My hair jour­ney

Celebs write love letters to their glo­ri­ous manes.



“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.”


“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...”


“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.’”


“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.”


“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.”

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