Guest Blogger: Kiiannah "kiki" Johnson

"The Real Reason I decided to go Natural"
High school pic, hair was relaxed and thin back then

I don’t really remember my natural hair. I think most women of color with relaxed tresses don’t. I remember sitting in my mother’s kitchen with a big jar of hair grease (bergamot, to be exact) and holding on to my ears for dear life as she scalded and scorched my hair. The kitchen was filled with smoke and the strong odor of burning hair. I had a head full of hair as a child. I loved it and could not keep my hands out of it. Every Saturday night, mom would pull out the grease, hot combs and place one of the kitchen chairs right beside the stove. My two sisters and I already knew what the deal was. As much as I loved getting my hair pressed, I hated the sizzle and pop sound of the grease and heat merging together, similar to frying chicken in a pan full of smoking hot grease. That should have been a warning.

My hair, not my weight, or acne, or facial hairs, or outfit, or relationship(s) were always directly associated with my confidence. Growing up, I wanted the long, straight hair I saw on television and all over the magazines at the grocery counter. My sisters and I would take tee-shirts and sheets and crown our heads with our “long hair” around the house. I felt beautiful. When the sheets came off, it was back to reality and nappy little me.

My mother eventually became fed up with pressing and curling the heads of the three small girls that would squirm, flinch and complain about mommy “burning my neck.” Eventually, she introduced us to the creamy crack; Just for Me kiddy relaxer.

"Now, there is a bit more pep in my step and I hold my head up with confidence and esteem."

Needless to say, it was all downhill from there. Over a period of one year, my full head of soft and wavy hair was gone, eaten alive. I would wake up for school and almost every morning there would be a little more hair on my pillow than the day before. That was the beginning of several years of struggling with my identity, confidence and self-esteem. From losing my hair, severe breakage, split ends, braids, hair falling out after braids, thinning hair, traction alopecia from weaves that were entirely too tight on my edges, I went through it all. And my confidence was losing the battle. My hair was me. Or, at least I thought it was. I ended up getting it cut into a "Halle Berry" type style. That went well until I decided to get the front of my hair bleached. It took less than a year for it to eat my hair up.

The other side is longer, but you can't really tell. Look at those edges, they were on the fence then.

After years of battling with minor depression and mood swings, I was tired of living by the world’s standards. I was raised to be in the world but not “of” the world (another story, another day) and I found that I had conformed to society’s standards of beauty. I allowed others to tell me how I should look, feel and act and I wasn’t even aware of it.

I battled with confidence for a looong time, yes indeed. I was wearing weaves faithfully trying to compensate for what I thought was the “ugly” me underneath. It wasn’t until a very good friend of mine said to me one day, “You know, you are a completely different person with your weave. You hold your head up a lot higher than without it.”

My relaxed and weaved days before going natural!

Huh? I was taken aback at first and naturally, became defensive. But something clicked later that night and I realized she was right. Why? I had to search deep down inside and determine why I was not comfortable with myself? Why was I hiding myself behind FAKE HAIR? Most of the guys I dated didn’t even like weave. I would never let any man put his hands anywhere near my head.

When I made the decision to transition, I had no clue what the hell I was getting myself into. But you know what, I didn’t care. I wanted myself back. Then again, I realized I never even really knew myself without the façade of makeup, relaxed hair, weaves, etc.

So, I began my journey as if I was walking into a new relationship, and I was, with myself. I pampered myself, told myself I loved me every day before leaving work, began praying more for guidance and direction and one September evening in the privacy of my own bathroom, I took the scissors and chopped! Lol, and what I felt in that first snip was not what I expected. I felt liberated. I laughed at myself in the mirror and continued chopping while listening to Janelle Monae’s Cold War. I had finally freed myself and I knew I wasn’t looking back.

Now, there is a bit more pep in my step and I hold my head up with confidence and esteem. I expected negative reactions from my friends, family and co-workers. For the most part, people either loved it or respected what I was doing for whatever reason I decided to do it. I did (and still do) get some weird looks, mostly from other women. The first day I wore my hair natural to work, I was introduced by one of my female co-workers asking me, "What's up with your do?" I held my head up and told her I was going natural. "Why would you do that," she asked? I looked her straight in the eye and told her because that was my decision, it's only hair. And that was the end of the discussion.

I've rehabilitated from the "creamy crack" and I'm not ever relapsing!

The one thing I have learned since my journey to nappturalism is, the more confident that you are in yourself, the more confident others will be of you. And even with a few glances and glares, you know it doesn't matter. The journey to naturalism is one you must be prepared to take. It forces you to unveil just how you really feel about yourself and who you really are. Some of us may find that we don't really like what's unveiled too much and others, well... let's just say this isn't a journey for the weak.


  1. Thanks for allowing me to share with your readers! It's surprising how many ladies' self-esteem and self-perception are influenced by our hair.


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