“I don’t know what to do with your hair.”
This is a phrase that many black girls may have heard or felt growing up. Mothers and fathers have tried their best to figure out how to do their child’s hair but failed due to a lack of knowledge of how to care for black hair. Andrea Walinjom is no stranger to this. Because she didn’t know how to do her natural hair, from a young age Walinjom started damaging it.
In the third grade, she started hot combing. During ballet season, she would have to have her hair slicked down with gel and various products. Doing all of this only damaged her hair and made her that much more confused about it. On top of this, her family members weren’t the most encouraging about her hair. They would constantly comment on the state of her hair. “Whenever I’d go see my family, they’d be like oh your hair is really tough. It’s really coarse and stuff. Whenever they’d be helping me take down my braids, I was just like you know i don’t have good hair so I’m not gonna wear it out,” Walinjom said.
By internalizing these feelings, being confused about it and after getting a perm behind her mom’s back resulting in a big chop, it all made her not want to show her hair. For as long as she can remember she would constantly have her hair braided up or not showing in its natural state. No one would see it for a while and even her friends would notice that. “It was just kinda of like a funny thing for me at the time but looking back at it now, it would really- it genuinely would stress me out. I really wouldn’t allow other people to see my hair just because it also ties into the good hair thing. Where I just didn’t consider my hair as good hair because it was so hard to manage,” said Walinjom
But not showing her hair, perming it and braiding it could only go on for so long. Eventually it would get quite expensive to constantly be getting her hair done every few months. Even her mom saw how much of a hassle doing these things to her hair was becoming. During her freshman year her mom mentioned the idea for Walinjom to go natural. She used examples like Lupita to show Walinjom that being natural is beautiful. So that catalyzed Walinjom to transition her hair. But her mom throughout her high school times was not the only person in her ear about having her natural hair out.
Walinjom’s best friend, who happens to be white, was an advocate and supporter of her to rock her natural hair. She was also like girl why don’t you wear your natural hair out? Like why don’t you do that too? She was also another one in my ear just like why don’t you do it. It’s just hair. She was like if I can walk out with my hair dripping wet you, should be able to wear your curls out,” said Walinjom
Having all of this support further helped Walinjom want to make that decision to be natural. There was this one time that she did wear her natural hair out in high school. After taking her braids out and realizing that her hair needed a break before putting it into new braids, she wore her hair out. And people were supportive. “All the positive feedback, it I don’t know, it boosted me [up]. I was just like oh shit, I really can. I don’t know why I was ashamed of my natural hair in the first place,” Walinjom said.
Walinjom has had quite the journey with her hair but now she’s comfortable with it being out and about. “I’m very open with my natural hair now because I’m also embracing it myself. My relationship now with my hair it’s healthy. My hair is healthy, my relationship with my hair is healthy.”
Walinjom was a ballerina when she was younger. She would have to slick down her hair with gels and other products to capture a more "formal" ballet look. But the products used in her hair just continued to damage it. (Misty Copeland/Instagram)