My hair journey
Celebs write love letters to their glorious manes.
ZENANDE MFENYANA DREADLOCK QUEEN
“Dear Zinwele Zam’, where do I even begin? It’s been such a long stretch of road with you. I’m getting emotional as I write this letter. Let’s go back to ’98 when the debut album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, came out. I went wild with excitement, and emulated everything Lauryn did, including her hairstyle. At the time, my late brother Yongama and I had been toying with the idea of rocking dreadlocks. He thought they’d really suit me. I agreed with him. He started with his hair. The dreads were those homemade ones that are twisted with the green Sunlight bar and a wet towel. I followed suit.
By the way, I did everything my brother did. I treated him like an icon. So, my dear lovely hair, that’s when you were conceived. But I was hurt as I couldn’t keep locks for too long. We weren’t allowed to have dreads at school. So, I had to lay you to rest. But when Yongama died, I had to find a way to keep his memory alive. I resurrected you to help me feel closer to him. Against all odds at school, like being sent to the principal’s office, I insisted on keeping you. I told the teachers that you, my hair, are stubborn and it was better if I kept you dreaded because you were more manageable that way.
“They were having none of it – they told me to comb you out because you looked untidy. I never did. I pushed my own hair revolution and refused to get rid of you. You weren’t untidy and you didn’t touch my shirt collar, so I didn’t understand what the problem was. I kept you right up to grade 12. As soon as I matriculated, we went to Jozi with the family, and the first place I asked my dad to take me to was Jabu Stone’s salon on Small Street in town. I wanted to bring you to life properly and start afresh.
At varsity you were terribly short. I could barely do anything fancy with you. I had to just wash and keep you neat. You took over a year to lock. The day you finally locked, I felt victorious. In my third year, I decided to double twist you because you started to thin. It was a great decision because from then on, you grew to be thick and strong.
For my first job as a professional actress, I acted in a children’s play, Rapunzel. The director adapted the stage play for a black girl. Because I had dreadlocks, they had a long black dread hanging from Rapunzel’s tower, instead of a blonde lock of hair. I later landed a role in an Afrikaans musical film, Liefling. The producers wanted me to cut you and put in a weave. I refused. I plaited you down and they sewed the weave on top of you. When the movie wrapped, I was overjoyed because I couldn’t wait to see you again. We’ve tried so many products over the years, but now you only love olive oil and water. I’m sorry I didn’t discover this sooner. From Generations to The Queen, you’ve been the one thing people identify me with. Even though you annoy me when it’s hot, I’d never dream of cutting you. I hope we grow old and grey together because I’d be lost without you.”
DINEO RANAKA BETTER MANE HABITS
“My Dear Natural Hair. Where do I even start? I feel like I have so much to apologise to you for. I’ve neglected you on so many occasions, and for that I’m really sorry. I could have taken better care of you over the years. I could have been more gentle with you and proud of you. Instead, I’ve hidden you under wigs and weaves, and left you thirsty for my love and attention. I hope you can forgive me now that I’m older and wiser. I hope you can trust me when I say that I will do everything in my power to nourish new life into you. It’s the very least I can do based on how I’ve treated you all these years.
I would like us to start anew – turn a new leaf and look to the future. I hope you can forgive me and allow me to love you one more time. Please allow me the time to show you love and appreciation with every wash. Allow me to spoil you with treatments, scalp basings and good, harmless products without any nasty ingredients that aren’t good for you. Allow me to find the best there is, so you can know what love feels like. I know it will take a while for you to trust me again, but I am willing to be patient and put in the work. I want so badly to show you off!
You are my crown. I owe it to you to look after you and appreciate you because without you, I am incomplete. I love you so and need you so deeply.”
“I am a beautiful woman with or without you in my life. So, I shaved you off...”
MPHO MABOI WIG WHIZZ
“My Supposed Crowning Glory. Oh, what a journey you and I have had over the past 37 years. I remember getting our first perm when I was 10 because my aunt had just qualified as a hair technician and wanted to practise on us. At age 17, we went very short and loved it. At age 23, we decided it was time to get into the dreadlock way of life. What a commitment that was! No one told me that you would be so much work. The constant salon visits were a strain, but you and I had great fun for almost a decade.
Then boom! As soon as I discovered I was pregnant, you decided you wanted to leave me. I was diagnosed with alopecia, which I inherited genetically from my mother. I must admit that deciding to either go through the extensive and painful treatment process or to let you go was not as difficult a decision to make as I initially thought it would be.
Maybe I had made peace at some point with the fact that you are indeed not my crowning glory. I am a beautiful woman with or without you in my life. So, I shaved you off…
Now I get to play around with amazing styles as we wig our way through life. Although I would still love to muster up the courage to head out in public without a wig, the time hasn’t come. I appreciate wigs because of the freedom to change looks.
One day, I will be boldly bald and start a whole new chapter in my relationship with you, my hair. India Arie was right when she said: ‘I am not my hair.’”
PHUMEZA MDABE TEXTURE PRINCESS
“Oh, my beautiful Afro. Growing up, I never understood what it meant to have you; that as a woman, you are my crown. Many women looked to you with pride in their eyes, but I took you for granted. I guess that’s because I’ve never struggled to keep you or never had to exist without you. So, in turn, I didn’t appreciate you. I couldn’t stand taking care of you in your natural state, so my mom decided it was best to get you relaxed. This way, she thought, it would be easier to ‘maintain’ you.
For the longest time, I thought things were good that way because the trend those days was long, silky, straight hair. Everybody had it. If you didn’t have hair that was long enough to tie iphondo, then you were not in fashion.
But boy, was I wrong. I grew up and realised that just because the world worked a certain way, didn’t mean I had to conform or look like everybody else. I remembered how you were in your original state and I yearned to have you back to the natural, beautiful and sacred you.
But to get the real you back, I had to get rid of the relaxed, silky you – all of you. So I did just that. I had to shave you off. All those long and silky strands fell to the floor, and I looked brand new. It was the best decision I ever made! That marked the beginning of something new – a clean slate for you and I to start all over and have a better relationship.
Today I’m uniquely me because of you, and I thank and appreciate you for that. Warm regards, Phumeza.”
“Today I’m uniquely me because of you, and I thank and appreciate you for that.”
NOMUZI MABENA CHANGING FACES
“Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve ever really spoken like this. Mom and Sebastian, my sister, always had such long, beautiful hair and I guess I sort of took you for granted. I remember how the girls would pull and pat you as I walked into the school gate, wondering if I even owned a comb or knew what moisturiser is. Nonetheless, you stayed with me – from the pomet helmet I insisted on styling you into, to the crazy beehive I would tease you into, and even the braids in your final days.
I remember how you hit the ground when I shaved you off. I put on a brave face, but on the inside, I knew I’d miss you. But the older I grew, the more I fell in love with the low-maintenance bald choice. My beauty had no choice but to announce itself to the world. No matter where I went, I stood out. The money I was saving also made the move to Joburg a lot easier, and for that, I need to thank you. Good looking out, for real!
I know I haven’t always taken the best care of you but the older I get, the more I appreciate you.
I am changing and so are you. You’re getting introduced to a whole new world filled with shoots, red carpets and ultimate slayage, and let me tell you, you’re killing it! You’re a trendsetter and an absolute star. I can’t wait to see how far (and long) we can take it.”