They say “variety is the spice of life” and for some being able to wear your hair a lot of different ways keeps things interesting. Meet Elisabah Ephraim Yisrael coming straight from out of Philadelphia, PA, this soft spoken but high-spirited sister sat down with me to talk about her natural hair journey. She spoke about the misconceptions of how people believe having natural hair is hard to manage as well as wearing hair a certain way does not take away from knowledge of self. Come along with me as we get to know a little bit more about Elisabah Ephraim Yisrael.
Eshet: How long have you been natural or have you been natural all of your life?
Elisabah: Actually as far as natural I have been natural for at least 18 years.
Eshet: So what prompted you to go natural?
Elisabah: What prompted me to go natural was the fact that the chemicals in my hair texture in the chemicals was shifting my hair texture. I didn’t like the results of it. I wanted to always be; I always loved my roots. That was one thing I always found interesting. The texture of my roots always felt good to me and I loved my roots. What happened; this goes way back when the Jeri curl phase was on I had actually got a Jeri curl. When I realized it was going to be a continuous cycle that you had to continually go back to get this Jeri curl process done, I actually after that first time I got it done (I like different styles back than I would change me hair so I didn’t want to be caught up in one particular style). So as it turns out I ended up deciding I am going let my hair grow out and I let the Jeri curl hair; the hair that had the process break completely off. My hair was approximately an 1″ to 1 1/2″ long and at that point I started braiding my hair and getting my hair braided and letting my hair grow out. But from that point on, it has been in its natural state to me it’s a lot more manageable other than the fact that… beside the fact that they actually said that our hair is hard to manage my hair was very easy to manage. I had a hair stylist as well that was natural hair care. I was going to the hair salon still but it was all natural hair care and she worked with my hair after I had taken my braids out. My hair was always in a natural state even if I had to blow dried but there was never any chemical process that I had done to my hair for a very long time
Eshet: What styles do you often like to wear your hair in?
Elisabah: The styles that I am liking now is actually the braids. Back than of course I would put in the synthetic hair to add to my hair, but there was a texture that was still to European in a sense and they hadn’t develop anything else to me that would add to the length of our hair. I could wear my hair in an afro… ummm I could wear my hair anyway. It’s something that you do when you realize our hair is extremely adaptable to whatever we want. We can do whatever we want with our hair. We just don’t realize that we can do that the styles that we can wear is wonderful; you know Afros, braids, whatever we want, pull it back, ponytails, puffs, etc. It can be a lot of fun to work with hair.
Eshet: Do you have certain products that you like to use, natural products or a certain brand?
Elisabah: It was never anything about a product or brand. It something to moisturizer the scalp back than actually back than no I wouldn’t use anything it was my own natural oils that was very good. Now if anything just because I like the way it smells and I like the texture of it is the Argan Oil. But really no I actually… the hair stylist was really natural. I am trying to think if she ever used anything but I never really used anything. I don’t remember using anything. Depending on if I wanted to wear my hair straight; if I straightened it you know like blow it out meaning straighten it I would put a little oil on it. I would do a lot with my hair if I wanted to do a curly afro I would actually oil it and to a wet brush, plait my hair, take it out and then frizz it up.
Eshet: The movement do you feel as though it’s a movement. Meaning if you look back maybe a good 20 years ago and now where you see a lot of women embracing their natural hair, do you think it’s a phase or do you think it’s something that will continue?
Elisabah: The hope is that it will continue. Actually I think it will continue because once you become connected or reconnected with yourself that is something that you just don’t want to give up. You see a value to your own hair. You understand more of who you are. You understand that though you’re not your hair your hair is you. It’s an expression of you. It’s not the total of you but to change yourself like I’m not saying you can’t wear your hair straight and those different looks like that. I just don’t think women are going to go through the process anymore; the chemical process of having to do that. People are becoming more aware of the chemicals and toxins that your hair absorbs, your scalp absorbs and hopefully they don’t want that either. I don’t think they also want to change their image to necessary reflect an European look and to me it’s a fine line that you can wear your hair and it can be straight or a European look but it’s not you trying to be European. It’s just a style that you want to wear and we have the capability to wear different styles. But what the line is that we don’t want to cross is trying to be like another race.
Eshet: That brings me to my next question and you answered some of it. You know you may notice that if you’re a woman of color, Hebrew, or African-American I am going to throw it out there like that since a lot of people may not know of their nationality maybe reading this. Some believe that if you wear your hair straight, you can be “conscious of self.” Some will say how can you be conscious and still wear your hair straight. So do you honestly believe wearing your hair a certain way defines who you really are on the inside? Can you not still have knowledge of yourself even if you wear your hair straight?
Elisabah: It’s a conscious decision. If you think of hair as an accessory that’s when you understand that it’s not changing who you are as your being. It’s like the clothes, if i where to wear conscious clothes everyday I can do that but I also know I can change clothes and put on some jeans, tee shirts, or whatever. If you think of hair as an accessory it’s not changing your being, you’re not trying to be someone else your trying to change your look like you change your clothes. It’s like you know I am tired of this style right now I want to do something different and that’s where I think of hair.
Eshet: What would you say to someone who was transitioning to natural hair?
Elisabah: The advice I have for them is that they definitely should do it and stick with it. There are ways that a woman can actually transition from a chemical process to a natural look and they should investigate it. Me I was dramatic and I let my hair break off and then put braids; you know the braids I did it that way to let my hair grow out. Because there is a time were you know sometimes you still miss your hair and some of us like long hair whether we have long hair or not. There are ways they can transition and keep their hair; their textured and roots. My daughter she is the same way. She is all natural but she does her own hair. She doesn’t have any chemicals in it at all except for the color. But to see how she is able to keep her hair texture and she has a lot of hair and she won’t even let me do her hair because she thinks I am too rough with it. She’s tender headed! But any woman who is ready to actually transition from that can do it. It’s worth it and to clear their head of all the preconceived ideas.