June 16, 2012

Because Black is Beautiful (updated!)

This post comes from the heart as I am experiencing a good feeling I have never felt. I have never been prouder of my roots...

**Many changes occured since this article! Check out the updates in an article below (07-31-2012)**

It's interesting how recently, I've noticed how many black women in my entourage have reverted back to their natural hair. I am a bit ashamed to say that I was often annoyed when people would seem practically OBSESSED with their natural hair, often putting #naturalhair or #teamnatural as a description under their Instagram pics or Tweets. Why was I annoyed? Why didn't I quickly see the positive side of this? These are questions I have been asking myself lately as I am experiencing this particular "going natural" transition in my life.

Why is does it seem like there is a "problem" with being black in our society? Yes, Montreal is diverse. Yes, Martin Luther King made his speech and made a difference. Yes, supposedly we live in a multi-cultural country. Etc. Etc. The truth is harsh but we cannot hide the fact that racism still exists and discrimination is oftentimes indirect. Mind you, this article and the opinions raised in this article are the results of my personal opinions and things I have noticed around me. I was born and raised in Montreal and I do not have an accent but I did experience some forms of racism many times and not only from other nationalities...Too often, I've experienced racism within my own culture.

I remember those days
Some of the comments I have gotten from black people include things like "Ouh girl it's about time you get a perm", "You have really nice features, you must be mixed! Oh you're not? Are your parents mixed then? You have those good genes" or the comment I hate the most: "You're pretty for a dark skinned girl". Wtf is that supposed to mean? As if the "darker" girls were less beautiful and it was some sort of "blessing" for me to be part of the better looking ones? Or when it comes to hair, getting 1 cm of coarser hair meant that I needed to rush to the hair salon to get rid of it chemically in order to have a more Europeean look? As if sikly hair is how hair "should" be. And because I have uncommon facial features (my nose, in particular), it's almost certain that I have genes from another nationality, one excluding black people? Sad, sad...sad. The ashaming part about it is that
I used to laugh when people would express some of these comments, often even blindly agreeing with these biased assumptions. 

As a child, I had BIG hair. When I say big, I mean crazy, unmanageable, huge hair. Despite my type of hair being viewed by certain people as  "good" hair, it wasn't good enough for me. I wanted long, flowing hair like my white friends and everyone else I saw on television. I wanted to be Aaliyah, I wanted to be like Vanessa Williams or Megan Good. I did not understand why my hair was so thick and saw it as an ugly thing...unfortunately. Sometimes, we do not realize the intensity of media influence. For years I would rush to get my hair relaxed at the sight of a new growth, without ever having any second thoughts or without ever considering letting my hair grow out. Sometimes, I could not even make it to the hairdresser's and would end up doing it myself: I became obsessed with achieving the "perfect hair" by unconsciously following a standard that was not realistic.

A lot of black women around me are dependent on weaves, wigs, weekly blowouts, the daily flat iron and especially to relaxer aka creamy crack (you get addicted!). All of these styles are pretty nice but let's be real... they do not necessarily reflect our natural hair texture. Of course there are exceptions but if you look at the majority of black women, we do not have smooth silky hair: Most of the time, our hair is curly and kinky. Sadly, our natural texture is seen as some sort of issue. As if the color of our skin wasn't already a big enough problem in our society, there is also the "inconvenience" of natural hair..."OUF! It's too much! Too weird, too hard to manage! Let's take care of it and make sure it looks like caucasian hair..." #Sarcastic. Before finding our amazing hairdresser, how many times did other hairdressers refuse to style my sister's hair, no matter how much money she was willing to pay. They'd tell her "Nope, sorry, we can't do it, you're gonna have to put texturizer or a relaxer" because her thick hair was too much work. I was stupefied by this particular scene in Chris Rock's documentary "Good Hair": Black ladies said that if they had to hire people in the corporate world, they would pessimistically view the ladies with kinky hair in comparison to those with straight hair. And coming from Black people! Dissapointing...

My little sister Patricia. We have the same parents but our hair is very different
Her gorgeous afro

Such a cutie
Nevertheless, this subject isn't limited to hair. I remember going to Africa for the first time in 2004 and one thing blew me away: The excessive amounts of billboards with commercials for "skin lightening" products. They were literally EVERYWHERE: On the highway, in elevators and magazines. Kids were even selling these products on the street #TheStruggle. I was appalled by the popularity of these soaps and creams in Africa, the motherland of black people. It's ironic: not only do some black women often want their hair to have a different texture but they also want their SKIN COLOR to be paler, which I think is completely, totally, utterly ridiculous. Michael Jackson (R.I.P. booboo) tried to be white and we all saw how it destroyed his skin. I find it quite ugly when I see certain women using these lightening products: Their face is super pale but the rest of their body, sometimes even their hands and neck, is brown...what is the point? Some of these products mess up the skin so much that some people end up looking like my vision of the Loch Ness Monster or Chupacabra. Furthermore, how awkward is that some pejorative comments about being black often come from...black people. I am of Haitian origins and I don't mind talking about the big "elephant in the room", which the "slave" complex present in this Carribean country. In other words, skin color arises debates and is sometimes seen as a determinant of social class: The lighter the skin, the "better" and vice versa. I think it's total bullshit but let me stop right here because I could go on for hours! This issue is worldwide and not only in the Black community since I've heard similar controversies within Latinos, Indians and more. Besides, the alarming reality of black on black racism is clearly reflected in the most popular social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter, which are flooded with ignorant remarks. Hashtags such as #TeamLightSkin and #TeamDarkSkin keep feeding the naiveté of this insulting and ongoing prejudicial battle. 

Again, I am addressing a personal concern. If all these women are happy, then good for them. On the other hand, I know these things did not make ME happy which is why I took the decision to go natural. I've had weaves, hair like Kim Kardashian, extensions and damn, I was practically dependent on relaxers. Despite it all, I never was truly satisfied and I generally felt like I was trying hard to be someone else in terms of looks. As if I couldn't be Sass or Sassou...as if I had to always look like Stacey Dash or Tyra Banks to be respected or appreciated. Let me try to give you an example of how I felt: You know when you lie, get away with it but still think about it sometimes with guilt because you know you said something that wasn't true? Yeah, that's how I've been feeling for a few months about my hair. Like I wasn't being true to myself. I remember being in NYC with Patricia last month and although it had been over 2 months since the last time I had put relaxer, it's as if I didn't feel the same rush to go into a beauty supply to buy my usual Profectiv 6 pack relaxer. At one point, I told Patou "Okay I think I might need to by some relaxer for this summer, it's so cheap here". She simply looked at me and replied "But why? Your hair looks just fine....". She was right. My hair looks fine when it is curly. I'd say it's even pretty nice. It has a lot of volume and if I want to, I can straighten it without any chemicals (which always end up breaking my hair) and with the help of my hairdresser Nadège. And best of all, my hair is healthy! This decision got me thinking about my self esteem. Did I really need a relaxer to feel better about myself? Patricia stopped relaxing her hair when she was 15 years old and I believe she has the most ravishing and fascinating hair ever. I looked at pictures of when I was younger and concluded my hair looked (and still looks) GOOD! There was nothing wrong with it! Maybe it needed an oil treatment (lol) but overall it was BEAUTIFUL! Why did I spend all of these years thinking it wasn't? Why would I give half a damn about what anyone around me had to say about MY hair? My mom and my dad have different but gorgeous hair and I am blessed to be a mix of the two.

3 1/2 months, 3 inches of growth 
See the difference?
It's been almost four months since my last relaxer and I have no words for the feeling of freedom I am experiencing. Although it can be hard (my arms still hurt from detangling my hair), the mental support and encouragement I am getting is unbelievable.  I'd like to apologize for any judgemental comments I have made in the past about those who went natural. I did not know, I did not understand. Now I get it and admire those who had the courage to do it.

I stopped relaxing my hair because I decided to positively deal with the hair I was born with. I  know that I will never be like the girls in the magazines and it's okay...they're not all really like that anyways. I am proud of my skin color and all of the attributes that come with it. I am proud of my beautiful parents, grandparents and ancestors. I think my curly hair is gorgeous and I have never seen it grow this quick and this thick than in the past few months without any chemicals. I am proud to be black and that is all.

Thank you  Patricia, Cathy, Sylkie Sylvie and KD for inspiring me.

P.S. A few followers on my personal Twitter have asked me for updates and I will post some pics every few weeks. I don't have tips and tricks for my hair, I'm actually pretty confused and have no idea what products to use! The products I used on my relaxed hair do not work on my 3 inches of natural hair so I am still figuring out what to buy! Up to now, argan oil and shea butter seem to work on my roots so I will see how it goes.

Follow my personal Twitter for updates and let me know if you want to see more posts on the blog! You can also follow me on Instagram: @ilovesassou. I also wanted to let you guys know that I do not plan on chopping my hair yet! I decided to simply transition by letting it grow, all of that while trimming the ends every month or so. 



****UPDATE!!!!**** I Big Chopped on July 5th 2012! Check it all out here :)



  1. This post literally brought me to tears. "I never was truly satisfied and I generally felt like I was trying hard to be someone else in terms of looks.": the words of an honest and truthful person who just poured her heart out on her blog. I admire you so much Sarah and I'm so happy you came forward with your insecurities and faced the reality that your hair does not define you. You need to overlook the superficial because you truly are beautiful inside and out.

    I was also faced with a hard battle when my skin started to break out earlier this year and I felt like I was being judged and looked at based on my acne. I poured tons of foundation to cover everything up just to boost my self-esteem. But then I realized that my looks do not define me and people love me for who I am; not based on my physical appearance. At the end of the day, it's the confident ones that walk away winning; not those who put up a front and are not true to themselves.

    This was by far my favorite blog entry and I hope you continue showing us your real side and give your readers the confidence they are lacking.

    Love you,

  2. I loved this post! It really and truly reflected my feelings about both going natural and the "issues" in our society about black women who decide not to chemically straighten their hair. I had a few doubts myself when i finally decided to do the big chop and now 11 months later I'm asking myself why didn't i do this sooner? Was it pressure from society or was it me?
    Being in the military made this decision a bit harder for me. Since I don't have that many female leadership on my ship and the ones i have are Caucasian, i felt pressure to change my hair and relax it. I was even told that in wasn't in regulations. I had to stand up after reading about a few females in the Navy and the military in general having the same problem. I'm glad i did. No one will make me change my hair ,using chemicals, to look acceptable. Well I'm not going to go on and on. What I wanted to say was thanks a lot for this post.

  3. This post really touched me. I remember going through this 2 years ago and wondering: what the hellll did I get myself into.
    Believe me Sarah, It's a difficult but BEAUTY-FULL Journey: I'll only bring out the best of you and your hair, you will see yourself in a different light and will learn to appreciate your hair in a different way... THE BEST WAY which is NATURAL

    Enjoy the ride ;)

    I'm with you 100%

  4. Good luck!!!! I've been natural for the last 15 months and it feels great!!!!!! I too use to think natural hair was so wackkkkk so unattractive until one day I got so fed up with the weaves and perms and just cut off all of my hair, now it's been 15 months and it's growing nice, healthy, nappy and I love it


add this