My name is Onika Henry and I am an intentional student, from Trinidad and Tobago, studying for an M.Ed Human Sexuality degree in the USA. I’ve always wanted to be natural, especially since relaxers were such a stressful experience for me – I would often get bad chemical burns on my scalp if I didn’t treat it with some kind of protective cream at least a week before. Relaxing my hair was really done because I didn’t know how to care for and style my hair, not that I was really interested in having straight hair. Plus, the views I often heard were that naturally kinky hair like I have was not or couldn’t look “polished and professional.”
As I grew older I looked forward to being and expressing my authentic self, which included wearing my hair in its natural state. The decision to cut off my relaxed ends was cemented when I came to the US to study and realised I would be saving myself a lot of money monthly by going natural! Lol The decision was also made easier when I discovered that there was actually a natural hair movement around the world and so tons of information was available via blogs, books, website, YouTube etc and this made my hair journey easier.
How long have you been natural?
I cut off my relaxed ends in July of 2013. So it’s not even been a year yet.
What motivated you to transition? Were you a transitioner or a Big Chopper& why?
I was actually one of those people who just wanted to chop all my hair off and start from scratch. I’m not too attached to length and looked forward to having a low maintenance hairstyle for a while. My hairdresser and stylist at the time was mortified (I think she was almost traumatised by the idea itself! Lol), because I had quite a few centimetres of hair on my head. She just didn’t think I should chop all of it off and instead suggested that I transition for a while. I took her advice, but gave up trying to manage two very different textures after about four or five months (my last relaxer was at the end of February 2013).
How would you describe your hair?
Hmmm… I guess overall cottony, kinky, frizzy. My hair strands form a variety of shapes from O’s to small S’s and some L’s and Z’s. Hahaaha! It’s different on different parts of my head.
What do you love most about your hair?
I love the versatility! (I love how soft it feels when it’s well moisturised).
What has been the most memorable part of your journey?Has it been easy or difficult or both?!
I will never forget how thrilled I was when I got reacquainted with my natural hair for the first time (I seemed to have completely forgotten when the texture was like) and I will never forget the sheer horror of the first shampoo and the excessive shrinkage after! Lol!
What were some of your favorite transitioning hairstyles?
In the transition period, there were my regular flat twists and then an assortment of head wraps and scarves; could not be bothered with too much styling since for me it was just too much work to blend different textures. I also wore kinky or curly textured wigs (which I still wear now in fact, particularly since they make wonderful “hair-hats” to keep my head warm in winter! 🙂 ).
My current hair dos are varied, but I do find myself doing two strand twists quite often and thus wearing twist-outs as my go-to style:
And wearing my favourite half wig:
What have your experiences been as a ‘natural?’ Any memorable reactions from family or others?
I will never forget a classmate of mine referring to my hair as beautiful, right after I went natural. She’s not black and she’s not American and it was the first time she has seen or touched kinky Afro-textured hair. Other than this, my experiences have not been extra-ordinary. My sons were thrilled though because they currently have they hair in locs and for them, my going natural feels like its a family journey and another way of bonding…. plus they would now ask for hair care tips 🙂
What is your hair regimen (including fav products)?
For cleansing, I shampoo every 3 weeks and co-wash twice a week. Because I go to the gym three times a week at least, cleansing twice a week is a must AND I sweat like ten people in one! Every time I cleanse, I deep condition after using heat, then a scalp massage and I use the LCO method – Leave-in/Liquid, Cream then an Oil to seal. In between wash days, I apply a bit of oil to my scalp and maybe a leave-in or moisturiser to my strands if my hair is dry.
I use different shampoos and conditioners that I rotate every couple of weeks. I absolutely LOVE Qhemet Biologics products; these are my staples. In fact I think I have the entire line and they never fail me. From SheaMoisture, I use the Curl and Style Milk and the Coconut & Hibiscus Hold and Shine Mist as well as the African Black Soap Purification Masque. I love the As I Am Coconut Cowash. I also love Nubian Heritage’s Indian Hemp and Tamanu line and the shampoos from Morrocco Method. I’m also a regular user of Ayurvedic products like Amla, Brahmi and a couple others. AND (I know…. it’s a ridiculously long list), I’ve just discovered that I LOVE mixing my own natural and essential oils, so I have an assortment of oils that I use both for hair and skin care. Now I’m one of those naturals with “hand-in-hair syndrome” so I usually can’t wait for wash day as an excuse to touch and play in it and I love rotating products since I think of it as feeding my hair a varied diet.
What are some of your favorite natural hair websites,YouTuber’s, or blogs?
In the beginning of my journey I would regularly tune into YouTube for CharyJay, BlakIzBeautyful, 4c Hair Chick, and GirlsLoveYourCurls. I’ve enjoyed NenoNatural’s website tremendously, as well as CurlyNikki and Natural Hair Mag. I’m still exploring and finding new resources in this wonderful world of natural kinky/curly/coily hair. My recent discovery is a Facebook group for Caribbean Naturalistas that I’m sure I will be able to be more involved with when I return home after my studies.
Anything you want the readers to know? Inspirational words?
Whenever you give your whole being unconditional love and acceptance, your body responds by telling you what it likes and doesn’t like and a wonderful synergy and connection develops being your physical being and your mental, emotional and spiritual being. It’s one of the things I recognised on this journey to my authentic self. Everything becomes easier after that choice to just love and appreciate everything about yourself, because there is a freedom and peace you gain by given up an attachment to external standards that don’t nurture your well-being. Enjoying each moment and being patient with yourself reaps great rewards.
Where can people find you for more information?
On Instagram I’m Otasha18