Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Katy Perry, Rihanna and Kim K. What do all these women have in common? They are strong, powerful, successful and beautiful women who wear weaves.
Nowadays, anyone can change their hair length or color in just a matter of seconds. The hair industry has become a very lucrative business. In 2011, Madamenoire reported that African-Americans spent half a trillion dollars on hair care and weaves in the United States.
As a child, I was blessed with long, thick hair, but that did not stop me from wanting longer and straight hair. I used to put a towel over my hair and tie it down with a clothespin. I would tell people that my name was Brooke Shields. I could have never imagined that my fantasy could be a reality with a swipe of my debit card.
A few years ago, I had a health problem that caused my hair to fall out. My long, beautiful hair was no more. I didn’t feel beautiful no matter how long I stared in that mirror. Brushing my hair every day became a bitter and painful process. I would listen to India Arie’s song “I am Not My Hair.” It is a song that says no matter the grade, length or style of your hair, it does not define you as a person.
Seeing my struggle, my sister introduced me to wigs. I was initially hesitant because I had always thought wigs were for old ladies. I grew up watching my grandma wear nothing but wigs. I did not like the idea of wearing a weave that was glued or sewn to my hair. I wanted something that would look natural and enhance my appearance.
I experimented with wigs of different colors, lengths and styles. I learned that not all wigs are created equal. Some are just plastic, some are blends of plastic and human hair and some are made only with human hair, which are the most expensive.
I found out that I was allergic to the plastic weaves, and they were the least expensive ones. I was willing to pay a little more, but I figured it was still less than what I would be paying to get my hair done at the salon.
After a year, I found the perfect wig. It looked like it could have grown from my scalp. I was happy, confident and felt beautiful. Then a new trend developed within the black community — going natural. No chemicals. No relaxers. No wigs. No weaves. They call it the big chop because it leaves you nearly bald. The trend was supposed to promote being secure and happy with what you were born with.
Those who knew I was wearing a wig accused me of being fake and not a real black “sista.” I was told that I hated myself and was not proud to be a black American. I’m naturally fair-skinned and have been accused of “talking white,” so I felt like it was another reason to not be accepted by the black community.
I went home, stood before the mirror and slowly pulled the wig off. The tears began to fall when I saw bald patches. I was not wearing the weave because I wanted to. Why did I have to conform based on their perceptions of who I was? I felt guilty and insecure every time I was around a “natural-headed sista.”
I struggled with the decision to wear the wig for a few weeks. I found myself unhappy. I tried wearing my natural hair in a slicked back ponytail, but I did not even have enough hair to pull it back.
I realized that with or without the wig, I am the same person. I laugh the same, I make the same choices, I work the same way and I love the same. If wearing a weave or wig makes me happy, then I should wear it.
Underneath the hair, I am still a good person and I know who I am. I say you should do what makes you happy and not what makes others happy. If dyeing your hair pink makes you happy, do it. If going natural makes you happy, do it. And if wearing a wig or weave makes you happy, then do it.
As the chorus of “I am Not My Hair” says: “I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am not your expectations. I am a soul that lives within.”