Photo credit: Monica Morgan Photography
Dr. Rose Moten is a clinical psychologist, author and natural hair enthusiast. No matter where you are in your natural hair journey, Dr. Moten offers sound advice for curlies in all stages for embracing natural hair and the psychological effects of going natural.
When did your natural hair journey begin?
If you’re a Black woman, you can probably attest to the fact that our hair story begins when we are born. When I was a teenager, I started to experiment with my hair, trying everything from perms to colors and eventually chopping it all off. I found that as I entered into adulthood, I continued to experiment with cutting it in my 20s and continuing to cut it into my 30s and my 40s until finally I just went for the big chop. It seemed like I could never find that one hairstyle that I identified with and that truly resonated with me.
What kinds of styles did you try while experimenting and what was the experience like?
I would go with braids a lot and I really liked the braids, I still really like braids but then I would get out of the braids and rock the relaxed style. The relaxed hair was really cute on me but still it just didn’t feel like me. I also found that my hair would only grow to a certain length and it would get really dry and brittle during the winter months, which caused a lot of breakage and damage.
Transitioning from a relaxed hair can be challenging. What made you commit to becoming a naturalista?
About three years ago I got married and I did the big chop, which women rarely do. I didn’t do it at the time because I was preparing to go natural, It was more so because I was tired of trying new styles. I cut all of my hair off, added some color and got married with less than an inch of hair on my head. Shortly after my wedding, my mother died unexpectedly which left me in extreme grief and not feeling so good about myself. Following that, I wore braids for an entire year but as a new wife, a mother of four and a career woman with a jam-packed schedule, I just didn’t have the time to spend 6-8 hours getting braids done because we all know that getting braids is an all-day process. In fact, I remember being in my bathroom after taking my braids out, holding a relaxer kit in my hand and thinking “Nope, I’m not gonna put this relaxer in. I’m going to try something new and give this natural look a try.” That decision was final.
How did you embrace your natural hair along the way?
Embracing my natural hair journey was like a rebirth for me and the process overall was similar to the birthing process, if you will. You get to that point after you’ve made the decision where you’re asking yourself what have I done? Is this the right choice? How am I going to deal with this now? I remember the times when I didn’t feel my best and I wanted to throw in the towel and go get the Dark N’ Lovely and go back to the “creamy crack.” During those times is when I would turn to YouTube videos of other natural women to see what kinds of styles and things they were doing to tame their manes. I had also started to invest in different natural hair products, not many of which seemed to work for me, and then one day the most beautiful thing happened. I woke up one morning and I realized that I had actually fallen in love with my natural hair in it’s natural state and doing its own thing on top of my head!
How has the transformation benefited you psychologically?
Following my mother’s unexpected passing, I lost a lot of confidence while grieving. One night my husband and I went to a ’70s party and I dressed up as Cleopatra and I wore this big, beautiful, curly Afro wig. Not only did I receive so many compliments on the look, I also noticed that I felt very confident and empowered. I wondered if I could get my natural hair to look the same as the wig so that I could own these new feelings of empowerment. The first step to my seven-step transformation process from my book, Bloom, is rediscovery. After I lost my mom, I was in a space where I wanted to focus on rediscovering my true self and embracing the fullness of life. That meant I no longer had 8 hours to spend in a salon or a braid shop or even twisting my hair a few times a week. I realized haphazardly as my hair was growing and becoming healthier, that my hair could produce its own beautiful coils and look the way that I had payed thousands of dollars over the years to obtain. That process has sense helped me too rediscover who I am and to feel confident and empowered while saving me time and money. You can’t beat that.
Overall, the process of becoming a naturalista affects the psyche in that it allows us more freedom, saves us lots of money and awakens us to a new natural state of being. Being a naturalista introduced me to a new level of confidence and freed me from some of my personal beliefs that the hair I was born with wasn’t good enough.
How has going natural affected you as a mother?
To have a daughter now who is embracing her natural look is just so overwhelmingly fulfilling and has made life so much easier for me. I say that as mothers, and people aren’t going to like this but, we have to lead by example and by that I mean if you want your daughter to feel like the hair she was born with is good enough, you can’t just tell her that but you also have to show her. You can’t encourage her to accept her natural kinky or curly hair when you’re rocking a press and curl all the time. I think in order for us to support our daughters not only do we have to encourage them but we also have to sometimes reprogram our own personal beliefs around it. We have been told for generations that our hair is our crown and glory but what’s the contradiction in that this crown and glory is not acceptable in its natural state? What we’re told is our crown and glory, we have spent generations, hundreds and thousands of dollars and hours trying to manipulate so I just encourage the mothers to lead by example and help their babies feel empowered naturally.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering going natural or who is currently transitioning?
I would just like to encourage women to give their natural hair a chance to exist in its natural state because you never know what really lies underneath all the manipulation that we’ve created from the stress, tension, heat and chemicals. Lying underneath it all, is just real, natural beauty in its natural organic state and that alone is beautiful.
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