My standards of beauty were pretty much my classmates’ hair or what I saw on TV and magazines, which was mostly long, straight hair, so those were my goals. It’s weird thinking about that phase now because I’ve totally embraced who I am, kinky hair and everything, but my natural hair journey was definitely a struggle.
Curly Essence: Tell us a little about the history of your curly hair…
Cláudia: When I was younger, my hair and I had a love/hate relationship… as in it kept thriving, even after all the unhealthy stuff I used to do it, and I didn’t love it back. I didn’t understand my texture (or bothered to) and saw it as a burden, so I would hide my coils under protective styles or chemical treatments most of the time. And there was also the ‘only black girl in my class’ factor. My standards of beauty were pretty much my classmates’ hair or what I saw on TV and magazines, which was mostly long, straight hair, so those were my goals. It’s weird thinking about that phase now because I’ve totally embraced who I am, kinky hair and everything, but my natural hair journey was definitely a struggle.
Curly Essence: How long did you find yourself in the transition process – Transitioning to Natural – and why you made this decision?
Cláudia: When I was 19, I joined two black hair care online communities to learn how to take care of my then relaxed hair. After doing some research and learning that my hair was severely damaged from all my past mistakes, I started thinking about transitioning but I didn’t do it right away. One day, I was washing my hair and it just started falling off like crazy. I’m very impulsive, so I got out of the shower and did my first bog chop right there in my bathroom. I only left enough length to do box braids with extensions. I went through that process two more times because, at first, I found my kinks and coils very difficult to deal with and got discouraged, which resulted in me recurring to texturizers to ‘loosen’ my texture. Finally, I decided that all that mess wasn’t worth it and stopped using chemicals for good about four or five years ago. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Curly Essence: What is the hardest part of your transition?
Cláudia: The hardest part was knowing absolutely nothing about 4C hair. I wasn’t ready to deal with the shrinkage (it goes up to 75%) and the fact that my strands tend to tangle around themselves. Eventually, I’ve come to the realization that single strand knots in my 4C hair are just going to happen. It's inevitable. With such a tight curl pattern, my hair can’t help but ravel onto itself at some point in time and that’s okay.
Curly Essence: Are you always worried about in having your curls in perfect shape, or are you more of an apologist of the “let it be”?
Cláudia: I don’t feel the need to have my coils in perfect shape all the time but I do choose to combat unwanted shrinkage and show off my natural hair length – always working with my hair and not against it. One thing I’m obsessed with though is maintaining my heart shaped afro. I’ve got to spread love everywhere I go!
“There are many opinions about its meaning but they all have one term in common: acceptance.”
Curly Essence: Is there a secret that you can share concerning your curly hair?
Cláudia: Deep conditioning is life! I just can’t get enough! My hair is very dry so I need to get all the good stuff in there weekly to keep it moisturized and healthy.
Curly Essence: How do you see this new “back to our roots” movement?
Cláudia: I think it’s wonderful because history is repeating itself in a way that shows us that we, as a society, have come a long way. The Black Power movement during the 60’s was an expression of pride, power, revolution, and differentiation, as well as a ‘visual connection’ to the African ancestors and the African diaspora. This second coming of the movement, even though it can be seen as a tribute to its predecessor, is not about racial, social or political issues. There are many opinions about its meaning but they all have one term in common: acceptance.
Curly Essence: What products do you recommend and can’t live without?
Cláudia: My staples include Coconut oil, Aubrey Organics’ Honeysuckle Rose Moisturizing Conditioner, Oyin Handmade’s Hair Dew and last, but definitely not least, Alikay
Naturals’ Hair Parfait. I seriously can’t live without these products.
Curly Essence: What were the worst mistakes you made? And what advice would you give to anyone who wants to venture out and embrace their curls?
Cláudia: Probably the worst mistake I’ve ever made was relaxing my hair and coloring it a few days later. I was asking for a disaster and that’s exactly what I got. My advice would be ‘take advantage of the fact that we live in the social media era’. Right now there’s more information out there than ever, so take your time, do your research and start giving your hair some much needed tender, loving care.
Curly Essence: What’s the best thing about being curly?
Cláudia: The best part of being kinky/coily/curly is being myself. Nobody else can do that but me. When you embrace your uniqueness and who you are and irradiate confidence… man, that’s a beautiful thing.
Photos by: Curly Essence