For Black women, hair is major. Songs have been written, documentaries have been made, and even laws continue to be enacted that impact the relationship we have with our hair. To say that it spurs worldwide conversation is an understatement.
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended and changed the way we care for our hair. Since salons and beauty supply stores remain closed in several states (though many are in the process of re-opening), Black women have had to get creative. With the help of YouTube tutorials and TikTok videos, women are learning how to execute the styles they may have previously gone to a professional for. Box braids, sew-ins, and twists have been the go-to looks for some women under lockdown, while others have chosen to accomplish the one thing that they’ve always wanted to do: go natural.
Though stay-at-home orders have inspired many Black women to try new styles, colors, and products, it has come with some challenges. Caring for natural hair on your own can be a time-consuming task. And with the recent prevalence of video calls, some feel like they have to look "presentable" on screen, which impacts the hairstyles they choose in the first place. For some, the specter of respectability politics has moved from the workplace to the home — but that is not stopping women from experimenting with new looks and embracing their full selves.
ALLURE: Before stay-at-home orders, did you get your hair done professionally? If so, how often and what was your go-to style?
WANNA THOMPSON: Before the stay-at-home orders, I rarely got my hair done professionally because I’ve learned how to do it myself. Thanks to my mom, aunties, and YouTube University, braiding, twisting, and even making my own wigs came very natural to me. As for my go-to style, I love a good curly, middle-part wig and box braids.
ALLURE: What was your relationship with your hair like pre-COVID? Did you enjoy or hate the process of doing your own hair?
WT: I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with my hair. I love my hair. I love my 4C texture, I love the thickness of it all but I hate the maintenance and the money that comes with it. I think a lot of women with 4C hair could attest to this. However, on a whim, I cut all of my hair off in May — yes all of it — in an attempt to see how healthy I can grow it again. I’m no stranger to big chops and I like the concept of starting fresh and reconnecting with my hair in a way. I feel refreshed and my spirit feels new during this difficult time. It’s almost like a weight has been lifted. So, do I still intend on wearing wigs? Yes, but the goal is to grow healthier hair in the process.
ALLURE: What has been your everyday style during the stay-at-home order?
WT: Throughout [the stay-at-home order], I’ve had numerous styles. I like to change my hair every two to three weeks. First I had a curly lace-frontal unit, next I did some locs, then I did some box braids, then I got bored and ordered a curly half-wig and.
ALLURE: Do you have to be on video calls for work/school? If so, do you feel pressure to look "presentable" on-screen?
WT: In the beginning, I had to appear on numerous Zoom calls and I never felt pressured to look "presentable." They would get whatever I present and they would have to deal, whether that be super-long box braids to my butt or a headwrap.
ALLURE: What do you most enjoy about doing your own hair? Do you feel more connected to your Blackness?
WT: I think when you do your hair yourself, you feel more empowered. Knowing that you actually took the time to learn and execute any style on your own hair makes you feel good. Especially when it comes out looking exactly like the tutorial. And in regards to feeling more connected to my Blackness, whether I have some twists in, a lace-frontal unit, or box braids, I always feel connected.
ALLURE: What’s the first style you want to get once this is over?
WT: Whew. I really can’t answer this because I want them all. But if I had to choose, I’ve been meaning to play around with more color, burgundy to be exact. Something with that hue will be my next style.
ALLURE: What have you learned about your hair during this time?
WT: Stock up on all items. Including braiding hair, grease, gel, combs, edge control, elastic bands, just about anything. The pandemic left me having to wait for egregious shipping times and I didn’t like that at all. Every Black woman should have a mini beauty supply in her linen closet.