When a woman decides to transition from relaxed and/or chemically treated hair to natural, she has a few options she could pursue.
She could “grow out” all her relaxed hair which depending on how fast her hair grows could take a few months to a year. And with each “grow out” period, she would trim off the dead, relaxed hair and straighten the new natural hairs.
She could rock braids or twists which essentially does the same thing as growing out all the relaxed hair but it might speed up the process. Plus you’d be able to at least have a style with the braids/twists versus having to work with two different kinds of hair textures at once.
Or she could do what many people refer to as THE BIG CHOP. When a woman does the big chop, she basically starts from square one and literally cuts off ALL of the relaxed hair. This is explains all the clean cuts and short afro puffs you’ve seen around town — those are women who’ve more than likely done the big chop. And even though it may sound extreme to cut off all your hair but it’s probably one of the better ways to approach it. I mean, think about it, you’re basically starting with a clean slate. Fresh perspective for how to take care of your new hair!
With growing it out or even using braids, there’s always a chance you may give in to temptation and get a perm but when you do the big chop, it’s gone girl and there’s no turning back!
Now how does this “big chop” concept apply to me you might ask? Because you’d be correct, I’ve never had a short afro (well, at least in my teens and twenties) and I’ve never had a perm. But I’ve also never really CUT my hair either.
Trust me, I went to the salon to get it done but I always just get it trimmed – just enough to keep it healthy. But then, things changed when I was graduating from college.
Throughout college, I wanted to be a reporter, and I still do, and while at UNC, I was a reporter for Carolina Week and STV’s Carolina Style and my hair was (you guessed it) in an afro – big as ever too! That was me and you could spot me a mile away with my fro. But it wasn’t until I graduated that I learned that my hair might be too much for TV.
While working with NABJ’s Student Projects, the summer of 2011, one of the critiques I received was about my hair and how it was almost too distracting. It wasn’t that it was messy or not groomed, my afro was just big enough that it was hard to listen to my script because you might be looking at my hair. Those critiques struck with me so when I moved to the DMV area for my new job and I figured — new city, new job so time for a new look. Nothing drastic, of course, I wasn’t trying to rock blonde hair or a pixie cut but I did want to try something new.
So I did. I cut my hair…my first BIG CHOP.
Now for some people cutting a few inches of hair isn’t a big deal but for me, oh, that was playing with fire! And for me, it was a BIG DEAL.
With that in mind, I researched the area for natural hair salons. I figured if I was going to cut my hair, I wanted someone who knew what they were working with — curls and lots of them!
Within minutes, I found a salon not far from my apartment with good ratings and decided to give it at try and boy, was it the best thing I’ve ever done.
I remember going in for my appointment on my day off and my hair was in a hat and tangled for days with split ends for miles. After a quick introduction, I told the hair stylist what I wanted — a more tamed naturally curly look and she smiled and said “Ok, I know what to do.” And she did!
My hair stylist was the first person I’d ever encountered who said they could cut my hair CURLY – usually it had to be washed and then flat ironned straight before it was cut. But not this time, my stylist said, “If your normal style is curly, then I’m going to make sure this cut looks good on you curly.” With those words, she took her scissors and started chopping away. I saw chucks of my hair fall onto the floor and my heart sink deeper and deeper. This was a new feeling for me. It was weird to see so much hair on the floor and all of it curly and all of it MINE!
And I had faith in her (the stylist), I mean she talked a big game and said she could cut curly hair so I believed her and let her go.
But it wasn’t until after my hair was washed and then dried that I saw the magic… the magic that was a new hair CUT. I remember her lifting up the dryer and saying, “Come on and have seat in front of the mirror” and then I saw it – my new look.
Layers and three inches chopped off later, I was a new woman! My curls were tight, my cut was distinct and my hair felt so light but still like I had a hair full of hair. It was amazing what can happen when you cut off all the dead hair weighting you down. I was even so excited about this new look that I send a picture of my hair cut to my family, posted it on twitter, facebook, shoot, I even blogged about it! (I did mention I was really excited about this new look, right?)
But more than anything else, it was the affirmation that change is good and change is necessary. I was becoming a grown up and now I had a grown up hair style to prove it. Plus it just felt good!
So there you have it, my BIG chop story. Probably not the most conventional one you’ve heard but it was a major stepping stone in my hair journey!
Until next time,