Natural Hair Journey: Ashley’s Story

Natural Hair Journey DevaCurl

“Ask a curly girl about her hair, and she’ll tell you about her life.”

That’s the DevaCurl mantra and mission. And every so often you hear a curly girl’s story that’s so emotionally breathtaking, it just has to be shared.

Enter Ashley.

You might recognize her from our recent Buildup Buster campaign. We partnered with the cardio dance studio, 305 Fitness, to help us release Buildup Buster because we wanted to work with amazing ladies who could really bring the bounce. We got a lot more than we bargained for.

On top of amazing energy and a killer campaign, we found Ashley, who during the project shared her story with us.

I grew up in Western Pennsylvania, in the middle of nowhere. I joke, though it’s probably true, that there were more cows than people. It was the definition of white suburbia.

My family was the only black one. Well, my mom was white, my dad was black.

I grew up surrounded by white people. And even though my skin tone shows that I’m clearly not white, I felt that my curly hair really showed my blackness, and that was huge for me. My curly hair was a part of my black identity.

When I was a kid, I always wore my hair curly, usually up. My mom would tie my hair into trios of pigtails, buns, or my favorite – the fountain, meaning we would put all my hair up in a ponytail, but it was stacked with 3-scrunchies. As a child of the 90’s this was truly amazing).

But maintaining my curls day-to-day was a struggle. My mom had straight hair, so she didn’t know how to care for my texture.

Most of my childhood was spent with my mom struggling to detangle my hair. She would spend hours trying to detangle it. And she tried everything – boxed relaxers, blue hair grease, hot oil treatments. And it was just awful. Every time I would scream in pain the whole way through, I was screaming to the point where I just wanted to throw up.

As I got older and started “taking care of my own hair” I just avoided the detangling process altogether. I was, and still am, so tender headed and the experience was scarring. I just thought to myself: This hurts so badly, I’m never going to do it.

It hit the point where I had knots, which weren’t even knots at that point, but rather clumps of hair—basically dreads—the size of my fist. I would put box relaxers on them to try and soften them. But eventually, I’d just give up, and cut them out.

I snipped out large chunks of curls and continued to do this through my early 20’s.

But still, I would never dream of permanently straightening hair. Keeping my curls felt like keeping a part of my identity.

I moved to New York, and right around that time started a relationship. My boyfriend wasn’t a fan of my hair. And at one point just lost it, he couldn’t deal with the state of my curls, and literally said, “I’m sick of your hair.”

He arranged and paid for a visit to a Dominican Salon, where they relaxed it.

I looked beautiful, like a Barbie doll, and then I completely lost it. I started balling because I thought the relaxer was permanent.

It rinsed out.

Eventually a girlfriend recommended that I see a stylist named Mike. She told me that he worked at a salon, where there were rose petals going down the stairs. She sold me on the idea of this boutique, hole-in-the-wall salon that was more than I could have imagined—it was Devachan.

I scheduled a consultation with Mike, who touched my hair, fist-sized clumps and all. He looked at me, and said I can comb it out, right now, but it’s going to take some time.

I sent my boyfriend home and we started the process. I was so sensitive, and while he was so delicate and gentle, I cried the whole time.

We were the last two people in the salon that day, the entire process took around four hours.

But Mike taught me so much that night – how much conditioner to use, how to deep condition, and he told me to throw out my comb. He also gave me a short and spunky cut.

For the first time, I could put my hands through my hair and it felt easy.

I remember feeling this immense relief.

But when I look back on it, all I can think about is how exciting it was.

Everyone around me had always wanted me to rock my curls, and for the first time, I could do it.

Learning how to care for my hair, allowed me to show everyone else that piece of my identity.

I vowed to never end up with tangled clumps again.

Ironically, years later, I got the opportunity to be a part of the Buildup Buster shoot with DevaCurl.

Looking at the campaign photos, it was so evident that I was happy. I was amazed at how beautiful my hair looked.

The entire experience shifted the way I thought about myself. It let me physically be the person I always saw myself as in my head. I was the person who I wanted to be out in the world.

I felt beautiful, and to feel beautiful is tremendous. It is a priceless feeling.

At home, I’m still struggling to get my hair exactly where I want it to be. I’m a perfectionist. But what I’ve realized is that it’s a process, always.

And if anyone is struggling the way I was, I want them to know that they can take care of their curls.

The answer isn’t to get rid of them. You don’t have to straighten your hair.

There are people who know how to care for curls, who will teach you, and it’s not as impossible as you’re making it out in your head.

It is okay to struggle, and to go through a process. That is what life is.

I don’t regret not getting a relaxer as a kid.

It’s okay that my mom made me cry. And that it hurt to comb my hair. And that I chopped the hell out of my hair. Because I learned so much, I still am learning, from that process.

And that process might take my entire life, but within that process are these moments of true bliss.

Did you struggle with learning to care for your curls like Ashley? Share your story with us in the comments below.