I’ve always had a fascination with short hair despite the context of “long hair makes you pretty” that young girls are often force-fed. My mother—a true hair chameleon—would switch up her style frequently, something that I would come to mimic in my adult life. I never looked at her as “less pretty” than the other moms, actually thought she was pretty stylish, ahead of her time and super chic. Now at 60+ she keeps her hair as short as mine and decided to let her grays peek through.
As a girl, I loved braids, Brandy was my ultimate beauty icon. They allowed me to swim and play sports without the hassle of doing my hair. However, I didn’t mind spending time in the salon either. Since my mom was a flight attendant and my dad acknowledged his styling skills were limited, I got relaxers every few weeks. In high school, I’d spend hours with my stylist named Lynette who would essentially hold me hostage shuffling me from the dryer to the wash bowl and back again. Surprisingly, she encouraged me to go natural before it was “cool” to do so. She would press out [Editor’s Note: heat straightening technique with a hot comb + stove, used before flat irons were a “thing”] my hair every two weeks, which meant tying it down at night, a shower cap, and as little activity as possible to make sure my roots wouldn’t revert to my natural state.
In college, I struggled with keeping up with my shoulder length bob. I was on a super limited budget and wasn’t super great about caring for it on my own. As a self-proclaimed salon girl, I found solace in a girl from California named Kim (my friend Tiffany introduced us) who would do my hair in her dorm room. It came out silky straight, light and bouncy, but yet it never reached the magnificent lengths of others. Once I got a car (and thought I was hot sh*t!), I tried a new stylist, Shenequa, who to this day my friends and I still talk about. She had magic hands, cut like no-one’s business, and got my hair impossibly straight despite the crazy humidity in Virginia. She was the one who convinced me to experiment with cool, short styles, from boxy bobs to asymmetrical pixies. And my hair looked amazing sans chemicals.
Once I moved to New York, the challenge began. Here, if you were “natural” you wore your hair in a big fro and if you wore your hair “straight” you likely had a relaxer. Living on an assistant’s wage and staying with my cousin in Staten Island made finding a reputable stylist hard, so I had to cut corners where I could and it definitely affected the health of my hair. For the first time in a long time, my hair was breaking, damaged and always dry. When I could make the commute, I’d visit the Dominican salons in Harlem or the Bronx for blow-outs to hold me over. But, super hot dryers and coarse round bristle brushes did not make matters better.
That definitely influenced my decision to undergo the big chop, which I wrote about for Teen Vogue. I felt like between the money I was spending and the experiences (err, like the gym) I was sacrificing, maybe having a head full of hair wasn’t worth it? I was keen on finding out, took the day off of work and let Giselle Modeste cut it all off. Did I feel free? Yes! Was maintaining a new short natural ‘do easy at first? Hell no, and I returned to a relaxer (and fabulous new stylist, Leona Wilson who owns LW Salon) a few months later. She helped me grow my super short Halle Berry-inspired pixie into a chic, highlighted bob. Per the advice of my financial planner, I had to cut costs somewhere—and unfortunately, the pricy salon visits didn’t make the cut (pun intended!)
Thankfully, I met a partner, who shockingly, had two important women in his life who rocked short hair with no abandon. His sister rotated from a cool frohawk to clean shaven head with the ease of putting on a hat—to her, hair was truly an accessory. While his mom dabbled in wigs and quickly came to the realization it wasn’t worth the heat (or the hassle), embracing her “bald” head without looking back. I quickly learned when it came to him, he didn’t care about hair. Even more exciting? He cuts my hair for free in the bathroom.