“I Am Not My Hair” BGCA Staff Reflect on Their Natural Hair Journey: With NEW Film Discussion Guide

In the upcoming Netflix film “Nappily Ever After” the main character goes through “The Big-Chop” by cutting off her hair, sending her on a journey of discovery about what it means to feel professional, confident, beautiful and loved – and how the appearance of her hair affects all those things. BGCA staff Tanisha Grimes and Breeana Holmes interviewed a group of BGCA staff who have been natural from 9 months to over 20 years in order to learn about their natural hair experience and what they learned on their own journey of self-discovery.

BGCA has released a discussion guide that you can use in your Club to address topics in the movie around beauty standards, love and self-worth that you can download here now. 

Please Note: This movie has an “MA” rating and may be more appropriate for older teens. It is also recommended that staff screen the movie first to make sure it is appropriate and receive parent/caregiver permission before screening. For guidance on educational screenings of Netflix documentaries and an overview of their content and ratings warnings please visit: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/57695

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“I am not my hair. Hair is not the finite definition for beauty. It’s all beautiful no matter how you wear your hair, just be comfortable with who you are.”

One of the first questions we asked the group was:  “What made you decide to go natural?”

There were several conversations about wanting to go natural but being afraid of not being accepted or being viewed as beautiful. One member remarked, “I was having a conflict with what beauty was, I didn’t see a language around women who looked like me with natural hair.” There was a fear of not being bold enough to say “this is me, this is how I want to wear my hair and I need to embrace it.” A moment at the Club helped propel one of the group members to take the leap and go natural:

“There was the time when I was running a session with young people in the Club about flaws. Telling young people to accept themselves made me realize I need to also be comfortable with myself. It made me think, ‘How can I tell young people to be comfortable with themselves when I wasn’t?’ I had to learn to truly be comfortable with myself.  So I decided to do the “Big-Chop” and cut off all of my relaxed hair off.”

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“I had to change the way I viewed myself. I had to love myself fully no matter what. It starts at the core.  Now I project with confidence. I am beautiful, my hair is beautiful, this is who I am.”

What does it mean to you to be natural?

For many members of the group being natural is deeply connected to their identity:

“I am authentically me. My hair defies gravity. It looks like me, it walks in the room sometimes before me. I am fully me. People have to deal with me and accept me as who I am.”

“For me it means not resisting the reality of my hair texture, and working with what my hair wants to be. If it wants to curl I’m not fighting my hair anymore. It’s being present to how my hair is and is a lever to adorn and beautify myself.”

“It’s about accepting yourself, loving your hair and loving yourself.”

For many, being natural means being comfortable in your own skin and accepting that all women are beautiful no matter how they wear their hair.

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What impact do you think the natural hair movement has had on society?

The group was also asked how they thought the natural hair care movement impacted society and their experience in the workforce. Overwhelmingly the group believed that it has had a positive impact because it has shown more positive images showcasing the diversity of hair, validating that all hair is beautiful. Witnessing these different images has been powerful:

“In college I remember witnessing a group of black women who shaved their hair off completely. They were very confident, graceful, and strong. I also realized that most of them were the leaders on our campus. These women embodied a true sense of freedom. I took note at how feminine they were even with the short hair. We are taught that to be feminine means to have long hair. Representation matters so much. Being able to see other women rock their natural hair made me feel confident.”

The movement has also created a sense of liberation and normalization: “It is very liberating. I think that the natural hair movement released the burden on women who have always believed wearing their hair a certain way will bring them acceptance.” The movement is also relevant for both males and females, with one member sharing that now it’s “cool” for her 8-year old son to wear natural twists in his hair.

Within the workforce there have been some struggles with perceptions of how others may view their hair- “I’ve been self-conscious in the workplace because sometimes I’m the only one it the room with natural hair. In those moments I had to say it’s beautiful and I deserve to be here. Hair doesn’t define how smart and talented you are, you deserve to be here.” The natural hair movement has helped natural hair be more accepted by businesses and companies as well as becoming more normalized across cultures.

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What is one piece of advice you have for youth considering going natural?

Lastly, in thinking about BGCA’s work with young people, the group was asked one piece of advice they had for youth who were considering going natural.

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“I would say do what feels comfortable for you! You may get it right, you may not. You can grow it back and explore, it will grow with you. Be your authentic self. You are still beautiful.”

Be prepared. I did not realize how much work being natural actually is. In going this route you have to be strong in who you are, and what you hair means to you. I was so taken aback by how many steps went into taking care of healthy natural hair, I almost went back to a relaxer.”

“There are going to be people who either love you, hate you or are indifferent. The most valuable opinion is what you think if you. Find your way. It may not be easy. Self-acceptance is a journey, not a destination.”

The key piece of advice the group had was to love yourself and be true to yourself, have fun exploring, and to accept everyone’s hair choice because “the women’s movement is about supporting one another. There’s no shame in any type of hair pattern. In the words of my mom there’s no such thing as good hair or bad hair, it’s all good hair.”

Download the discussion guide for the film “Nappily Ever After” at BGCA.net.

Please Note: This movie has an “MA” rating and may be more appropriate for older teens. It is also recommended that staff screen the movie first to make sure it is appropriate and receive parent/caregiver permission before screening. For guidance on educational screenings of Netflix documentaries and an overview of their content and ratings warnings please visit: https://help.netflix.com/en/node/57695

Do you have a natural hair care story to share? How else do you support your members with personal issues? We want to know! Email ClubXBlog@bgca or comment below to share.

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2 thoughts on ““I Am Not My Hair” BGCA Staff Reflect on Their Natural Hair Journey: With NEW Film Discussion Guide

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  1. I was natural for years but always wore a weave, wigs or braids to cover up my natural hair. Until one day, my little daughter told me she wanted to wear her hair straight and I asked her why, she said cuz your hair straight. I immediately started embracing my natural hair without manipulate it. I realized I was showing her that her natural beauty was not good enough.

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