By Kenesha Collins
I saw Queen and Slim this weekend at the movies. I have to say there are so many social topics in that movie, it touched every emotion a person can have. It is a very powerful movie, and I look forward to seeing it again. One of the many highlights of the movie was when Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) cuts her braids exposing her short hair.
If you’ve followed my journey a little this year, you’ve noticed I’ve changed the pictures on my website. I cut almost all of my hair off. In the African American community, it is called ‘the big chop.’ African American women who want to rid their hair of chemical straighteners (relaxers) or coloring will cut our hair off. When our hair grows back, it is called natural. My situation was different. I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism this year. One of the symptoms is hair thinning. My hair fell out in patches all over my head, and there was nothing I could do with it. Over the last two years, I’ve braided it, dyed it, and relaxed it to no end. It was badly damaged, and I wanted a fresh look.
One Sunday afternoon, I walked right into the salon I visit every now and then. I said to the stylist quickly before I could change my mind, “I want to cut my hair off.” The stylist hooked me up. She cut my hair with such care and ease. She must have sensed my nervousness as I saw the hair falling to the floor, little by little.
The picture below is the end product. It was taken two days after my haircut in my bathroom. As you can see, I was feeling myself. The pictures I took prior were of a young lady trying to figure the world out. This new me was a grown woman with plenty of life, pain, and wisdom in her eyes.
This haircut was my version of the Queen transformation. For years, I’ve done everything, but cut my hair short. I had listened to the urging of folks (mainly African American men) not to cut my hair. If you look at society today, the more acknowledged form of beauty in the African American community is a woman with lighter skin and long natural hair or weave. I’ve never succumbed to the idea that was the only form of beauty that should be recognized or appreciated. I am considered a dark skinned African American woman, and I’ve always thought my skin was beautiful. I looked the other way when I would hear people say I am pretty for a dark skinned woman, or I should belong to a certain sorority because I am dark skinned. I even married an African American man who actually said he prefers light skinned women with long hair. Of course I’m not with that man any more. I dismissed those comments and people as having limited views of the world, and how we all should look.
After my haircut, I walked into work proudly parading my new look. I work in a corporate setting, and individuality in style and dress aren’t expressed. I was prepared to get compliments from everyone. No one said a word. It’s been months, and no one has said a word since. I’ve gotten several compliments over the past two months from other people outside of work. Overall, the feedback has been positive. I didn’t know the simple act of cutting your hair could make you question yourself as a person. I’ve gotten some odd stares and negative feedback in addition to the positive.
I have the normal level of self-confidence, but cutting my hair exposes me more nakedly to the public. If I have a blemish on my face, I don’t have hair to hide behind. My haircut calls for me to do more to increase my femininity like wear makeup and larger earrings. It commands that I walk with an air of confidence I wasn’t really ready to portray. A drastic haircut is intentional, and you have to own it.
I had been grappling with the notion that perhaps I had made a mistake in cutting my hair because of the mixed reviews I’ve received. I had always knew where I stood beauty wise. I know I’m not Naomi Campbell, and I’ve always been okay with that. I actually always jokingly called myself ‘traditionally attractive.’ I was planning my next hair appointment to get long braids so I could feel ‘normal’ again when I went to see Queen and Slim. When the movie was over, I walked out with tears in my eyes for all different reasons. I was incredibly emotional because the topics in the movie hit so close to home for me. Surprisingly, one of the emotions I felt was pride. I was proud of my hair, and I held my head up higher as I walked out of the theater.
What I’ve come to realize is that beauty is debatable, and that makes it interesting. It would be a boring world with no flavor if everyone had the same idea of beauty. Our unique features and differences is what makes us all special. I’m going to think differently when I catch someone staring at me. I’m going to relish in the fact that the person may be debating or studying my rare form of beauty. I will never forget that feeling when I left the movie. I felt beautiful and regal. I felt like a Queen.