Tell Me about yourself and your relationship with your hair:
My name is Queen Nefertiti Shebazz. I grew up in the Bay Area, specifically Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco. My relationship with my hair has always been very… how do I explain this? It’s taken over my life in a sense. I guess my relationship has been exhausting but also adventurous… an inquisitive relationship. I’m always kind of learning from my hair.
My family is French Creole, and French Creoles have a very interesting history in America: the “mulatto-isation” and the fetish reverence around “mixed black people” and the fact that it was very much centered in the dialogue of racist discourse about the pinnacle of beauty and usually it would be a Eurocentric one where women in my family felt like they were more attractive if they looked more mixed. And usually looking more “mixed” meant looking more white.My great grandmother has tighter ringlet curls. But you would never know that because she straightened her hair. She told me one day that she prayed for a girl. She said “God, please let this baby have good hair.” I was like, you prayed for your daughter to have good hair? What does that mean about her own self concept? My grandma, her daughter, has wavy hair. Growing up, she really just needed water and that was it. Then my mom had hair like mine, maybe more coarse. So my mom growing up did not know how to do her hair. People would pick on her, telling her she had bushy hair. She would have her hair in ponytails and section it off. But at some point, it was like, now what? And the same thing happened to me.
I was realizing that this was a common issue among black women in terms of styling hair. We know how to section our hair, braid it, put it in protective styles. At some point pigtails are not as age appropriate when you 20 years old as it was when you were 5.
My earliest memory of me loving my hair was at age 3. I went to this girl who was blonde and white. I was like, “Do you like my hair?” she was like, “No!” I said, “Well forget you then.” That memory reminds me that I was socialized to love myself. Blackness is beautiful and just embrace who you are.
Have you always been natural?
Growing up, my mom and my dad were like you need to love and embrace your hair. So my mom never relaxed my hair. She discouraged me from thinking about it or picking it up. So my life was always natural. And then, this goes back to the point of growing out of a hairstyle…. I was just kind of like, now what? My mom had been doing my hair up til I was nine. Then I was left on my own. The first time I got my hair straightened was at 7, and I was really into it. So what did I do? I straightened my hair. My peers would say “I like your hair more when it’s straight.” I didn’t really know how to take that. I didn’t know how to navigate that. It made me think about my self concept and beauty. Am I beautiful at all? Is my beauty conditional? That’s what I was learning from my peers, cuz they would love it when I straightened it. I started exploring different things. Tryna figure out how to tame the frizz: the Brazilian Keratin, then I got a boxed Brazilian keratin, which turned out to be a texturizer. My hair texture changed after that. It was marketed as a texture softener though, saying it would “take the frizz out.”
When did you stop straightening?
First of all, in Oakland in order to get your hair straightened, it would take upwards of $60. Then, if I did my hair, I would literally be spending three hours doing my hair. It was very costly time-wise and money-wise to keep my hair up. I got discouraged. There was a moment in my life where I was like, “I’m just gonna wear scarves. It’s just gon do it’s thing, and we gon figure out what to do from there.” So I definitely went through phases.
How would you describe your hair texture?
Ugh, this type system, man! From what I understand in the natural hair community that exists predominantly through YouTube and online, is this concept that the typing system is reductionist and can also perpetuate a hierarchy of not only hair type but again goes back to race. What I understood it to be was how does your hair type relate to the products that you can use and what works for your hair? I think my hair is 3c and then maybe in the very top is 4a. Grows outward in an Afro, it’s curly, at the back looser curls, At the front it’s tighter, 4a. The frizz is the frizz. I don’t know if that’s a texture or not. That’s all I know, it grows outwards.
When did you cut your hair and why?
I cut my hair last year. It was damaged, based off of the different things I was doing. I realized oh shoot, my hair is not natural anymore. My hair was different textures all over. I was tired of dealing with it. So I cut it all off. It’s like the answer to all the issues that I have had with my hair. When I cut my hair, I like, found a new love for it that I don’t think I ever had. Growing up, when you’ve always been natural ,there’s never been a comparison of before natural. How do you explore and realize that value of your hair? Usually you learn the value of something when you take it away. There’s a quote, “You know things by their opposites”. I didn’t know how to appreciate my hair, until that happened to me.
What are some of your favorite styles and products?
I like wearing scarves on my head. Sometimes I’ll braid the front to make it look like a crown.
Do you have a set regimen?
My regimen now is really short. Let’s see… I never really liked shampoo, so I don’t shampoo my hair. When I do, I use ACV or Dr. Bonner’s peppermint. That peppermint is my jam, gets you all tingly. I love it!. So I’ll like wash my hair with that. Head and Shoulders also works, It literally just strips my hair. And then, every day I condition it: Spritz it with water and put conditioner in it. Sometimes I do gel, but mostly water, conditioner. Also doing oils. I love putting Shea Butter on my hair and my skin. It really gets those scars, it’s amazing. And, I don’t brush my hair every day, which I love! My hair is still the same hair as before I cut it. I realized that like last week. I’m not really brushing it like that and it’s doing its thing.
What do your friends and family think about your natural hair?
It started to encourage her (my great grandma) to embrace her natural hair. She stopped straightening it as much, and she’d wear it curly, and be like, “Look at me!” And I’m like, “You look beautiful, as always.” Her self concept, I feel has really changed based off my mom and me sharing our hair journey. Not really telling her, but showing her. I cut my hair, so my grandma decided to cut hers.
What are your personal views on weaves and extensions?
They’re so cool! I don’t know, I like them. I’ve never had a weave, never had extensions. But I want to . I really want to. There’s a YouTuber called Au Curls Naturelle. She’s Ivorian, but she lives in S. Africa. She had a tutorial on some extensions that she bought. And her hair is closer to my texture. She put on some extensions and they looked just like her hair! I was like woah, I need to get those.
What does it mean to you to be natural?
The first thing that I thought of was God, to be honest. Because this is how God made me. I realize that there are people reading your blog who don’t believe in God or higher powers, but I guess in the sense of God being an uncontrollable non manmade force. The fact that my hair grew the way it is… it’s out of my control. So to be natural is to accept what is outside of my control and to embrace it. To be it to the fullest. It’s really about exploring and working with it instead of combatting it and saying that it’s wrong. And I think that’s the whole point.
There’re two ways you can try to control something that is out of you control. Either you work against it and you’re like no, sit in your place. suppress it, and you say, you know, “Be straight!” or you say, “Ok, I see you. You wanna frizz up, alright, do you. But you know what? You get some satin today.” It’s like a child. Good parenting is not to hamper your child, because they are going to rebel. We all have our days.
Where can we find you online?