The Eagle

The Novice Niche: A New Natural

A blog that will explore new experiences.

Story by Ashleigh Fields, News Correspondent

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Some things that are a part of new experiences in life include gaining a new perspective. I can remember a lot of things that I saw when I was younger that I now have a different perspective on.

One thing I can remember vividly is growing up watching so many women in my life trying to fit in to become something they are not. I’ve seen mothers force their daughters to wear weave or hair extensions because their hair was not straight enough or long enough. I’ve seen women who have grown up their entire life thinking that their natural best isn’t and will never be good enough.

As a young African American girl I can say that I have seen and done it myself. I wear a 14 inch weave with authentic hair, I get my eyebrows done to create a thicker and fuller look, and I also love wearing my hair straight. But when my hair is natural it becomes so exotic and vibrant. It stands out in a room full of people. I find it both a blessing and a curse to be so inherently different. So I can identify with the Solange song entitled, “Don’t touch my hair.” When those who are of different races always ask me how I get my hair like that or if they can touch it because it looks so foreign,it kind of feels like you’re an animal on display at a petting zoo if not phrased correctly. When I was younger and at the age where my hair grew too thick to comb or tame, my mother began taking me to the hair salon. It is very common for African American women to go into local salons to get their hair done. It becomes a sort of sanctuary and free space for praise and positivity. At the hair salon I’ve seen women who were well done with their hair sit and stay for hours just to gain counseling from their fellow sisters. This environment is family-oriented and used as a welcome space for all problems and issues. Because most of the women there were adults, I found that as I sat listening to them tell stories about their life, I could learn little ways to improve my own.

What I began to notice around the age of about 7, was that I always looked around and saw straight hair. Not a woman in the shop or at school was wearing her natural hair. This was my first exposure to beauty and its standards. Here I am in a place full of love, in a place of comfort, and in a place where I am slowly being taught how to accept myself finding that all of these lessons are being contradicted by my mentors, teachers, and peers actions. In magazines, and on social media every woman I saw and thought of as beautiful was never in their natural state. Unconsciously, it had a large effect on me. During the summer, I would make sure to get braids with added hair so that it would be long enough to flow effervescently. I would also make sure that at school my hair was never frizzy so that boys and other classmates wouldn’t tease me. This was my mindset from elementary school and although I’ve grown, I cannot say that my mindset does not remain the same. At East Meck, I can say that multiple times I find girls getting teased because their hair is a bit shorter or frizzier. I would say that it partially comes from ignorance. African American hair in its natural state has a tendency to shrink up. Some girls hair shrinks one or two inches while other girls hair may shrink five to ten inches. It is something that we were born with, but because of beauty standards I think a lot of other young teenage girls strive to change it.

Well all I can say that the ending of 2017 and the beginning of 2018 have truly changed not only my own but the world’s perspective on beauty. It’s a new experience for me. Slowly and somewhat backwardly people are learning to appreciate beauty in all shapes and sizes. Rihanna led the trend ferociously by producing her new makeup line entitled, “Fenty.” This brand tries to match darker skin tones which isn’t often accommodated in the world of makeup. Edges became a trend that shocked the nation and natural hair products became almost a necessity overnight. Thicker, “untamed” eyebrows also became a thing. As we continue to progress, natural is becoming the new niche for all people. I can only hope that this new craze remains constant throughout years to come.

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