For many women making the decision to Return Natural is a very difficult decision to make. I Am Beautiful 365 wants to share stories your story as a testimony to empower women who may be struggling with the decision to make the Big Chop. We want to create a safe place where you can come to be inspired to Love you hair, and more importantly, to love yourself. Here is a story of a woman who decided to make the Big Chop.
Hey guys, my name is Bernetta, and thank you so much Candace and Warren for inviting me on your platform to talk to your audience about my natural hair experience and how it’s been. Again, my name is Bernetta Knighten, and I am the creator of bernettastyle.com where I talk about motherhood, marriage and motivation.
Tell us about your Natural Hair Journey.
So, let me tell you about my natural hair journey. I have been natural for 10 plus years. My daughter was born in 2007, and that was the last time I got a relaxer. I’d like to share how I came to making the decision to go natural. And, if I’m completely honest, before I decided to become natural, one of the things that I noticed was the hair of older women that were at church. Every time I went to church, and sat in the pews – in front of me would be the older women of the church, the congregation’s designated “mothers”
The one thing that I saw, that was a constant theme was, I kept seeing their scalps. They wore their hair and they weren’t wearing a wig, it was all of their hair. Anytime I saw a scalp, it would remind me, all these women had relaxers. And I kept thinking is that my future? If I continue to get relaxers, is my hair is going to get so thin that you’ll see my scalp? I knew I didn’t want that.
In 2007, there were only a few people going natural. Much different from the many women who are natural today. However, the few women who were natural, I began to notice them and their hair, and I decided, “You know what? I’m going to stop getting a relaxer.”
I knew I wanted do it, but I wasn’t just going to jump in and do it? But when I got pregnant with my daughter, I thought that was the perfect time because your hair grows twice as fast when you’re pregnant. So when I got pregnant, I decided that would be my last perm. February 2007 was when I found out I was pregnant and never went back to get another relaxer. And boy did my hair grow.
One of the cool things about my Natural Hair Journey is, when I first decided to go natural I did not do the traditional #BigChop. Although, I ended up doing a big chop a couple years later. In fact, I have actually done three big chops in my natural hair journey.
I just continued to go to the Dominicans and get my hair straightened, and every time I went, I would let them clip a little bit more off. When I finally got all my relaxed hair clipped off, OH MY GOSH!!! I wet it, and I had my little Afro!
I felt so beautiful, and I decided to wear my natural to work. That was like a life-changing day for me. I worked in a call center. Picture an office filled with a bunch of cubicles. I remember getting off the elevator, and as I walked through the elevator doors, I didn’t look at anybody. I just walked down the hall to my little cubicle, but what I saw, out my peripheral, were people’s heads popping up like a bunch of whack a moles, and all I heard were a bunch of whispers. That was a day that I will never forget.
I didn’t hear, “YES GIRL, DO IT!” “ Yes, look at that fro!” Keep in mind, it was 2007 at the time, and people weren’t ready to get in on the natural hair journey. It was more taboo than anything, but I held my head up high, as I walked with my little fro to my cubicle.
How did I feel after I went natural?
After I had all the perm cut out and wore my hair regular for the first time, I felt powerful
After I had all of the perm cut out and wore my hair regular for the first time, I felt powerful. I felt POWERFUL, and I didn’t care what anybody thought. It didn’t matter if anyone liked it or not, I liked it, it was my hair, and I felt free. It was just really empowering, and since 2007, it’s been an interesting journey. I’ve learned a lot about hair, and I think as I started to take care of my hair, and doing more research, the more important it became for me to put only natural stuff in my hair. Somehow because I was putting only natural items in my hair, I naturally began to only want to put natural items on my skin and in my body.
I didn’t want to put chemicals in my hair, I didn’t want put heat on my hair, and I was more conscious about my whole body. So, I think making the decision to #ReturnToNatural, has helped me to be the healthiest version of myself. Making that one decision to have natural healthy hair, has influenced me every area of my life.
How did I feel afterward at various stages of growth?
Throughout my time on this natural hair journey, I’ve big chopped three times. The first time I made the decision to cut off all the perm was when I was pregnant, so my hair grew, and it grew long. The next time I big chopped it, I had an ideal of what to expect, and like the last time, I cut my hair down to a teeny-tiny fro. I grew it out some more, and then I had another baby. With my first two kids, my hair didn’t shed at all afterwards. However the third baby, I don’t know what happened, but my hair changed. I would have a fro, but you could see through the fro. My hair had gotten so thin, I just wanted/needed to start over.
So where am I now? I wear crochet twists, and one thing I like about my hair, is whether you’re natural or you’re relaxed, the versatility that we as black women have with our hair. But, after my last chop, I made the decision to just let my hair grow. The truth is, I love my hair. I did the short hair look and now I want my thick, long hair back, so now I’m in the process of growing my hair back.
One thing that I like about the various stages and being natural, is the thickness. The thickness that you have with your natural hair, I just never had with relaxed hair. When you do a nice twist out and you’ve just got that full look, I never had that with my natural hair. You can do versatile styles whether you have relaxed hair or natural hair. The styles that you can do with your natural hair are so creative. I just love when I see my other natural sisters and all the styles they do without adding a bit of hair. They’re just beautiful.
“I just love when I see my other natural sisters and all the styles they do without adding a bit of hair. And they’re just beautiful.”
I love the versatility. I love how I can achieve different looks whether I want a twist out, a wet and go, braids to the back, or however. I think that’s really it, the various stages of growth. I have wore my hair long, short, and in between. Right now, my hair is in between.
Would I ever go back to a relaxer?
Not at this point. I’m very happy with my hair. Especially with all the new technology involving hair. I wear crochets because I don’t wear sew-ins. I had a sew-in once before, and it was really pretty, but when I took my sew-in out, it took a lot of my hair out, and I didnt even have my sew-in in that long.
Now I do like crochets braids from time to time. With all of the things you can do to your hair to get the temporary look you want, I don’t feel like I need to ever get another relaxer. And I know it is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, personally for me.
My daughter is 11, so of course she’s never had a relaxer. She went through a stage when she saw the little girls on the relaxer boxes, and always wanting her hair straight like the pictures on the boxes. Asking, “Can I ever get my hair like that?” I would tell her, “You don’t need it. You hair is beautiful!”
I do allow her to get her hair straightened once a year, or whenever she gets her ends clipped. She’s had to grow to love her natural hair.
My natural hair journey, is a journey that’s ever-evolving. There are always new products coming out. A lot of people that I know doing their natural hair journey have started to make their own hair products which is also a great thing. If you have any questions about my journey, I’d be more than willing to share. I have no regrets for stopping relaxers. No regrets whatsoever. Especially when I first went natural. I don’t want to say I was a natural hair Nazi, but I was telling everyone, “You want to go natural, let me tell you why.” I was telling everybody they should go natural. Then everybody went natural! And now, I definitely have more friends that are natural than are not. The tide has definitely turned.
One more thing I wanted to talk about is support. I don’t really understand why people feel that they need society’s approval to go natural. When I went natural, I didn’t really feel I ever had the support of society. I always felt I had the support of my friends and my family. I wasn’t really worried about what outsiders, coworkers, or someone I knew casually thought. However, the people that were close to me, I always felt that they had my back, and that they supported me.
Except the one day I came home, and I didn’t tell my husband I was going to cut my hair, because I knew he didn’t want me to do it. But I was ready to cut it. I was tired of my hair and felt like I needed to cut, I needed to start over. So that was the only time I felt I wasn’t supported.
We had talked about it for months and he wasn’t changing his position. But I was ready to cut my hair. I remember feeling like this is my hair. I wanted to keep my husband happy, but I also needed to make me happy, and I wasn’t happy at that time with my hair. I felt I needed to cut it, and I wanted to start fresh. So on my lunch break, I went to a Supercuts and I cut it all off.
“So on my lunch break, I went to a Supercuts, and I cut it all off. I remember coming back from my lunch break, and my coworkers were like, “Are you okay?”
I remember coming back from my lunch break, and my coworkers were like, “Are you okay?” And, when I went home, my husband looked at me with such disgust. Not disgust because the way the hair looked, but more like disappointment. Even my mom was concerned, she asked me, “Are you depressed? Are you going through something?”
But I made it through, and that one incident was the only down part. And I believe that was only because me and my husband had already talked about it, and he wasn’t prepared. But he quickly got over it, and my hair grew back. And I cut it again, it’s just hair.
PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the I Am Beautiful 365, affiliates or partners.