I squealed when I met Natural Nigerian (NN) for the first time. Then I gave her a big hug and squeeze. She probably thought "Na who be dis o?" I am one of her secret blog followers. She was gracious and accommodating. Meet Natural Nigerian, full of knowledge, industrious and very gracious. Oh and she is camera shy! Enjoy!
Name? Natural Nigerian.
Where are you from and where do you live? I am from Anambra state and I live in Lagos, Nigeria.
What do you do? I am a blogger talking up a storm about things I am passionate about.
Where can we find you online? http://www.naturalnigerian.com/. I am on twitter @naturalnigerian and on facebook, just search for me by name as I have a page as well as a proper facebook profile.
How long have you been natural? I can’t say I really remember. The last time I relaxed my hair was in December 2008. I transitioned under the cover of dreadlock extensions and at a point cut off all of my relaxed hair. I suspect this was late 2009.
You write a blog on natural hair. What made you decide to do this? Actually, my blog is about many things. Hair is just a part of it. To fully understand what I blog about, please read this post. The only thing missing from that is that I also like to talk about social issues. I have recently spoken about slavery in Nigeria, our population issues and disallowing mental abuse in our lives.
I started the blog because I had spent a lot of time reading and researching about living naturally but was consistently unable to find information online from my fellow Nigerians that were relevant to those that actually live in Nigeria. A lot of the information was more relevant to those living in countries abroad. This is important because to note because Nigeria has a wealth of information which isn’t necessarily getting preserved. The way our ancestors lived is slowly being replaced by western methods. While I am all for importing best practices, I know that we will lose a lot if we fail to record ours.
Anyhoo, I was bursting with all my findings and I thought that it would be a good idea to give access if not to the information, to a longing for it so that others will find it easy to embrace a more natural way of living. I haven’t quite done it but it is still the plan.
From your perspective, what is the natural hair scene like in Lagos / Nigeria? It is a growing one. A very misunderstood one, but it is catching on. At the meet up, we actually had a room full of people – even the relaxed ones - that were perhaps thinking of going natural. Clearly, there are people here in Lagos that are interested.
At one time you had your hair relaxed. Tell us why you decided to go natural. It was an unconscious decision. While I was pregnant, my hair was in protective styles most of the time. I probably used a relaxer just once in the entire 9 months. By the time I had my daughter, my hair was long and lush in a way I hadn’t seen for years.
I realize now that it was the hormones that had probably locked my hair in a growth phase so that I was not losing hair. Thinking that it was the lack of relaxers, I decided that I would not use a relaxer on the usual 6-8 week schedule but put myself on a new schedule of twice a year. After 2 years, I stopped completely and here I am – natural.
How did you go natural? Did you transition or did you do the big chop? Did anyone help you or encourage you? I transitioned under the cover of dreadloc extensions. No-one helped or encouraged me. I don’t think I knew anyone else that was natural. My mum and sisters all have relaxed hair so this was something that I did on my own.
You and Screwyhair recently organized a Natural Hair meet-up. What was the motivation behind organizing it? What was it like organizing it? I had reached a point where I found myself constantly thinking that it would be nice to be in the same room with people like me where we could swap information and learn from each other. I had been mailing Screwy Hair Girl pretty much since I found her blog and I thought she might want to be involved so I sent her a mail asking if she would be interested. Thankfully she said yes. Meeting her, getting to know her, working with her has been eh, natural, for lack of a better word, lol! She and I made a really good team along with Sherese Ijewere and Natmane. I feel really lucky to have met these really wonderful ladies.
Organizing it was great and took me out of my comfort zone quite a bit (I have never even thrown my daughter a proper party). I was out of town quite a bit so I had to keep in touch via Blackberry Messenger, phone calls and e-mails. Although we hadn’t ever attended a meet up, we had a lot of ideas. We had a lot of help along the way – it was as though all the stars where aligned. A chance meeting led us to a member of our team, a friend of mine who lives near the venue gladly let us invade her space and even offered food when members of the team met there. The venue owner was also very helpful – helping with publicity and providing us with equipment to help with the event. Once the post was up that there was a meet up in the making, we had people tweeting it, posting it on their blogs and helping in every way to promote it. I can’t thank them enough because they were also part of the team.
Do you have a “hair mentor” or “hair crush”? Nah! The only one I had turned out to have extensions and texturized hair, lol! I still love the way she carries it though.
What’s your hair regimen? To start with, I can’t say that I have bought a lot of the products that appear to be popular among naturals as I like to make my own things.
Water and Moisturizing: Starting from the inside, I drink a lot of water so that I can stay hydrated. This helps my entire body (including my hair) to function properly. I mist my hair about 3 times a week with a mix of water, Aloe Juice (which I really think is the best thing to have happened to my hair) and sometimes glycerin. I layer some leave in conditioner and seal everything with shea butter or a heavy oil.
Washing: I try to wash my hair at least every fortnight. I would do it weekly if I can manage it. I use black soap that I have mixed with oils. I use the oils because some black soaps can be drying. I also have used a bentonite clay based shampoo which works wonderfully. Due to the fact that it is expensive, I have bought the clay and will mix up a batch everytime I want to have a bentonite treatment.
Conditioning: I make my own deep conditioners and leave-in conditioners. Whenever I wash my hair, I make and use a moisturizing deep conditioner. The only time I don’t use a moisturizing deep conditioner is when I make and use a protein conditioner about once every 6 weeks.
Extras: I tend to like using herbs (e.g. Stinging nettle, Comfrey, Basil e.t.c) to make rinses. Flax seeds to make a gel. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to rinse off build up, reduce the pH in some homemade concoctions and bring my hair close to its acid pH. Once in a while I will use Cassia Obovata as a hair treatment.
Stretching: I used to twist my hair but thanks to Natural Mane, I have returned to threading and it works perfectly. No more knots at the end of my hair like I used to get whenever I took out my twists. It is all perfectly stretched out.
Products you would wait in line for? None. I have moved away from being a product junkie to being an ingredient junkie. A move that I think has really helped me. Also, because I make quite a bit of my own products I find it difficult to be excited about the ones that are available.
If you ask me what ingredients I would wait in line for though, they are: Aloe Vera Juice, Bentonite Clay, Apple Cider Vinegar and, Shea Butter. All these ingredients can be used for hair and skin.
Where in Lagos do you get the hair products you use? I raid my local Indian store for Henna and Vatika Coconut oil. For bagging my hair, I have bought cheap plastic bags in Balogun Market and then those pins that every natural uses? Cheap and cheerful at Balogun Market as well. I also have just recently bought a LOT of most of the things I use. I will retail some and keep the rest for myself.
How do people react to your natural hair? Positive, or negative or just odd? I find that my hair is something that really polarizes people. The ones that like it really like it. The ones that hate it really hate it and think that I am just eccentric.
If you get negative comments about your natural hair who are they from and how do you deal with them? I get negative comments all the time and I have gotten used to it. I have only gotten upset once and that was with a senior work colleague. He asked if my hair didn’t smell because it was natural, declared that he would get me a wrap as he thought I should hide it from others and made more really obnoxious statements. I went away, stewed for a while and then placed a call and made my feelings known. He came back to apologize. My frustration was that he was a black, Nigerian man who clearly had a rural upbringing and so should have known better. He also has very young daughters whom I imagine would be encouraged to relax their hair as early as possible – and worse, may have their Nigerian-ness stripped away from them in a bid to fit in with their father’s class aspirations.
Comment about natural hair in your place of work. Do you feel awkward about wearing your natural hair to work? Not at all. My scaly thick skin doesn’t permit it, lol! However, there are more Peruvian hair extensions on display than natural hair. Also, my friend who works in the same office and rocks locs has said that she has been told by well meaning friends that her hair may stand in her way of getting a promotion.
What hairstyles do you usually wear? Why? I have admitted several times that I am style challenged so I tend to wear protective styles like cornrows and very recently, Kinky twists. I did pick up a few points from Natmane at the meet up and have challenged myself to wearing and styling my hair for the next 3 weeks at least.
What do you like best about being natural? The fact that I am being me. I am doing nothing that goes against who I want to be.
What do you hate most about being natural? The instant cause and effect repercussions of falling asleep at the wheel. I really can’t get away with anything. If I don’t moisturize my hair, it definitely gets dry. If I don’t detangle properly, tangles form that may lead to hair breakage. It keeps me on my toes which I sometimes love, sometimes dislike.
Have you ever had an “Ooops!” or “OMG!” moment with your hair? Tell us about it and how you resolved it. Actually, it is the poor people that have had to deal with my decidedly unstylish hair styles that have had OMG! moments. Not that I blame them, lol! I used a protein treatment sometime ago on my hair which left it hard and very difficult to work with. I have since learnt to be less heavy handed with the protein.
Why are you still keeping your hair natural? Because I love it and I really couldn’t think of having it any other way. I have done a lot of studying, scouring through journals and all the evidence points to the fact that Afro hair suffers when it is put through chemical treatments. To have really healthy hair you need to leave it natural.
Also, I have a young daughter who has natural hair. I think it is my duty to be her role model especially as she has to come to terms with the fact that her Caucasian friends have longer hair and some of her Nigerian classmates and friends are not all on board with natural hair. Even at the age of 6.
Last thing (I promise), I do not miss the scalp burns from relaxers, the hot dryers from roller sets and the long wait at the salon. I actually save money by washing/styling my hair done myself.
What do you say to people like you about going natural? Try it at least once and do it properly.
What's next for you on your natural hair journey? Learning to style it properly so that I can stop scaring babies!
Tinsel or Jacob's Cross? Ah, Omozo wrong question as I don’t really watch TV.
May I end by saying that it was a huge pleasure to meet you. You give off a lot of positive energy and I imagine that you bring a lot of light into people’s lives. You are really amazing.
Thank you very much NN.
Keep it natural!