My moment of gloriously unapologetic blackness came, surprisingly enough, when I was living in China. Relaxing my hair every six weeks had been the standard from the time I was 8 years old — when I was told a relaxer would make my hair easier to comb — until January 2008.
I stood in my bathroom, latex-gloved hands frantically trying to apply the creamy crack to my roots before it started to feel like someone was scraping my scalp with a hot poker. I finished (never quickly enough, though), washed my hair with the neutralizing shampoo, regular shampoo and hit with a good conditioner. Then it hit me. I still had to blowdry, flatiron and curl my hair. And the style would only last until halfway through my first show the next day because my costume headdress was a total sweatbox.
What an abysmal return on investment. So I chucked the relaxer and kept my hair braided. Six months later, I finally committed.
I had a friend and co-worker of mine chop my relaxed hair off. I was left with 3.5 inches of thick, curly hair that I hadn’t seen since I was 8 years old.
“Do you like it?” He asked proudly.
I looked at my comparatively bald head and awkwardly both nodded and shook my head before squeaking out a “yeah.” The first two weeks or so after I went natural were uncomfortable. I’d look in the mirror and see a near stranger with a face bereft of the curtain of hair to hide behind. I finally came out of mourning for my lost length when I realized how amazing my real hair was. No more fear of sudden rainstorms. Post-show I could dry my sweaty hair and just re-fluff it. I taught myself to make hair oils and how to do two-strand twists, comb coils, faux-hawks. I tricked out my ’fro with cute hair accessories.
My moment of triumphant, magical black girl glory came in the middle of a performance of a musical. I took the stage, beautifully tanned from the Hong Kong summer sun, my unruly twist-out adorned with a sequined headband made just for me by the costume department. I looked out over a sea of transfixed faces, not one looking anything like me. My heart swelled and I felt it.
Damn it was fabulous being black.
Brittany Williams is an actress, writer and social media consultant. She was the principal vocalist at Hong Kong Disneyland for one year and aspires to someday win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony.