Unpretty: TLC, Natural Hair and God
A few months ago, I carpooled with a friend after work, and the song “Unpretty” by TLC came on. If you’re unfamiliar with the song, TLC discusses a common issue among women: our struggle to embrace and love our God-given beauty. 17 years after the single’s release, I am still one of those women TLC is singing about. This left me feeling distraught.
You Change Your Hair If You Want To
I was uncomfortable listening to the song, because I felt TLC called me out. I disliked my hair because it wasn’t long and straight. I have spent the majority of my life hating my hair. I even pleaded to the Lord various times, begging him to keep my fresh perm and edges intact. But weeks later, my anxiety would kick in and I would be back to straightening my hair twice a day, futilely trying to keep my curls at bay.
To put it plainly, I struggled with seeing the beauty in my hair’s kinks and coils. I didn’t like the fact that my hair had assumed a mind of its own – a mind that did not fit in with the Western World’s standard of beauty…and consequently my own. My hair’s reluctance to conform to the Western world’s view of beauty left me emotionally drained and with low self-esteem.
I grew up with the notion that long and straight was the ultimate hair goal as a black woman. The western media showed that the straighter your hair was, the more beautiful you were and I strongly believed this. There wasn’t a solid representation of afro-centric women on TV; seeing these images of this type of hair fueled my unhealthy obsession.
Unveiling True Beauty
So I put so much blood, sweat and tears into creating hairstyles with various extensions. Even these hairstyles were a problem in itself for me, because it came with a hierarchy. If I had braids or a weave, I’d worry about the length, quality, and texture; this all contributed to my rank amongst the hair community, but the insecurity I felt was prevalent in any hairstyle I chose because I never loved my natural hair.
After years of cultivating an unhealthy view of beauty, I had convinced myself that verse 14 of Psalms 139 — I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well — applied to everything, but my hair. My stubbornness to see and honor God’s view of my hair and beauty as a whole really placed a wedge between my hair and I. We really hated each other. It was a sincere struggle for us to co-exist. I’ve cried countless times over it, hoping the Lord would just take me out of my misery and grant me Rapunzel’s locks. I needed to be reminded that what God says about beauty applies to everything, from my hair down to my toes , I was only fooling myself. This isn’t how the Lord saw me.
The Big Chop
Upon this realization, I repented by earnestly praying to God and asking him to forgive me this sinful mindset. I had to place my faith solely in how he viewed me. The next day I went to the hair salon and cut it all off; I had to rid myself of this idol. But the arrival of Sunday posed a new challenge. I had to face my church family with my new do and they’ve never seen me with so short of hair. Many thoughts plagued my mind; the most prevalent one was that I made a mistake. I was feeling anxious, nervous, and scared but somehow I made into the car and went to church.
As soon as I arrived, I wanted to hide. I kept my head low and took a seat in the middle section. Even during the sermon, my eyes were glued to my bible in an attempt to not draw attention to myself. I hoped for a getaway car or a scarf, but I wasn’t that crafty and had nothing to shield my hair. All I had was the washroom so I hid in there for a few minutes like a coward and came out because the service was ending. I was shocked at my own fear because I knew deep down my church family would always embrace me with love, which they did. I wanted to stay hidden, but the Lord forced me out of my insecurity for a reason.
Everyday isn’t easy; I’d be lying if I said I woke up feeling beautiful with my natural hair everyday. For the first few months after my haircut, I always wore lipstick as a comfort because I wanted to appear more feminine. One occasion at work, I was mistaken for a boy from afar, which left me heartbroken that day. I still felt a tad insecure. Even now, I struggle with envy of other women’s natural growth and I have to remind myself again of Psalms 139:14. But it is amazing that now I can laugh at those moments. I thank God for, slowly but surely, sanctifying my heart on my view of beauty and my hair.