Kicking off Our Natural Hair Story is 23 year old Oyin Lapite. She’s been natural all her life thanks to her mother who never saw the need to relax her hair. She shares her previous views on natural hair, the natural hair craze and how that affected her perceptions, as well as some tips on growing beautiful and healthy hair like hers!
S: Please introduce yourself.
O: Hello everyone! I’m Oyin Lapite, I’m 23 years old and a recent Masters graduate of International Health Policy from LSE. I’m a keen economist with an interest in global health trends. I’m very excited to be part of this campaign and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of working alongside other beautiful and intelligent women.
S: Have you always been natural?
O: Infact, I have never relaxed my hair before. When you are young as I am sure you know, your mum has complete control over your hair and as you grow, she gives you more and more independence as to how you decide to care for your hair. My mother never relaxed my hair and when I took over from her I decided to keep going with it. I’ve always had thick kinky curls and when I was younger I did not appreciate them. I begged my mother to relax my hair too many times.
S: Do you know why she never relaxed your hair?
O: In relation to other people, my hair is quite soft and she’s never relaxed her hair as well. So I think she felt there was never a need to relax our hair. There was never the idea of my hair being unmanageable or untamed, so there was no real need to relax it. I remember wanting to get my hair relaxed because everyone in school had theirs done, but I never had control of my hair. My mum styled it and that was it. She said I would have to wait to do whatever I liked when I turned 16 and was more independent.
S: Why did you have a change of heart when you got older and had control over your hair?
O: Funny enough, it was actually cool in my college to have natural hair. The majority of girls in my school were Caribbean and their hair seemed to be naturally softer and longer than African type of hair, so they didn’t really see the need to relax their hair. Their hair was down to their bum, and natural. So I was trying to feel cool too and not relax my hair.
S: Do you still wear your natural hair out?
O: I actually never wear my hair out now.
O: Because majority of the time, my hair is in weaves.
S: Are there any other reasons you choose not to wear it out?
O: Personally, I think I look prettier and more glamorous with weave on. You know, the silky long hair, that’s my look. I feel like everyone has their look and that afro look just doesn’t suit me. But when I see people that have the afro look, I admire it so much if they can pull it off, but I feel that look is not for everyone.
However, a friend of mine said that means I’m ashamed of my hair, because for instance, White people don’t say they want to make theirs more curly like ours, they go out with their own natural hair, so why can’t we do the same? But I feel that society and everything has shaped people’s perceptions. So for a person to have their natural hair out and do all those natural hair styles, I feel like they have to be a very confident and bold person. Also, I feel that the process of styling natural hair is long- you have to detangle, spray it, prep it the night before, etc; and I don’t have the patience.
S: Would you say you’re part of the natural hair movement?
O: I don’t know if I would regard this as a journey because this is all I’ve ever known. It’s my normal way of life. I suppose I started to appreciate my natural hair more with the whole ‘team natural’ craze and really started to pay due attention to my hair in terms of treatments and the character of my hair. What I grew to find out is that growth comes by showing love to your hair, being kind in the way you deal with your tresses and persistence. Maintaining natural hair is by no means easy, I have broken many combs and brushes and invested severely in different detangling mixtures, but the reward of healthy hair makes it all worth it.
S: Do you think you’re perceived differently depending on whether you’re wearing weaves or out with your natural hair?
O: When hair is natural as opposed to straightened or weave installed, I would say there is a definite difference in the way I’m received by people. When my natural afro is out, it is the first thing people comment on as if it were not normal. A woman of afro descent may say ‘oh, when are you getting your done’ despite the fact that this is the style I intended to have. People from other backgrounds are often amazed and more inquisitive about the nature of my hair, often confused if they had previously seen me with weave of braids.
S: What do you think about the natural hair community, and do you belong to any groups?
O: I think I’m quite different to my natural sisters. I don’t think I’m as passionate as them. For some, it might have been a revelation to become natural, to cut off their hair and start again. But it wasn’t like that for me because it’s all I’ve known. So I didn’t feel the craze. It was interesting to see that it wasn’t only just a craze, but people were actually taking it seriously. And it was only when the craze developed that I started appreciating my hair. Prior to the craze, I had no regard for it.
S: That means it’s also been positive for you…
O: Yes! The whole craze has brought about greater awareness of natural hair. I’m learning more of what I never knew which would have not come about if not for the movement. Now we know hair textures like 4c, 4b, which I never knew about. Companies are coming out with new products because of the movement which benefits me as well. I feel like we have role models now. And people think it’s okay to wear your natural hair. People on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, give you that assurance that you’re not stupid- that your hair is beautiful. That’s something that social media has definitely helped me with. Like in the past, when I go out with my natural hair, I’d feel very silly that my hair is not done, but now, I can walk out with confidence and think it’s ok to wear my natural hair.
There’s this confidence and tenacious attitude you see with natural haired girls that is beautiful and different. I feel there’s something unique about us and it reminds me of our roots and Africa. These are the things that come to mind when I see natural haired girls.
On the other hand, I see myself as a City girl. I want to work in banking, the UN, but if I want to go to a job interview, can I go to the interview with my hair? I don’t feel like they would greet me well. So does that mean our hair isn’t tidy or professional?
I wouldn’t go to an interview with natural hair, or unless it was straightened. Let’s look at Michelle Obama, her hair is always straightened and slicked back. Even Condoleezza Rice, another powerful Black woman, her hair is relaxed.
S: Yes, we definitely need more high profile role models so people can see that this is natural, this is how our hair looks, and it is fine.
O: There’s been experiments that show that people feel more comfortable with things that are similar to them. So if a Black person sees a Black person, they’ll be more comfortable because he’s Black and if a White person sees a White person, they’ll feel like that’s my bro. So I feel that because we live in a society where unfortunately, the White man controls the majority of things, we try to make ourselves look like them so that they can relate to us. So in the instance of a job interview, that’s why you’ll tush(groom) yourself to look in that European way so that you can relate more to that person so you don’t come across as strange and you can get that job opportunity. It’s very tricky, but unfortunately, that’s the reality. It’s deep and so sad!
S: It is! I feel like you get to a stage where you have to start realising all these things for yourself, and then decide what you want to do about all these new information, and it’s quite tricky because while you’re realising all these things, the world is still going on and not everyone is going to see things the way you do. So it’s trying to navigate through all of that.
O: It’s so unfortunate that we have to conform to get ahead.
S: How do you style your hair on the regular?
O: My usual styles include braids or full head weaves with closure. I do this in order to protect my hair and because I love the look of straight hair. This preference may or may not have been shaped by society’s ideals, but I feel weaves are easier to manage on a day to day basis. In a rushed morning on the way to work, styling straight hair is much faster than prepping hours on end the night before for a natural style.
Society also glorifies the straighter European hair texture, and when my hair is styled in this way, I believe I’m perceived as more glamorous. The Barbie doll-Kardashian look has taken over, although there is a recent rise in the number of black women showing the beauty of natural hair.
S: You’ve got amazing hair! What’s your secret to achieving healthy hair?
O: Minimal manipulation works for me. So it’s not a different hairstyle every other day. I usually put my hair in cornrows for a month while my wig is on. I do lots of deep treatment with avocado, honey, egg, etc, and mix it together to make a mask. I then keep it in for a few hours before washing it out, then I cornrow it back again. And I use that routine every month. Also, I only do my hair when it’s wet and never when it’s dry and that’s not just to prevent it from snapping, but because that’s the only way I can get a comb through it. My hair is very thick and it’s getting even more so I don’t know what to do with it any more.
You have to love your hair and treat it like a person. Not every product is going to work for everyone, so you have to learn your hair care. Like I know my hair loves water and oils. So get to know what your hair requires and needs; and do those treatments and stick to it. And you have to know it’s not going to be a 2 weeks or 4 weeks process. It’s going to take a very long time.
S: What are your favourite products?
O: I love the whole Cantu range- detangler, shampoo, conditioner. Tresemme Naturals as well. And lots of shea butter on the ends of my hair to keep it lubricated and prevent it from snapping.
S: So do you still oil it even when you have it cornrowed under a wig?
O: I shower with my wig off, so the mist touches my hair, so my hair get wet everyday and dries naturally throughout the day. I like it that way as it keeps it moisturised. It makes me feel like I’ve watered my plants each day.
S: What advice would you give someone contemplating going natural?
O: Work it honey! Be you, love yourself. It’s not about anyone else, but about you and what makes you happy. If going natural is what’s going to make you happy, then go for it. We shouldn’t depend on weave to make us feel beautiful; or makeup even. Perhaps there should be a no makeup movement, lol. Just embrace who you are because that’s actually the real you.
Our hair is beautiful and beauty is not one box or one definition. There are so many perspectives, and it’s great that the narratives are beginning to change.
Follow Oyin on Instagram
What an eye opening take on being natural and trying to live the dream in a society full of complexities!
What do you think, do we really have to conform to get ahead? Is it really an inevitable beat them or join them stance awaiting the natural haired girl?
Join the conversation, leave a comment below!
Photography by A Oguns Photography
DID THIS POST HELP YOU?
If you enjoyed this piece and would like more content like this, please consider a donation – we’d be so grateful!