The Politics of Being Friends with White People….and Latinos, Blacks, Jews, Indians and Generally Most Other Humans.

Yesterday Salon published an article titled “The Politics of Being Friends with White People“, which discussed one woman’s journey from childhood to adulthood and the evolution of her friendships through the lens of race.  The author, Brittany Cooper, claims that as a kid she was surrounded by lots of white peers and as such as many white friends, but as she grew older and found herself in more situations with persons of color, that her friendships shifted and she found herself with closer friends who were black.

The article caught my attention because, well, I have white friends.  In fact, I have a lot, of white friends. And many of my best friends are white.  Awhile back I explored my position at the intersection of race as a “black girl living in a white world” with the Harlem Shake Divide example.  This “Friends with White People” article brought up similar themes and caused me to reflect on the fact that I am a black girl who not only grew up with a lot of white friends, but still has a lot of white friends.

I decided that I wanted to craft a response to this article, but in doing so realized that a response wasn’t so —pun intended— black and white.  As I took an initial stock of my group of close friends, I realized that it was a pretty darn diverse group of kids and I realized that I didn’t want to respond to this article about the racial demographics of my friend group alone, I wanted to get my friend’s opinions on it as well!  I mean, hey—if I’m going to put our interracial friendships on blast, then they should have a say in it!

Within hours and after a series of text messages, emails and phone calls, six of my nearest and dearest had agreed to make individual cameos here on NaturalSelectionBlog to explore the ideas of race and friendships.

While the author Brittany Cooper suggests that she spends more time with one group over another, I selected this particular group of friends to feature, because they frequently find themselves at the intersection of two ethnically disparate worlds. Just like me. Which is why we’re probably friends in the first place. See? It all makes sense.

So over the coming weeks, I’m going to be giving the keyboard, and in some instances the microphone,  over to a few of my close friends.  Here, please let me introduce you to them!  In no particular order:

 

Dani

 
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My college roommate, international adventure buddy, and general all around badass. She was born in Argentina, raised in Atlanta and currently lives in Tennessee where she is studying to get her PhD in Educational Policy. After 5 years of working in public schools in DC and Brooklyn, she decided that the system sucks and she needs to change it. She is also a frequent commenter here on the ol’ blog.
 
 

Stephen

 
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Born and raised in the A, Stephen now lives in San Francisco where he manages one of the most popular restaurants in the city. As die-hard advocate of the importance of eating well with an emphasis on quality ingredients, Stephen shares a passion for writing and has started a media empire over here. Okay, real talk: our friendship was cemented because of a poll about whether or not people of color like grapefruit (DO YOU?). Two years later, our friendship is still thriving, only proving to me how impactful these discussions can be.
 
 

Bianca

 
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A college friend and sorority sister who I became extremely close to while studying abroad in France. Bianca was born and raised in Louisville, KY and is the daughter of two India-born parents (whose hospitality and cooking I will never, ever forget). Dr. Bianca is currently in residency at a hospital in Washington DC, which means that she sleeps little, works a lot and is very kind for letting me rope her into this dialogue. Because of her awesome curls, Bianca has also been featured on this blog before so you might recognize her.
 
 

Jeff a.k.a. Bubba

 
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A native San Franciscan, Jeff grew up in a diverse circle of friends that still exists today. As a Criminal Defense Lawyer, he is an outspoken advocate on racial justice issues. For those of you who have been to my events, you have likely seen him there because he has a stellar track record and knows more about natural hair that you might ever expect. Jeff is constantly disappointed in my lack of engagement with hip hop and soul, his two musical passions, and we speak frequently about how we can bridge the gap of our mutual Racial Music Expectations. So far we have honed in on vintage Brazilian and his participation in this project.
 
 

Paloma

 
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Pal and I have been roommates for going on six (!) years now in San Francisco. Growing up half-Brazilian in the suburbs of Boston, Paloma was exposed to both an international network of family and a school demographic seriously lacking in ethnic and economic diversity. As a queer woman, Pal often talks about living within these two worlds and coming to a place of balance between them herself. As a school administrator, Pal is incredibly insightful about diversity within relationships and communities at all levels.
 
 

Phallon

 
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Phallon and I have been friends literally since the day I was born (she beat me by three days). We grew up together in a small suburb of Minneapolis, MN that the census lists as 94% white. Phallon brings not only this understanding about the ethnic make up in which we grew up, but also the need and ability to establish community of color. After an inspiring 90-minute conversation about this very topic just last night, I’m so excited to welcome her voice to this conversation!
 
 
So there you have it, friends: my friends. As I mentioned, you’ll be seeing a feature from each one of them in the coming weeks as we discuss and explore this conversation of interracial friendships and the roles they’ve played in our lives. Here we go!

Exclusive Interview: NFL Cheerleader Goes Natural for 49ers Auditions

You ever have that experience where you think you know somebody and then they say something that completely blows you away? Well that happened with me and Danetha! For the past year I’ve known Danetha as an accountant who specialized in beauty industry clients, but then I get this email, being all like “Yea, so when I was cheerleading for the Indianapolis Colts I wore my hair straight, but now I’m going natural!”

:::stops the car and pulls over on the side of the highway:::

“When I used to be an NFL cheerleader” is not usually something you hear in casual conversation, right!? Anywho, I got the scoop from Miss Danetha about her hair-story as an NFL Cheerleader and how this next time around she’s going to be rocking her natural hair! Read on for a truly inspirational story!

Cassidy: When you were a cheerleader before, was there a pressure to wear your hair a certain way? What other beauty standards were you expected to uphold?

Danetha: Yes! There weren’t any other natural hair girls in the league (that I knew of) and long, flowy hair was the norm. We had routines with “hairography” and you had to be able to flip your hair in order to look sexy. Our squad was sponsored by one of Indianapolis’ top salons, and the stylists were awesome! But, they didn’t know how to work with ethnic relaxed hair, much less natural hair. At the time, my hair was relaxed and they suggested that I wear a weave. I worked with a stylist to determine my look and we settled on a long, straight weave. I was fine with it because that’s what I considered beautiful and I wanted to fit in with the other girls. As far as other beauty standards…there weren’t really any. I guess, we were all expected to be physically fit, but I think that comes with territory of being a dancer and athlete.

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C: When and why did you decide to go natural?

D: My last relaxer was in 2008, but I wore a weave until mid 2009 so I didn’t have to do the big chop :) I cut off my relaxed ends at the end of 2009. I decided to go natural because my hair was falling out. I had HUGE bald spots all over my head and my hair was in bad shape. I went to the best stylists, so I knew that the reason for this was because my hair could not handle a relaxer (I had been relaxing my hair for 16+ years). It was time for a change and time for me to learn how to take care of myself, and not have to depend on a stylist.

 

C: What has changed and inspired you to rock your natural hair texture for auditions?

 

 

D: I really feel that there is power when someone sees their image on the big screen. As a natural girl, who loves to follow celebrities, I crave for a figure that looks like me and has “made it” and considered “beautiful” by the main stream. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it is reassuring to see your image reflected on TV or in magazines. I hope that I can help push that image in mainstream media. Also, I’m at a point in my life where I’m comfortable with me and I don’t want to conform to anyone’s idea of me. So, take me natural or don’t. Whatever.  I did audition last year for the Gold Rush as a natural, but it wasn’t the right timing. I moved to the Bay Area (literally!) a week before auditions and I had wayyy too much going on to focus. I made the finals (from 300 girls to 80) and then I was cut. I think everything happens for reason. Although I was super bummed, I had a chance to explore Bay Area, fall in love with it, and start my company which was another passion of mine. I’ve had a year to find my place in this area and now I feel like I’m ready to represent the 49ers.

Swimsuit

 

C: What is the audition process like?

D: Haha. I could write a novel on the process ;) You know, its similar to the Dallas Cowboys series but not that long. Each squad is different. The 49ers Gold Rush complete the process in one week. On the first day, you learn a dance and perform it. There are two cuts that day. If you make it past the first day, you are in the finals. During finals, you have one group practice with the head choreographer. There is an interview day with a panel. You are asked any question you can think of- from who is your favorite player, to what are your career goals to what you like to do for fun. They really want to see that you are able to engage with strangers and relate to the fans. The last day is the final performance. You perform a dance choreographed by their Director or Head Choreographer and a solo piece. This is open to the public. Overall, the process is a lot of fun. But it is SO NERVE WRACKING. There are so many beautiful, talented, intelligent women in the process and you just hope that you stand out.

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C: What sorts of styles can we expect from watching your audition journey?

D: As far as hair, I will be rocking a lot of protective styles. I’ll be working out a lot, so it’ll be important to maintain my hair. I’ll also be trying out different products to see which one I should use for audition days. My hair doesn’t hold styles very well and I plan on wearing a twist out while performing. So, expect some product reviews while I try to find the “perfect” product for my hair for the big day. I will also test one or two professional stylists in the Bay Area (Cassidy, if you have any suggestions please let me know) Editors Note: I always do! Hit me up and we’ll talk! to see if they can get my hair ready for auditions. As far as clothes, I will be shopping for my interview outfit (fingers crossed, I make it to finals again) and my audition outfit. Check me out as I shop for the most flattering ‘fits :) 

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I don’t know about you, but I am hella excited to watch Danetha as a natural go through the audition process! Let’s all share some words of encouragement in the comments to support our fellow naturalista as she takes this big personal leap! I personally believe that the more authentic one is, the more they are accepted, so I’m proud that Danetha is showing and auditioning with her true texture!

To follow Danetha’s natural hair journey through her audition process, follow her on her social media channels:

Youtube: www.youtube.com/missdanetha
Facebook: www.facebook.com/missdanetha
Twitter: www.twitter.com/missdanetha
Tumblr: www.tumblr.com/blog/missdanetha
Instagram: @MissDanetha
Pinterest: @MissDanetha

“the reason black women have hair problems…..

…is because they don’t love their hair.”

Think about it.

I heard this powerful quote from a presentation by Dr. Phoenix at NINAF last weekend and have been pondering it since. Weaves, wigs, relaxers, missing edges, breakage…are these all caused by a lack of self love? Share your thoughts in the comments.

I also had a great conversation with her on ayurvedic regimens for natural hair and hair loss– check out the interview!

Please post in the comments your thoughts on “the reason black women have hair problems is because they don’t love their hair”.

The story of HIS relaxer…

More often than not, the natural hair world is a women’s world, so much so that many of us forget or don’t even realize that there are some men who have many of the same hair concerns as us gals.  For some guys, it’s how to keep their hair moisturized or for others it’s how to find an easy way to detangle, but for Jez it’s how to manage his curls without a relaxer.  I met Jez in New Orleans when I was covering all of the natural hair action at the Essence Music Festival this past July. Imagine this natural hair enthusiast’s surprise to learn that HE of all people had relaxed hair!  Check out this video of him explaining his story and the next step on his hair journey:

 

As he mentioned in the video, he’s used relaxers throughout his life to manage his curls, but his hair story goes even deeper than the occasional relaxer. Once upon a time (specifically in 2007), Jez was a contestant on NBC’s The Biggest Loser and lost 150 pounds (!!!!!!!!!). Prior to his losing weight, his curly hair played a huge role in his self image. “Any time I’ve tried to hide, I’ve tried to hide behind my hair,” explains Jez.

“Whenever I find that I’m not feeling good about myself, I tend to have longer hair and a more unkempt appearance, but when I feel better about myself and my body, I like to maintain a cleaner appearance. Now I’ve learned that I want my curls and to wear them short, but I just dont understand maintenance and using products.”

The good people (lady?) of NaturalSelectionBlog.com have already provided Jez with some quality curly care products and hair care tips as he transitions out of his relaxer. Next week, Dawana of Beauty on da Bayou the top natural hair salon in New Orleans, will be giving Jez his big chop so stay tuned for the next step in HIS natural hair journey!

 

Here’s a couple of before pictures of him from this summer.  Any words of wisdom for him as he takes on The Big Chop and learning to manage his curls??

 

 

My Night With Turquoise Jeep. Amazeballz. (+video interview!)

I’ve been waiting for this moment for years and last night I not only got to see Turquoise Jeep perform live just blocks from my house BUT I also got to sit down and chat with them all! That’s right! Imagine little ol Cass and Lola sandwiched between Flynt Flo$$y and Yung Humma and flanked by Whachamacalit, Pretty Raheem and Tummiscratch. And YES I did ask Yung Humma when we were going to see a natural style from him. It was truly the ish dreams are made of, but don’t take my word for it! Check this interview!

Me and the TJR boyz

Me and Yung Humma backstage

The concert itself was amazingly fun! I’ve been to many a concert at this venue (The Independent) and I’ve NEVER and I mean NEVER seen so many people in the space! The show was completely sold out and people were going crazy! The guys put on a fabulous show and really brought it with the dancing by doing some serious choreo. It was an absolute effing blast. Here’s a video of them closing out the show with “Did I Mention I Like to Dance”, which includes Flynt Flo$$y’s signature moonwalk.

I also want so announce the winner of the TJR t-shirt contest! Congratulations to RENON!!!! WOOOOOO!!! You’ve got your very own Turquoise Jeep t-shirt coming your way! Drop me an email so we can get that shipped to you!

All in all, such a fun night! #KTJR!

BeautifullyMixed: awesome new blog celebrating multi-ethnic hertiage

My friend Andrew Bentley and I have spent a lot of time talking about what else?  Hair and culture.  You see, Andrew has these amazing free-form locs and has spent a couple recent years living, working and traveling abroad in Brasil.  We’ve had fascinating conversations about how his hair as the ability to transcend boundaries and connect not only with his own multi-ethnic roots, but diverse cultures around the world.  Recently, Andrew launched a new blog called BeautifullyMixed in which he documents and celebrates people and families with bi-racial heritage. It’s inspiring, well-composed and, although I’m technically not of bi-racial heritage (although, who isn’t a little bit in this day and age), I was impressed by the blog and thought you would be too!  Here’s an e-terview with Andrew himself talking about the project and his BeautifullyMixed life!  

Me and Andrew celebrating the World Cup a couple years ago

 

Cassidy:  What inspired you to start the blog?

Andrew: My father is black and my mother is white. My interest in understanding the mixed race identity and my desire to help build a community of mixed race people and families started when I was very young and has grown ever since.

In second grade I came home crying after filling out a demographic questionnaire at school. I was instructed to only check one box and the options were black, white, Asian, Hispanic, Pacific Islander and other (or something like that). My teacher made me select “other.” That felt so horrible; like I was a friendless green martian. I came home crying to my parents. My mom told me to ignore the rules and fill out those boxes however I wanted. That was the first time I experienced life as a mixed race person. I wasn’t going to fit into the world’s boxes.

Now I realize my entire existence and my parent’s marriage was a form of rule breaking. Throughout my life I’ve tried to create my own colorful box and break some rules of my own when it feels right.

I grew up in Madison, WI, which is a fairly diverse city but there weren’t many mixed race kids around me. Three of my mixed race classmates and I started a club called “Brown Power” to try to feel more connected with something larger than ourselves. We even made buttons with a brown fist on them and wore them to school. Being mixed race is a total blessing but it was lonely in the 80s in southern Wisconsin.

Everyone struggles to find an identity as a teen but when no one around you looks like you, confusion is magnified. Which group to hang with in high school, how to wear your hair, which music to listen to, who to date, how to identify yourself to new people – these were all terribly complex questions for me; and still are.

In college I started to get this vision of hundreds of mixed race people and couples rallying together at a giant event. In my vision I get a chance to be on a stage in front of the crowd. I don’t know what I’m doing there and I don’t think it matters. The important point is the view that I would have. It would be heaven.

I moved to the Fort Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn a month ago and it seems that half of the couples around me are mixed race. It’s the most awesome thing I’ve ever seen. It feels like my vision from college is coming together. I’m nearly crying on my keyboard right now just thinking about it. And it’s not just black-white couples. I’ve seen almost every possible combination of races and cultures. The world needs to see this. I want that mixed race kid somewhere far away who is struggling to understand her complexion, her hair, to see my blog and know there are millions of people out their like her.

A Brooklyn family featured on BeautifullyMixed

C: What have you learned so far during the creation of the site?

A: Due to the site I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people about identity and interracial relationships. People I’ve known for years have opened up and talked about themselves in a whole new way.

One of the things that has surprised me is that interracial couples are still struggling to be accepted by their families. A Chinese American friend of mine recently told me how her mother, who she normally talks with everyday, didn’t talk with her for three months when she found out she was dating a black man. This seems to be more common than I was expecting.  I hope the blog can act as form of support for people struggling with this. I want them to see all the beautiful mixed families and know that they too can make it and be happy. (The couple has been together for 1.5 years by the way. And the family situation seems to be slowly improving.)

The other thing I’ve learned is that I still have a lot of work to do to understand my own identity. My friend Mike, who is Chinese and Polish and featured on the blog, recently said something that’s had me thinking ever since. He said “…it was only recently that I became internally aware that ‘being mixed’ is distinct from ‘being half’.” This is an incredibly important insight. For my entire life I’ve described myself more by my components and less by the result of those components. (“I’m half black and half white”). I’m thinking about this a lot.

A father and his daughter featured on BeautifullyMixed

C: How has being mixed influenced your identity (loaded question, I know)?

A: I’m able to identify with and understand several communities at once. That can make life really fun. But at the same time I’ve always felt that I don’t 100% fit into one place. It’s sort of being in second grade and having to check one box again.

Andrew!

C: What is your favorite part of being BeautifullyMixed?

A: I feel like I have a license to talk with and befriend everyone on the planet. Also, it’s easy for me to identify with different groups of people.

And people see themselves in me. When I’m in Brazil people think I’m Brazilian, when I’m around Puerto Ricans, I look Puerto Rican. Some people think I’m Asian too. I did a genetics study and found out I’m 1% Asian — So I guess those people are right.

C:  Where are your parents from?

A: My dad, who is black, is tall, muscular and had a goatee and a mini afro when my parents met in the mid-‘70s. He grew up in the Northern part of St. Louis. When my parents started dating he listened to a lot of live music and marched against the war. My mom is white, barely 5 feet tall, has blue eyes, and had straight blonde hair back then. She grew up in Madison, WI and played in the marching band in high school. Even though both sides of my family have been in the US for many generations (and hundreds of years) they are physical polar opposites. They look pretty funny together in some of their first photos.

My parents met on a blind date and are still together after 34 years of marriage. They don’t talk about it much but I view them as trailblazers. They married only eleven years after the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court case struck down anti-miscegenation laws. It wasn’t easy for them and they faced some cruel things. I think that toughened them up and drew them closer.

 

Andrew and his Mom (with friendship bracelets)

Andrew with his Dad on the left.

C:  What can we expect from BeautifullyMixed?

A: BeautifullyMixed is a celebration. I view the increasing number of mixed race babies and couples in the US as a positive sign for our world. Interracial marriages were 8.4% of total US births in 2010, up from 3.2% in 1980. It indicates that our level of compassion is rising and will continue to rise. The more we learn about other cultures and live in other cultures the stronger we’ll be.

My idea right now is to create a place that not only hosts photos of mixed people, but also tells family stories, has relevant essays and discussions; there’s so much on this topic that hasn’t been explored yet. But, BeautifullyMixed is very new. Ultimately I’m going to keep an open mind and let its audience take it where it wants.

A little Andrew + family

C:  Do you take submissions or how can people participate in your awesome new blog?

A: Thanks for calling my blog awesome. Yes! I want BeautifullyMixed to be community driven. Please submit photos at www.beautifullymixed.com/submit. I’d really like to do more family features. If your family has a great story, tell it to me! (andrewmbentley@gmail.com) Also if people have ideas about how I can use BeautifullyMixed better as a platform please contact me to chat.  Oh and you’re awesome, Cassidy!

Andrew and I being awesome together in 2009

5 Months Transitioning Check In With Stephanie

It’s been awhile since we last heard from Stephanie (a Brooklyn-based high schooler who won a contest back in July), but never fear my dears her transition is going wonderfully! She writes:

Things have been going and growing well with my hair lol! School has been taking up a majority of my time so I haven’t been doing many styles. Just detangle and bunning. The winter breezes have been taking a not so pleasant toll on my hair. Today, I attempted to do kinky twists and it was a major FAIL. I wasn’t sure how big I should do the sections and when I attempted a “kinky twist it looked weird and more of a coil than a twist. So I’ve given up and will try again on wednesday. Once I get the kinky twists in, I’ll be leaving them in til New Years. I haven’t tried many new products and my lovely hair milk is running out :(. All in all my hair is moving a long. I really feel like I’m ready to big chop but I think I might wait a couple more months.

Any advice for her you might have on those Kinky Twists? I am Senorita Fail when it comes to that sort of thing, so hopefully one of you might be able to steer her in the right direction there.

My big take away is that she wrote that in a couple months, she might be ready for the big chop! Wellllll how convenient that I’ll be there in a couple months! No pressure Stephanie, but Cass and Lola are kind of excited to welcome you into naturaldom! Of course, if you are ready, we’ll be there with bells on (and a camera or two…)

Stephanie did a great job of capturing some shots of her transitioning texture and it’s always fascinating to see the difference in relaxed and natural hair. The curls are looking so plump and vibrant so it’s great to see those coming in strong!

Stephanie’s Komaza Transitioning Update and Lookin’ Great!

A little update from our Komaza Care transitioner, Stephanie!  Summer’s ending and school’s about to start up, let’s see how she’s doing….

Braids for a week

In the midst of enjoying what’s left of summer and getting ready for school, my hair(Rudy) has taken over in a HUGE way.

This summer has been fast paced with entering giveaways, controlling my PJ habits, and dealing with the two textures of my transitioning hair. Finding out that I won the  Komaza Care Regimen Giveaway was definitely the highlight of my summer. Working with Cassadie and Rene to develop a regimen for my hair and even getting my hair examined was exciting! Looking at  the damage “up close and personal” showed me that my decision to go natural is the right one for me.

twists (naptural85 method) with flexi rods at ends. I wasn't too happy about sleeping with the rods :(

I’ve only had the products for a little more than a week so I can’t give an opinion, but everything I’ve used so far has worked great. My hair really likes the Coconut Curl Lotion & Hair Milk ! My regimen has been fairly simple, which gives me more time to consume myself in everything natural hair related.

- I shampoo 1x a week with Shea Moisture Raw Shea Butter Moisture Retention Shampoo in 8 sections.

- Condition with Trader Joe’s Tea Tree Tingle then deep condition with Komaza’s Olive Moisture Mask for about an hour or… maybe a little more than an hour. The more the merrier!

- I also use Komaza’s Protein Hair Strengthener every other week.

- After deep conditioning, I apply either the lotion or the hair milk. I then detangle and put my hair into a couple of braids to dry and prepare for styling.

results from twists with flexi rods on ends

Since using the Komaza Care products, I have noticed less breakage and the amount of single strand knots have been reduced. *does happy dance*

the puff after the fro which was after the twist out :)

The biggest struggle I’m having now is styling. Bantu knots look horrible on my hair and I’m having a hard time perfecting twist outs; the front of my hair always comes out frizzy. I can always rely on my bun to come to the rescue after experimenting with styles. Despite my troubles, I’m enjoying my transition and these last 5 months have been such a journey. I hope to inspire others my age to go natural. Hopefully one day, showing a lot of love to my hair will pay off and my teachers will have to seat me in the back of their classes. Not for behavior, but because my hair will be too big for anyone to see over!

 

the trusty bun :)

 

stretched twist out/fro

Ask the Hair Doctor: Dr. Kari Answers Reader Hair Questions- Submit Yours!

Naturals Night Out Los Angeles was hosted by Mahogany Hair Revolution, a natural hair salon founded by Dr. Kari Williams, one of the country’s leading trichologists (aka. hair and scalp doctor!).

Dr. Kari Williams

I think I can speak on behalf of all in attendance that we were all very impressed with the natural hair knowledge and expertise Dr. Kari brought to the event and I wanted to create a chance for ALL readers to have access to her resources and insights about natural hair care.

Together we’re launching a new series here on Natural Selection called “Ask the Doctor!” in which she will respond to reader questions and I’ll post them publically so that we can ALL learn!

To submit your questions please send an email to cassadie [at] naturalselectionblog [dot] com with the subject line “ASK THE DOCTOR”. We’ll try to get through all questions, so don’t be shy and let us know any and everything you’ve ever wanted to ask an expert!!

Skya’s 6 Month Loc Update Vlog!

Well, I must say that its pretty exciting/special to have my two sisters along on this natural hair journey with me. I’ve recently been talking about my sister Keagan’s hairstory and big chop, but we’re just hitting Skya’s 6 month anniversary with her locs. They’re looking good and a couple weeks ago when visiting home, I filmed a little video with her to update you on her progress. Check it out!

Check out Skya’s previous posts for a little glimpse at her loc-story.

2 month update
New locs!
Skya First Goes Natural
 

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