Growing up, I consistently acquainted like my beard wasn’t article I could discuss. I went to a predominately white Lutheran elementary academy where, if you showed up one day with coiled beard because it was aqueous outside, you’d get fabricated fun of. While my white accompany could do their beard to get compliments, aggregate I did was to abate animosity of otherness. Cutting curlers—and the affliction of aggravating to get my beard “presentable”—was alone a agency to fit in. You’d do aggregate aloof to not get a comment.
That anathema persisted for years. But, of course, I wasn’t the alone one who acquainted that way. I bethink aback Chris Rock’s blur Acceptable Beard came out in 2009, and it was such a adumbration to so abounding bodies because it was like, here’s what’s activity on in the Black community, and you’re absolutely blind of what a big affair beard is for Black women. Alike still, at that time you would never allocution about your beard or your issues with your beard with white friends.
As a producer, writer, and showrunner, I’ve approved to accompany those discussions to light. Early in my career, I formed on a appearance alleged Any Day Now, which was about accord amid a Black woman and a white woman who’d been accompany aback childhood. We covered a lot of chase issues, and one of the episodes I wrote was about a adolescent babe accepting her beard relaxed. Her white acquaintance aloof didn’t accept why it was such a big deal. She pushes her into a pool, which is a big no-no. It absolutely explored what it’s like to accept Black beard in white America. And how it’s article white bodies absolutely don’t understand, because they’re aloof not accustomed with it.
Before the big chop
Working on Self-Made was absolutely one of the few times in my able career aback I acquainted like I was in an ambiance area I could be—and area I capital to be—completely open, honest, and chargeless about what my beard was. But the funny affair is I was still accepting my beard Brazilian-ed and absolute a adumbration I alleged Beyoncé blond. Don’t get me wrong, it was a absolutely admirable hairstyle. But it was time-consuming. I’d bike to assignment to get a conditioning in, again I’d accept to wet my hair, dry it, and use a crimper adamant to appearance it, so I could get “pulled together.” It was 40 account of assignment in the bath afore my absolute assignment would alike begin.
I’d go from that to sitting bottomward in a allowance with added Black women, area we’d altercate Madam C.J. Walker, this adorableness mogul who was aggravating to actualize beard articles for Black women that would acquiesce them to assignment in white spaces. All these discussions acutely got me cerebration about my own hair. I was activity like, What am I doing? Why am I still assiduity this angle that my beard has to be straight? I was in an ambiance area I was amidst by added women who were natural. I was one of the co-showrunners. I was in charge! And still I was spending so abundant time aggravating to accomplish my beard attending “a assertive way” because that’s the way I’d consistently done it.
So I absitively that I was activity to chop my beard off. I was activity to get rid of the Brazilian and cut it bottomward to the new growth. And it was incredible. Suddenly I acquainted like I had all this time. I didn’t accept to anguish about administration my hair.
Letting my accustomed beard appear through was absolutely both liberating and illuminating, but it was additionally difficult. As abundant as it was easier in the concrete faculty of accepting accessible anniversary morning, mentally I still had to get over that barrier of activity like it wasn’t as “attractive.” I admired active my fingers through my beard and activity my arrangement for what it absolutely was, but again I’d attending in the mirror and accept this abstract of what I was so acclimated to seeing. I had to accustom myself with my accustomed beard and accommodate that this is what my beard was declared to attending like: It’s admirable and it feels great. It absolutely was a cerebral journey—as abundant as it was a concrete one—to get aback to a abode of actuality adequate with who I artlessly was.
That was over a year ago, and now, actuality in apprehension during the pandemic, I’m activity alike added into that journey. I haven’t absolute my beard or gotten my beard cut in months. To accumulate myself from bottomward too far into cutting pajamas on Zoom every day, I’ve been giving myself the assignment of cutting aggregate in my wardrobe—ball gowns, suits, all the being I’ve never worn, aloof so I can get dressed every day. And again I column it on Instagram, with my agrarian beard and all.
Right now, anticipation by the gray, I’ve got about a acceptable six inches of new growth, and it’s absolutely coiled in places. But, honestly, I’m affectionate of adequate it alike more. It’s nice to see my beard in its absolutely accustomed accompaniment with no blush in it. It’s aloof this crazy, wild, aigrette of curls and frizz, and I’m admiring it.
Elle Johnson is the controlling ambassador and co-showrunner for Self Made: Inspired by the Life of Madam C.J. Walker, now alive on Netflix.
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