Q: You are an amazing photographer. How did you get your start in that profession?
A: Aww..thank you for that compliment! When I was in grade 6 we had a guest speaker come to our class to talk about his profession; he was a photographer. I was excited because although I had not owned a camera at this time I had seen the magic of Polaroid and other instant film cameras and wanted to know more about that entire process. He brought enough cameras so each of us would have our own; once he showed us what to do and how to handle the camera we all went outside to photograph whatever we wanted. After we shot our 12 exposure 35mm film we labeled it with our name, the photographer gathered all the rolls up and told us he would be back in a few days to show us what we had captured on film. Once I saw my images I immediately knew I wanted to be a photographer. If you would have asked me what I wanted to be before that experience I would not have been able to answer you but after that experience if you would have asked me that same question I would have smiled and said without hesitation "a photographer". Unfortunately, as I grew up I encountered some negative comments about my choice in wanting to be a photographer. I was told multiple times, "photography is a hobby not a career and how many black folks do you know who's a photographer?" hmmmm… family can influence you in ways you may not even be aware of.
I went on to become a Nurse but my camera was always near and every opportunity I had to use it I did. The love of photography never left my soul. Once I became an adult, meet and married my military husband, had a child of my own, traveled to multiple states and a foreign country, while befriending other photo and art enthusiasts I finally felt like I was encouraged to do what I truly loved. I felt like all those avenues provided a positive vibe for me to step out on faith to do what makes me happy. Needless to say, I'm one happy camper today because I'm doing what I love.
Q: What is your hair story? What kind of hair styles have you rocked, before embracing your natural hair?
A: My hair story??..wow, how much time do we have?..lol..I have many but I'll only share two.
Late last year around December I was standing in line at the grocery store when I could see a young black male staring at me. With a slight smile, I turned to look at him and when I did he says to me in his island accent, "why you do that to yourself?" (looking at my hair) I looked puzzled, kind of confused. He says to me while he chuckles, "I'm scared of women with hair like that." Now I'm starting to get what he's trying to say and I say to him with a smile on my face, "hmm really? Because I'm scared of men with island accents" That shut him up real quick and he went on his merry way. Now, I'm not really scared of men with island accents. I just wanted him to see how ridiculous that sounded.
I got married August 1995 and I NEEDED A PERM BADLY. My last perm was around March 1995. During that year I had told a few people my plan to go natural and I would no longer be getting perms. Needless to say, they were not supportive at all. They laughed and said, "You’ll get a perm! When that stuff get nappy enough you'll do something" . I was not laughing. I knew then I would prove them all wrong. On my wedding day I gelled my hair back with lots of styling gel and covered it with my Veil. Months would pass and still not a lot of support from those who knew me. The negative comments kept coming such as, "You look like buckwheat, when are you gonna do something with that mess". It had gotten to the point where I would not discuss my hair with anyone who could not support me. I had a plan. I knew what I was doing.
What I found most hurtful was the fact that all the negativity was coming from my very own people...AFRICAN-AMERICANS! I would get plenty of comments from non-blacks both males and females but very little from those with the same skin color as me. It's sad that others could see the beauty in me but those closest to me in my own community could not.
I love my hair and if I had to repeat that same journey I would do everything the exact same way.
Before going natural I rocked a few styles such as braid extensions & beads, press & curls, a bob wig, box braids, finger waves, jheri curls, afro puff ponytail (w/drawstring/comb attachment), sewn in hair weaves and of course PERMS!! Ugh!! The perms were the final nails in the coffin that made me say bye-bye straight hair.
Q: When and why did you decide to start wearing your hair naturally?
A: I originally knew I wanted to wear my hair naturally when I first laid eyes on Caryn Elaine Johnson AKA Whoopi Goldberg in the 80's. I know she isn't what a lot of people would call beautiful but I thought she was as well as the coolest thing ever! A black woman, with long thick rope like natural hair who's funny, seen on television, stage and movies. She appears to have been accepted by all regardless of her look. I felt her look was telling the world, "Hey this is me .. love it or hate it" and I loved it!! BUT once again I was influenced by family. I was told Whoopi wasn't pretty and they hated her hair. I didn't want them to think that about me so again, I let years pass without making the move to go natural. It would be the mid-1990's and seeing singer Lauryn Hill of the Fugee's before the thought of going natural would surface again. Lauryn Hill and I were close in age. She was beautiful and rocked natural styles in ways I had not seen before. I knew then I was going to go natural. That was the push I needed.I researched everything regarding natural hair. After growing 10 inches of natural hair I went to a Loctician while living in Orlando, Fl. and started my loc journey. I've been loving my loc's for 9 years now; it's been one of the BEST decisions I've ever made. I've always loved the look of loc’s. I never felt like I was being true to myself when I wore other styles. I thought I was trying to be something that I wasn't. I feel so free now. It's a life altering journey. I'm happy now!
Q: Did you have any big fears about going back to your natural texture?
A: Oh yes! I feared the negative comments from those closest to me such as family & friends. I had to remind myself often that I was an adult now. I couldn't and shouldn't be influenced by my family. The only person that has to be happy with my appearance was ME. I'm only given this one life and darn it I was gonna be happy and live my life. If you didn't like it then you're the one with the problem, not me.
I'm a good person and if I could not be true to myself how could I raise my son to be true to himself and to be the best person he can be. My son is 10 yrs. old and he wore an afro and braids until last year when HE decided he was ready for a haircut. He and I talked and he's aware that natural hair is a crown of glory that signifies pride and acceptance in who you are. It took me years to get that, he's just 10 and already has it. I'm proud of him. Ps.. those who were slinging the negative comments before have nothing but praise for me today. Victory is sweet!
Q: What are three products you can't live without for nurturing/styling your hair?
A: First, as a pre-wash I use Sea Breeze astringent on my scalp. Secondly, Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps to wash my hair. Currently I'm using the Almond pure-castile but they also come in other varieties such as tea-tree, lavender, etc. I've tried them all and love them all. Lastly, OILS, OILS, OILS!! lol.. I mix my own concoctions together in a spray bottle. The oils I love mostly are rosemary, almond, olive, carrot, coconut and jojoba oil. I usually pick 3 and mix them together. Rosemary has a very loud smell so I mix that one with a sweeter smelling oil such as lavender.
Q: What would you say to someone who's thinking about embracing their natural hair, but scared about
being rejected in various parts of their lives?
A: What would I say!?... hellooooo! I'd say DO IT!!! I'd shout it from the mountain tops...lol.. no but really, I'd highly encourage them to do the research, prepare yourself for some negative comments, be strong!! Listen to your inner voice because in the end you're the one who has to be happy. Eventually everyone else will come around if they aren't already there. Make sure you go to a licensed loctician to have them start and maintain your locs in the beginning. They can help educate and guide you through the wonderful world of all things natural. I don't make many promises but I can promise you this, going natural will be the best decision you will ever make! Not only will your hair go through a transformation but your soul will too.
Q: How can we keep up with you and your journey i.e. blog, twitter, facebook, fotki, tumblr, personal
or professional website? (Optional)
A: I'd love to follow and hear some of yalls (sorry I'm from the south..lol) own hair stories. I'm on facebook if you'd like to pop in to say HI! I have a personal facebook page as well as a fan page for my photography (Latrenia Bryant Photography) stop by there and LIKE my page. I have a website at http://www.lbryantphotography.com/ and from there you can also get to my blog. I must warn you.. I'm a bad blogger...lol...I don't post as much as I should but that's going to change. I will be posting some new stuff soon. Also, I'm going to do a special blog dedicated to my hair journey. I'm without a scanner right now but once I get one I will be scanning images of me before the locs and during the transitioning stage. I think It might help a lot of those who's still struggling with the decision to step out on faith and go Au Natural :-)
Twitter?...hmmm... I'm thinking I might get into that before the year is over... I'll take my own advice and step out on faith :-).