At the start of 2019, I was asked to feature in an independent documentary that was about Black Girls Hair! I’ll admit I was so standoffish and my defences were up as this is a really sensitive topic for me. I asked what questions would be asked before I agreed and almost said no to being in the doc because I didn’t want to be accused of “conforming to the western standards” for wearing weave, or attacked for relaxing my hair and “not loving myself” but I realised this was an opportunity to expose my insecurities and I realised that it was quite therapeutic to talk about my hair journey and some of the struggles so I agreed and I’m happy to say it was a great documentary!
A few months down the line and I’m realising once again this was something I needed to do, and now I’m ready to dive a little deeper into my hair journey as this plays a massive part in who I am today. So let’s take it back!
In the summer when I was younger my mum always made me wear silly caps, hats, visors the lot, all to protect me from the sun.
She always thought I was going to get sunstroke?! I really don’t know where that idea came from but there was not much I could do about it. And I absolutely hated it, not just because it was unnecessary but mainly because I had short hair!
I’ll never forget when I was around 5 or 6 we went into our local corner shop owned by a man called Yogi. In the shop I approached the counter to buy some sweets with some of my own pocket money so I was excited, I felt like a big girl paying for my own goods. As I reached up to put the item on the counter Yogi ask ” yes young man can I help you?” I was so shocked. I’m a little girl but for some reason, he thought I was a little boy! That hurt! I screamed at him “I’m a girl”, slammed my money down and stormed out with my mum. My mum told me not to be upset and it was a mistake because I was wearing a cap, shorts and a t-shirt and he couldn’t tell but it stayed with me for a very long time! That moment to me was so defining as it made me think that I needed long hair to prove that I am a girl.
As the years went by, avoiding Yogi’s shop of course, I know I always had in the back of my mind that I wasn’t as pretty as my cousins, school friends or girls in general as my hair just wouldn’t grow, it didn’t fall down my back but instead stood up as a small afro and if I did try to get it plaited or slicked down like everyone else it wouldn’t look as fresh or as smooth as the other girls.
There was one girl in particular who I convinced myself was a friend (I was in denial) but was in fact a bully, who tormented me for the first few years at secondary school. She ALWAYS commented on my hair, saying it was nappy and tough which was the first time anyone had actually made me feel bad about my hair. My REAL friends at school tried to help by making suggestions of “Remel you should get extensions” or “Remel you should relax your hair” and although I know they were trying to help, it just made things worse. I always felt like they were subliminally saying I’m not pretty enough and I would look better if I did change my hair. The sad thing is that is I kind of accepted that I wasn’t the pretty one in the group as the others usually got approached by boys when we were out and I usually was in the background acting cool about it all, even though I wasn’t.
My mum always said she didn’t agree with relaxing my hair at a young age which I respect and agree with, but she knew I wanted a change when I was in my teens, so she agreed to let my aunt put extensions in my hair! Finally, I was starting to get some confidence. My mum also learnt how to braid my hair and we tried different styles, we even started curling the extensions to add some extra style to it. Until… one day my mum accidentally burnt my face with a curling tong. Once again I was traumatised! I had a massive scab on my cheek and I was so embarrassed when I went to school. I also felt ashamed that I was trying so hard to make my hair look nice but I had failed once again. The thought that it might scar me for life made me feel really dumb! Luckily it didn’t scar but it was a lesson learnt so we stopped curling my extensions and I decided to stop trying and just enjoy being a kid.
When I was around 16 I went to Nigeria and this trip truly changed my perception of myself. I saw so many beautiful black women in Nigeria and I came back to London with a new swag in my step! Confidence is so important it helped me through college, uni and made me who I am today!
I’ll admit I still made changes to my hair and eventually ditched the braids and took the next step and relaxed my hair when I was 19, but it was confidence that made me feel good! Not my hair! The new hairdo was a bonus. Throughout uni my hair for the first time started to show real signs of growth, but being in Leeds was difficult as there weren’t many black hair salons that knew how to treat it properly and I should never of let it happen but a west Indian woman absolutely BUTCHERED my hair so I decided to WEAVE IT UP!
From the age of 21, I was back to covering my hair like a hat with weave. I began to lose confidence again and started to feel like I wasn’t pretty if I didn’t have long weave down my back. And especially because of the industry I was in and the brand I was creating I felt like I needed my weave to look the part as a TV presenter. Again industry people and stylists said it would look better if I had a lace front weave and wore makeup to look more glam. It was again making me feel like I had to keep up a certain idea of what pretty was.
I remember I used to be so embarrassed when I had to take out my weave to get it redone. If I went out I would walk on the backroads and take the fastest routes to my destination so I wouldn’t see anyone, especially when I went to my hairdressers. If my appointment got cancelled or rescheduled I WOULD NOT leave my house or go anywhere if my hair wasn’t done! I don’t know how it started spiralling out of control. Whilst all of this was happening I noticed that my hairline was affected. My edges were breaking off from relaxing my hair and then covering it with weave and leaving out the middle. In hindsight what on earth was I doing?! But all of the girls were doing it… WHAT A MESS!
I eventually decided to grow out the relaxer by putting my hair into braids. This helped but again my edges were a mess and the braids were also putting extra strain on it! I was brought to tears one day when a clump of hair dropped out with one of the braids! For so long I felt like I needed long hair to be a presenter, to look glamorous and to look the part. But then it wasn’t just about the long hair, it was the type of hair…
I remember in 2015 when I had my braids in I was asked to host Miss Nigeria UK and also a Nigerian Independence Gala. I had arranged to have beautiful customised dresses for the events, makeup was sorted but I felt like my braids were going to bring the whole look down. I actually considered getting weave again just for those 2 events. And then I asked myself WHY?! What difference will it make to the look? I was so annoyed that I thought straight hair meant I would look glamorous. So as if in a silent protest I kept the braids, they were styled amazingly by the hairstylists and I felt fabulous! I decided to stop doubting myself because of my hair.
Funnily enough, not long after this, I wore a weave again and I HATED IT!!! Enough was enough! It was time to make a change!
On 19th August 2016, I booked an appointment with a friend of mine but also the cutting Queen Vicksenstyles! For the very first time, I felt like I had a style that was FOR ME! It wasn’t to anyone else’s beauty standards, it wasn’t an attempt for me to fit in, it was all mine and I felt… in fact, I FEEL great every day! It’s taught me to enjoy my identity, my hair journey and although I still struggle with growth and keeping healthy hair I don’t have to hide it and it doesn’t have to be 24+ inches down my back!
As India Arie once said “I am not my hair” it is simply an accessory, it doesn’t make or break you so however you choose to wear it is entirely up to you, whether its short, long, thick, thin, curly, straight, natural or relaxed, bald or with extensions it’s your decision!
Learning to love your hair and yourself takes time and we all go through seasons where we don’t always feel confident or beautiful but the most important thing is to do what makes you feel good and to do what makes you feel comfortable!
I hope this helps someone who might feel like they are trapped under a hairy hat as my Nanny always called it lol and you learn to love you for you!
Thank you for reading!
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