 4B and 4C, so it made it easier for me to know what I’m working with.  Which leads me to….

Have a hair regimen plan that works for your hair

So now that I pinned down my hair curl pattern, I needed to find out how to care for my little baby ‘fro.  Thanks to the wonder of Youtube, I found great advice and tutorials from women with my same hair type.  For one thing, I had to say “buh-bye” to the hair products I used on my relaxed hair and weaves.  I learned that a good conditioner is your very best friend and that shampoos with harsh detergents will strip your hair of any moisture.  I use sulfate-free shampoos and hair conditioners with little to no silicones to avoid build-up.  In the first few weeks after my big chop I used World of Curls hair gel– the glycerine in activator gels worked perfectly to make my curls pop. Now that my hair is growing, I use Cantu products to moisturize and use for my twist outs.  The key is to be open to experiment with different products and find what works for you. 

Prepare Yourself For Any Negative Backlash 

I’m going to keep it real with y’all – the decision to go natural will not always be met with ticker tape parades and fireworks.  When I went to meet with my editorial director two days after my big chop, the receptionist’s eyes almost popped out of her head. “Oh my God, what did you do to your hair?”  (Like it wasn’t obvious). When I told her I did the chop because I was unhappy with the health of my hair in its relaxed state she said “Oh you just didn’t use the right products. You have to know how to take care of it.”  I had to bite my tongue from saying what I really thought, “Hell yeah I didn’t use the right product. I was putting damn near industrial strength lye in my hair!” 
At first, I was taken aback by her disapproval, especially coming from a fellow black woman.  I get it – some people just aren’t that good with change. But someone’s discomfort or disapproval of your appearance shouldn’t determine how you choose to wear your hair. 

Adjust your lens towards Black Beauty

One of the things that really helped with my decision to go natural was changing my perception of what I considered to be beautiful.  As I mentioned earlier, the majority of black models and actresses have to conform to what their industry says is the norm – long and straight, flowy hair.  So I found some great online resources that celebrate the beauty of natural hair.  I spent hours on the Orijins Culture Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/orijinculture, drinking in endless pics of black women with varying styles of locs, afros, and baldies. 
My other fave is the Natural Black Girls Tumblr page (http://naturalblackgirls.tumblr.com/). Warning – It’s totally NSFW, but I love that this site shows how sexy and erotic natural hair can be. I happen to know some Black women who fear going natural will negatively impact their attractiveness to men, but I’m here to tell you, it’s mostly false.  Not to humble brag, but my sex life is quite healthy.  You’d be shocked how many Black men (and White ones too) find a ‘fro sexy as hell.
And finally…

Don’t be a jerk about your natural hair!

I think what saddens me about the natural hair movement is this clash between women with relaxers/weaves vs. natural hair women. As far as I’m concerned, shots have been fired from both sides. There’s enough crap in the world that Black women need to deal with and how we choose to wear our hair is a hella stupid reason to stay divided.  The great thing about being a woman in this country is having autonomy over our bodies, hair included.  We’re in this wonderful place in history where Black women are succeeding by leaps and bounds – and their hair has almost nada to do with their accomplishments.  Let’s be there for each other and accept one another, kinky haired or weaved.
ReBecca Theodore-Vachon is the Film/TV Editor at The Urban Daily.  You can follow her at @filmfatale_nyc