Black women look at their hair as a symbol of who they are—strong, confident and beautiful. For some, it takes a while before accepting your hair. This is because society tries to throw so many “perfect curl and texture types” in our faces. Dana Oliver, Beauty Director at Yahoo Lifestyle, has been natural for 18 years and confidently rocks her look. While it may seem like she probably had the hang of things for all of these years, Dana, too, had her share of struggles with her hair.
Read on as Dana gives us a peek into her journey with natural hair. Learn how becoming a mom changed the way she styles her hair:
Dana Oliver on Her Natural Hair
All Things Hair: Did a significant life experience play a role in the way you choose to wear your hair?
Dana Oliver: From braided Bantu knots to micro braids, I had fun experimenting with my hair. But it wasn’t until I enrolled at Temple University that I fully embraced my hair in its natural state. In Philly, I found a salon with stylists who taught me how to care for and style my curls. I started fresh (many times) by cutting my hair into short tapered cuts and wearing hand-rolled coils. It was refreshing not to feel tied to maintaining a certain “length” based on unrealistic beauty standards.
Attending college where I was surrounded by Black women and men who proudly rocked their natural hair also instilled me with confidence to love myself fully. And now that I am one of few Black women in my corporate setting, I am even more motivated to show up and out at work with my Afro.
Have you experienced any struggle with your hair throughout your journey? How did you overcome?
When I was about 10 years old, my grandmother cut my long, braided hair into an extremely short ‘fro. I couldn’t stand the sound of scissors behind my head for years because of the trauma. I had to endure bullying throughout my fifth-grade year because I no longer had long, thick hair and stood out from the rest of my friends. But thankfully, my parents made me feel loved and beautiful. It took a lot of deep reflection and forgiveness for me to overcome that childhood experience. Writing became therapeutic for me, and eventually, I took back control and became comfortable again with the concept of cutting my hair.
The Effects of Pregnancy
All Things Hair: Has pregnancy changed your hair? What are your challenges and advice to new moms?
Dana Oliver: When I discovered that I was pregnant with my sunshine, I made a commitment to myself to halt all heat-styling and simply let my hair be for at least one year. The pregnancy hormones along with minimal manipulation made my hair grow much thicker and longer. However, I started to experience postpartum shedding about five months after giving birth. I was emotionally distraught, as my hair would fall out in clumps and my edges grew thinner and thinner.
There was a period of time where I covered it up with brightly-colored head wraps and did absolutely nothing to my locks. But after confiding in other mothers about this common problem, I regained the strength to wash and style my natural hair again. My tresses were in need of some serious TLC after the neglect, so SheaMoisture African Black Soap Bamboo Charcoal Pre-Shampoo Scalp Scrub was clutch for removing buildup. For achieving my best DIY twist outs, I relied on SheaMoisture Coconut & Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie.
My #1 tip for new moms who are also experiencing shedding would be to ride the wave—you’ll get through it. Natural hair clip-ins and cute turbans have been game-changers in helping me to feel and look like myself again. Not to mention seeing the huge smile on my sunshine’s face when I let my curls free gives my self-esteem a boost.
All Things Hair: What does your hair mean to you?
Dana Oliver: My hair is a reflection of who I am as a Black woman. It’s strong, vibrant and constantly evolving.
Finding Your Signature Style
All Things Hair: Would you consider your look to be your signature style?
Dana Oliver: As someone who loves experimenting with new ‘dos, I always find myself returning to a teased out Afro. I love the attention it commands and it makes me stand even taller!
What advice do you have for young women currently in search of their signature hairstyle? Or for those who want to express who they truly are through the way in which they wear their hair?
My advice for young women in search of their signature hairstyle would be to not be afraid of getting that short haircut—or booking an appointment for an unconventional hair color! Take risks and push yourself to try new looks that aren’t dictated by what society has historically deemed as beautiful.