My Natural Hair Journey | Chelby Gill

     I have had an enlightening hair journey over the past couple of years.  January 2016, I officially started my journey towards “natural” hair.  “Natural” in the Black community means to not use chemicals or heat of any kind that will alter the growth pattern of the hair. The journey so far has been exciting, liberating and expensive. Having natural hair is a personal choice but can also be seen as a political choice too. Embracing natural hair is political because it means that you are embracing your Blackness through your hair.

        For the majority of my life up until a year ago I had only been wearing my hair chemically straightened. It was routine for me to ask my mother if she could schedule a hair salon appointment to relax my hair once every 2 to 3 months. For me getting my hair relaxed was not about style or choice, but rather a form of upkeep. Whenever I saw my “roots” or “new growth” growing in around my edges, it looked “weird and fuzzy”.  I would become anxious and eager to go back to the salon. My hair at that time was relaxed, so it was shiny, thick, and  bra strap length. Those long straight strands of hair felt lifeless to me. I felt completely disconnected from the hair that grew on my head, it was not indicative of my personality.


Before I began my natural hair journey

     In January of 2016 I decided to join the natural hair movement that so many of my Black sisters and siblings had joined. I began watching hours upon hours of natural hair Youtube tutorials hosted by other Black women that were already fully natural or transitioning to natural hair. Watching the Black women taking such pride in their curls was so inspiring, I was in awe of how they enjoyed doing their hair. I learned that going from relaxed hair does not happen overnight it can range from six months to a year. I was introduced to so many black owned natural hair products, and although I wanted to buy them all, they were expensive . While the process of learning about natural hair was exciting, I was also scared, because I had never actually seen what my natural hair looked like. I was not sure what my curl pattern would be and if I would even want to deal with the upkeep of natural hair.

For the first four months I spent transitioning to natural hair I was frustrated, I would attempt do different twist out methods such as bantu knots, braid outs two or three strand twists; the end result was never the same as the tutorial. I spent money on products that I often didn’t need or weren’t right for my hair. I would sit on social media pages dedicated to natural hair and see images of beautiful women with full heads of bouncing curls and coils, and I would wonder why my hair did not look like theirs. I was comparing my hair to those who were established naturals and new how to take care of their hair and I was just at the beginning. There were times I wanted to give in and get it flat ironed and just go back to chemicals and heat but I chose to stick with what I started.


After my first big chop, this picture is in the middle of me transitioning to natural hair

The most liberating part of my journey to curly hair is the process of cutting off the old chemically treated strands. I had my first haircut when I got my “big chop” done at my local salon, I cut off six inches of hair in one day. The big chop is a phrase used within the natural hair community meaning cutting a large amount or all of your hair. The cutting of hair was symbolic because I was also cutting off the bad memories and unhappiness I had with that straight hair.

Overtime my hair became thicker curlier until I too had a head full of healthy looking curls. I see this process of transitioning to natural hair as an overall journey of self-love. So now when I look at my hair I am filled with a sense of pride and I am confident in my hair. I feel that my hair is an extension of me and my crown.


follow me on instagram @chelbaey to follow me on my natural hair journey!


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