NK: I cut my hair two Christmas Eves ago because I wanted to change my look. It was part of me wanting a greater change in my life because I had been changing other things, like not having a television. I just wanted to know that I could do things on my own and have my own influences and that it would be OK.
It took me a while to cut my hair because I never thought that I would want or feel comfortable with short hair because of the convention that with hair you’re more beautiful. I have cousins in Uganda who look beautiful with short hair, who were also influences on my style. The less I started caring about conventions, the more I wanted to do something dramatic. It has been liberating. This is me.
TR: Why do you think that hair is such a sensitive topic for the black community?
NK: People that we believe to be beautiful — their beauty usually has something to do with their hair. You feel confident with hair — I had hair, tracks — all of that and you feel confident. Then you start feeling like it’s a necessity, which is the problem. When you feel like you need it and you have to have it, you don’t feel good about yourself.
Black women have beautiful hair, but we aren’t really wearing it the way it is supposed to be worn naturally, which is why we’re having hair damage and breakage from processing it. It’s a sensitive topic because it’s such a major part of our identity.
Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D., is editor-at-large for The Root. Follow her on Twitter.