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"I’m still on this journey." Uju Onochie

Uju Onochie went to a predominantly white school for part of her childhood and she hated it. Being one of the few black kids in class, she remembered seeing the white girls’ hair and she’d play with it. Thoughts of “why can’t my hair be like this?” would circle her head as her fingers brushed through the girls’ hair.

The natural hair journey is like a rite of passage for many black women. Some people are all about it, embracing everything from the tiny afro stage to as some would call the devil- shrinkage. The natural hair journey is also personal, as others may need more time to embrace the process.

Onochie grew up having her hair relaxed constantly. This would cause her hair to appear straight, which was her desired look at the time, despite how much it would damage her hair.

In Onochie’s case, the damage transcended past the physical. What was more damaging than her hair being chemically altered, was the emotional turmoil it caused. It was her view of her hair, that took the worst toll.

“Like before when I was younger I really-I hated it so much,” Onochie said. “And whenever my mom did my hair she’d like bring out a magazine and she’d be like choose what hairstyle and it was all white ladies.”

Onochie grew up with the mentality that straight hair equated to beautiful hair. She would go to school with people who had predominantly straight hair. American media would feed her the idea that any other hair but straight hair wasn’t beautiful. So she couldn’t help but internalize the fact that her hair wasn’t beautiful.

“I mean you come from a lineage where you are told you can’t do your own protective styles, you have to relax your hair to look white. You know? It’s just kinda ingrained in your head sometimes,” said Onochie.

Though for awhile Onochie believed having straight hair was the prettiest style, she eventually made the decision to be natural in her freshman year of college. The outcome was a total surprise to her when she saw her hair for the first time.

For Onochie, she had to get used to something that was completely new to her. At first she wasn’t the most confident having her hair out. It was new. It was awkward. It was different. “When I first came on campus I had a sew in and then I was really scared to bring out my hair,” said Onochie. “My curls are just not considered the best curls for some reason.”

Though Onochie is still on the journey of fully accepting her hair, she does love it. She loves how versatile it is and how she can switch it up. She loves how she can braid it, twist it, or wear wigs.

Onochie’s journey is still very much in progress, with at times her struggling to 100 percent love her hair. Like with anything else in life, it takes time and that’s what Onochie needs. Despite any difficulty that may come, Onochie is 100 percent sure of one thing-she would “never ever ever ever” go back to relaxers.

Though this isn't the specific magazine that Uju's mom would show her, it does represent how media has been for awhile. Featuring eurocentric looking women, with straight hair as the idea of beauty.

Q: WHAT WOULD YOU TELL YOUR YOUNGER SELF ABOUT YOUR HAIR?

A: You should have just cut it off. Yea uh huh, you should have just started in 10th grade so you’d see real growth by now.
"Don’t let your hair become you. Be the person wearing the hair."- UJU ONOCHIE
Created By
Cynthia Ntinunu
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Credits:

Cynthia Ntinunu

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