The second feature in the Our Natural Hair Story series is with Elissandra Capela who honestly shares the history of her hair from natural to texturised, and back to natural. She tells us to look at that lady/man in the mirror and love him/her anyway irrespective of outside opinions. That’s an attitude we all can learn from.
S: Please introduce yourself!
E: My name is Elissandra Capela, I’m Portuguese, but born in Sao Tome which is a very tropical country. I gained qualifications in the Travel & Tourism industry, and my plan during the course was to travel around the world and just enjoy helping people, getting to know them and their different cultures which makes me happy.
Currently, I’m an Assistant Consultant at Stansted airport. I help customers with their buying needs , take them to the gates if necessary; and I also work on promoting different brands like Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, etc.
S: Have you always been natural?
E: No, but I was until I was 17 years. Before then, I had people around me who could help make and manage my hair. But at 17, I was living with only my mum and she didn’t know how to style my hair. She used to do two plaits when I was younger, but as I grew older, I didn’t want to walk around with two plaits.
My sister in- law had long beautiful hair. She used to use texturisers that kept her hair still curly but soft and that was the look I was going for. So I also texturised my hair from 17 to about 22 years.
When I first had it done, I really liked it and it was easy to style my hair. I never even straightened it, I just did ‘wash and go.’ However, when I moved to England, I’m not sure if it’s because of the water or the climate, but it changed my hair texture and it started going straight instead of curly. I carried on doing it for about 2-3 years then I decided to stop and see what it would turn out to be. When I stopped, all I could remember was that I had very curly hair and that it was too much for me to manage then which was why the texturiser was easy. So when I saw little curls popping out underneath, it was initially hard to take care of both textures. Like when I would do wash and go, the roots would be kinkier than the ends, and some people said it looked good on me, but I thought they were lying. I didn’t like it all, but slowly, I started to see myself as natural and not having to put chemicals in my hair which in a way was to impress people so they don’t say- oh are you not mixed race, are you not supposed to have more wavy hair or whatever hair I’m supposed to have than kinky afro hair…
So I started accepting myself. Whether curly or sometimes crazy, I started loving it and was doing more ‘wash and goes’. I think I accepted it more when I did the wash and go, because when I put it in a bun, I can always slick it back with gel and no one would know if my hair is straight, relaxed or unrelaxed unless I show little bit of waves or curls.
S: Would you describe yourself as being part of the natural hair movement?
E: I think the movement is good. I believe that everyone should like themselves the way they are, and if you feel good with straight hair, relaxed hair, and it’s working for you, stick with it.
However, I personally like being curly and love my natural hair. I think anyone that has curly hair should embrace it. I even turned my mum and sister in-law into naturals.
What I realised is that when my hair was texturised, it was always breaking and never grew past my shoulders, but now it’s almost waist length.
Just go natural! What people say about Black hair not growing is all lies. If you have Black hair, go for it and embrace yourself, you don’t have to impress anyone. I think a lot of people don’t know what they really like or what they are, that’s why they try to cover it up with different things.
Now I know who I am, my style, what kind of hair I like, and what makes me happy. For example, some people don’t like natural hair, and say “Control that hair!” I’m like- “get over it! This is me, this is mine you know and I really don’t care”
S: Yes, self acceptance is important. Do you think you’re perceived differently now in comparison to when you had texturised hair?
E: I don’t think people approach me differently, but I do get a lot more attention. What I’ve realised is that Afro hair gets way more attention. Like my workplace is predominantly full of White people, and any time I go to work with my hair in a wash and go, there isn’t ever a day where they don’t put their hands in my hair and say oh I love your hair or what do you do to your hair to get it like that, etc.
I sometimes wonder whether to go to work with my hair like that. Do people see me differently? So while I’m working, I can go with my hair out, but for an interview, I want to give a good first impression. I’ve debated this with myself so many times. It’s like should I go the way I am or should I cover it up and slick it back so they see that this can be tied up, this can be tamed.
S: What’s your favourite way to style your hair?
E: Definitely wash and go. Also, I live for a bun.
S: What would you say is the process to achieving healthy hair?
E: I believe that the way you look after your body to keep it healthy is the same way you should be meticulous in looking after your hair. So wash it, use treatments, use good products, leave in conditioner and good oils.
S: What are your favourite products?
E: I’m a Cantu lover; also Shea Moisture and ORS.
S: What advice would you give someone thinking of going natural?
E: They should embrace themselves and stop thinking about what people might think about their hair. I think that’s the biggest problem with people that transition. They think too much about how people would look at them or how they would manage the hair. Even now, there are days I don’t know how to deal with my hair. So I’ll say, go for it. Even if you don’t know how to take care of your hair, you’ll learn gradually. You can do the wash and go, braidout or twist out. Also, hair can be so different between people. So while my hair likes wash and go, not everyone else’s does.
So go for it, and when you do, try for real. Don’t just do it for one month. Hair doesn’t grow that much in just one month. Try it and do different styles, you might like it! Go for at least a year, and embrace it. Hair is not perfect, and at the end of the day, hair is just hair. You don’t have to overthink that it’s not perfect or that people are not going to like it.
Another refreshing take on growing natural hair and being true to yourself. Elissandra definitely makes us stop and think more about our own perceptions on body image and self love.
Follow Elissandra on Instagram
Photography by A Oguns Photography
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