This week, I felt like I was in an episode of That’s So Raven. You know when something happens, and you think to yourself, “Did that really just happen?”
You look around to see if somebody filmed it, secretly hoping someone did just because it would be nice to have proof that it actually happened so you can laugh about it later.
I had a moment like that this week. I was rocking a lace front wig to dance practice. A long, synthetic blend of soft curly hair with my kinky coils cornrowed underneath. I was feeling like a SNACK until…. my wig FLEW off in the middle of my audition for our hip hop piece.
It didn’t fall off. NOPE. It flew off. Almost as if a bird had flew by and snatched it off of my cute, little peanut shaped head.
I was in shock but I kept dancing and finished the piece. Nobody laughed (probably due to the face that a good portion of the people on my team are people of color and they understand). Some people stared, but they weren’t looking at me crazy.
One of my teammates handed my wig back to me after I’d finished the dance. I thanked her and walked boldly to my backpack in my light brown wig cap. I placed my wig full of long, luscious curls inside of it. Zipppppppp. I zipped my backpack closed.
I walked back to the group with my frizzy cornrows still wrapped in the nylon wig cap ready to continue dancing. And I did. Practice continued as normal, as if nothing had happened.
But, something HAD happened. Something inside of me. Something deep and beautiful and powerful. Because as soon as my wig flew off, I knew that I wouldn’t be wearing it again.
Not because it flew off. Not because I didn’t like the way it looked. Not because I was embarrassed. NO. I knew I wouldn’t be wearing it again because I didn’t want to.
You see, I had bought the lace front wig the week prior because I wanted a new look. Frustrated with the time and effort it takes to moisturize and style my natural curls daily, I wanted a break.
After ending my relationship with a man I adored just a few weeks before, I wanted to feel fabulous. To feel strong. To feel beautiful. To do something new. So, I found myself at RemyCo, the black beauty store, scouring the aisles for a wig that spoke to the “me” I was wanting to explore in this new season of singleness.
After spending more than an hour touching different wigs, asking the store attendant a million questions, and envisioning myself with the wig on, I chose “Ariana” and walked out of the store excited to debut her on my head for the first time the following week.
When I put the wig on for the first time, I almost didn’t recognize myself. I recognized the shiny brown face staring back at me in the mirror but I didn’t recognize what was on my head. The long hair down my back. The bouncy curls. The side swooped bang.
I liked the way I looked. I felt like Beyonce. I felt like I could swing my hair back and forth and actually feel it blow in the wind when I drove with the wind down.
But, a part of me felt uncomfortable. It’s just hair, I told myself. I’m only wearing it so I can give my hair a break. And for some people it is just that. Nothing more. But, for me, it was deeper.
I cut my relaxed (chemically straightened) strands almost three years ago, doing the “big chop.” I went from having nearly nipple-length hair to a teeny weeny little afro in the course of a few “snip snips” of some scissors.
Ever since then, I’ve been actively loving and embracing my black beauty, consciously resisting the urge to measure myself against Eurocentric beauty standards. Affirming and loving the wideness of my nose, the many shades of brown in my skin, the tight, curly coils of my hair.
I’ve rarely straightened my hair, wearing it in all of it’s natural African glory and rocking it with pride in the predominantly white city I live in — Scottsdale, Arizona.
So, seeing myself, standing there in a wig, with hair that looked more like someone else’s than mine, I felt unsettled.
I wore the wig to work for two days and got so many compliments. It felt good to have my looks affirmed and called beautiful by my non-black colleagues. They’re awesome.
But, I realized, I don’t want to be complimented or seen as more beautiful when my look looks more “white.” When my hair is long, almost straight, and flowing. That’s not me.
I want to be appreciated for the beauty of my black features. For the beauty that is truly mine. That I see as truly beautiful. The beauty that is truly me.
When my wig flew off at dance practice, my desire to look anything other than what and who I am flew away with it. I love me. I love my blackness. I love my black beauty. And, I will continue proudly rock my natural hair, braids, and beautifully black hairstyles.
I’m glad I tried out the lace front wig! I have no regrets about it and I in no way believe that women who wear wigs or weaves or straight haired styles don’t love their blackness. On the contrary! I support black women loving, celebrating, and wearing their hair in whatever way they choose!
I choose to let my hair be a symbol of the culture, heritage, history, and identity I love and honor. On the job. In my white, white city of Scottsdale. I am black. And black beauty is beautiful.