IGC: Please introduce yourself.
My name is Tracey-Ann Wisdom, but everybody just calls me Tracey or Trace. I’m from the garden parish of St Ann, Jamaica and I’m a journalist at Jamaica’s first new media company, eMedia Interactive Limited (shameless plug).
IGC: Tell us your hair story.
I didn’t really have a problem with my hair growing up, in terms of hating the texture or length or whatever. What I had major problems with and what drove me to BEG my mother for a relaxer was the way she treated my hair. I remember hating weekends because the washing/combing process took two days. Saturday was pulling out last week’s cornrows and washing, where my hair was roughed up and cursed for being tough while I screamed and cried. By the time that horror show was completed, my poor scalp would be too tender to do anything else, so I got big granny plaits til Sunday, when Mommy would beat my hair into cornrowed submission, again accompanied by screaming and crying because my scalp was still tingling from the wash.
I endured this for 11 years, in between times when I’d stay with my grandmother and she would wash my hair oh so gently, then press it. When I was preparing for common entrance exams, Mommy and I struck a deal – pass for St Hilda’s High (the best school in the parish) and she’d crème my hair. Best believe I got the grades to get into St Hilda’s!
Mommy decided to save money and crème my hair herself – read: RUIN IT! – and from that point til mid-3rd form, my hair was a hot disaster. I’d change hairdressers a few times – read: Mommy’s friends who said they could do hair – until I went to live with my aunt and got my first professional relaxer and my hair began to thrive. My scalp, on the other hand, not so much. No matter how ‘gentle’ the crème advertised itself to be, I’d get burns so bad there’d be scabs for weeks. Motions was the worst! Breeze blow and my scalp would feel like someone poured rubbing alcohol in an open wound on my head. I had scabs up to the time of my next scheduled relaxer and had to postpone it.
I did this for 11 years, until 2nd year at UWI (University of the West Indies), Mona. I’d gone to college with my hair nearing the bottom of my shoulder blades, thick and shiny and bouncy. All my flatmates – and random strangers – wanted to know what I used, how I grew my hair that long, if it was really all mine. But by 2nd year, stess and poverty hit me and my hair began to fall out. I mean shed like a fricking dog. A guy classmate even told me I needed to handle my situation because I was looking popped down. SHAME! So I braided it (WRONG MOVE!!!!) and lost my hairline. One day, in frustration, I walked into the campus beauty salon and asked how much to cut it all off and just did an instant BC. I’d been threatening to do it for weeks, but no one believed me, so it was no surprise that people were walking right past me then doing double takes when they realized it was me. Lol!
I’ve been natural since 2006 and I’m not being dramatic when I say I never loved myself so much as that first moment I looked into the mirror at the salon and touched my hair. I can’t even explain it, but it was a powerful moment.
My hair and I, we’ve had our ups and downs since then, most notably the press job for graduation that left me with a half-fro, cuz my ends were burnt to a crisp. Two big chops later, my texture is back where I want it and I’m currently contemplating locks. But I’m having separation anxiety. My fro is EVERYTHING. Can I really say goodbye to it?
IGC: Who or what is your hair inspiration?
Everybody who knows me knows the answer to this question: Corinne Bailey Rae and Esperanza Spalding. OHMYGOSH, I fricking LOVE THEM. And their hair. I also love me some Solange Knowles, Tracee Ellis Ross and Elle Varner.
IGC: What is your hair regimen and some of your favorite hair products to use?
In the beginning of my natural journey, I used a lot of heat on my hair, trying to blow dry it straight because after 11 years, that’s all I knew. But after the 2008 graduation disaster, I’ve kept heat to a minimum and since the start of this year, I’ve banned it completely.
I wash my hair once a week or whenever the mood strikes me, use a mix of water, vegetable glycerin and some essential oils as a spritz, then add some Giovanni leave in and finish with shea butter. I’ve stopped using anything ‘manufactured’ on my hair, but it was subconscious. And cuz I’m broke. But this works for me, so what ain’t broke, I ain’t changing.
IGC: What are your favorite hairstyles?
Some version of the afro. I suck at styling. Like, REALLY suck. I can’t even do twists to wear in public. When my hair was bigger, I’d do lots of twist outs, but since I’m back to a TWA, I just moisturize/seal/brush/slap on a headband.
IGC: Do you have a hair goal?
To have a big ass fro like Esperanza, Corinne or Elle! Sort of negates the locks then, uh?
IGC: Name five things you love about your natural hair the most?
Hmm… That I don’t have to sprint out of the rain anymore; that I can wash my hair whenever I want; being called Queen or Empress by random Rastas (some of whom are cute); that it makes me feel like myself; that it’s absolutely beautiful!
IGC: What is the hardest part of your journey thus far?
The hardest part was after the pressing disaster. I actually cried. My afro was in full swing and that debacle has caused me to have to start over twice. But I think I’m over it. I don’t have any ‘real’ challenges, like family/friends not accepting my hair. Since the moment I touched my fro in that salon six years ago, my attitude has been, ‘If you don’t like it, bite it!’
IGC: Do you see natural hair becoming more popular in the mass media or are relaxers set to still be dominant in the coming years?
Natural hair is definitely the style du jour. It’s not only big in black media or the blogosphere, but even mainstream (white) magazines. That’s awesome, because little black girls growing up should see themselves reflected in their natural state. It might help halt some of the self-hatred black people, particularly women, seem to struggle with.
I don’t think the creamy crack will ever go away, but I just love that more women are growing to accept their natural selves and shaking off the centuries of negativity associated with it.
IGC: What advice can you give to someone who is natural, transitioning or contemplating the idea of returning natural?
‘Returning natural’. I LOVE IT! Never heard it put that way before. My advice is to do what makes you comfortable. If you’re transitioning and afraid of the big chop, do it gradually. If you’re feeling brave, go for the BC. In terms of upkeep/styling, the same principle applies. Do your research, but don’t get bogged down by all the opinions out there. There are some real ‘natural Nazis’ who think they know everything – avoid them. Experiment with different products until you find those that work for your daily life. That’s what I did and settled on my basic, natural ingredients.
And don’t worry that you ‘won’t look good with natural hair’. How could you not? That’s the way God made you and He doesn’t make mistakes!
Tracey thank you for sharing your hair story. I don’t know about you guys but I certainly enjoyed and could relate to her story. Oh those ‘dreaded weekends’. lOl. Torture. Did you guys notice how flawless her skin is. Tracey girl you need to share your secret. We hope you achieve your Esperanza Spalding Fro girl.
Show Tracey some love ladies. Don’t forget to rate, like, comment and follow. Thanks dolls!