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Friday, July 29, 2011

African-American Women ‘Go Natural’ Online

Maeling Tapp models her two years of natural hair. (Photo Courtesy of Maeling Tapp)

Maeling Tapp models her two years of natural hair. (Photo Courtesy of Maeling Tapp)

Hair is a loaded topic for many. As Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary “Good Hair” shows, in the African-American community, the subject is especially tumultuous because women and some men must make the choice of whether to let their hair go natural or to chemically straighten it.

Now young African-Americans are rebelling against hair straightening through online blogs and websites, where they’re also sharing advice on how to manage their natural hair.

Maeling Tapp, who writes a blog and posts video tutorials at Natural Chica, told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that going natural was a bumpy process.  At first, she was so frustrated that she went back to her stylist and “begged her to put a relaxer back in my hair.”

But when a friend told her about the online forums and groups, Maeling felt more confident. “After that I felt really empowered, like, I can really do this, all these people are doing this as well, so I feel like I can do it too,” she said.

Maeling Tapp lives in Atlanta, and her blog gives advice on how to prevent hair loss, recipes for shine spray and tutorials for how to wear trendy turbans.


  • Maeling Tapp, blogger and natural hair advocate

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=753764472 Nia Mobley

    I’m so happy that NPR is covering this subject. I’m natural, but at times I feel like slapping the “creamy crack” back into my hair. My online natural hair group (SNBF, private FB group) keeps me focus and motivated. I love how heathly and beautiful my hair is chemical free!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=753764472 Nia Mobley

    I am so happy that NPR is covering this subject. There are so many times that I am tempted to slap the “creamy crack” backinto my hair to acheive a look.  My natural hair online group (SNBF, private facebook group) keeps me focus and motivated!!! I love my healthy natural hair… it is beautiful!

  • Stephanie

    Thank you for this topic!!

     I decided to go natural about 1yr ago. The relaxer took forever to come out that I eventually had to cut about 5-6 inches of my hair off.  I now finally have the courage to wear my hair  out and I’m extremely happy but not everyone else around me is.   I’m getting a lot of criticism like “why did you cut off your hair? It was so long and pretty”.  I try telling them why I decided to do it and that I am finally embracing who I am.  The majority of them simply do not get it.  I do not have any plans of ever chemically relaxing my hair again and for the first time in my entire life, I’m proud of my hair texture.

    • Srenrick8

      Stay strong. Remember you are doing it for you.

    • BeEmpowered

      Gurl, I so understand what you’re going through. Its amazing how when you have a perm no one says much about the state of your hair.  But when you decide to go natural, everyone and their momma becomes your hair consultant.  

      Stay as strong as possible.

      I almost relaxed mines again.  Just to feel “beautiful”  (the way I did when it was straight) & to shut up the critics. Fortunately, there are tonnes of sites like these and other natural sisters, that become a support group.  In many ways, its as if we are recovering addicts (from the “creamy crack”), so  getting a support group  (like the AA is to sober living)  to help you to swim against the tide

      • Conitae

        yes, they do this in such negetive way too and don’t care about ur feelings 

        • Conita Miller

          people are not gonna understand why you make this decision to do this until the’ve gone through this themselves and have had hair thining, hair loss and breakage 

    • Chsumo

      GO GIRL!

    • Adk

      I have been natural for 18years. I lived in New York were it was not a problem but… now that I am down south… boy oh boy! I do not care what other say or think about my hair though as long as I like it. You can do it. It is better to have healthy hair than being totally bald and not being able to grow it back because of chemical burns.

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

    Re: The First Lady’s Hair

    We all know if the Michelle Obama allowed her hair to go natural Roger Ailes would fire off an instant memo directed Faux News to do a week long news frenzy about how the first lady was unleashing her inner Angela Davis. 

    • mai

      That is so true.  Unfortunately, whites still look at us different when we wear our hair natural-they feel indifferent.  It’s not just our phobia-it’s the truth!

  • Perch

    Thank you for airing a feature on this subject. You might be interested in knowing that discrimination against women/men with natural, naturally curly hair runs across all races and ethnicities. It is not just an African American issue. Over 50% of the world’s population has naturally curly, kinky, wavy hair and yet our culture in particular (American) persists in denigrating those who are naturally blessed with  curls, texture and waves. Of course we all need to work with and groom our hair just as those with straight hair do. It is a often a huge challenge to find stylists who know how to cut our hair. And it is difficult to find products that work and do not cause damage. There is a reason so many of us concoct our own hair products as the beauty industry up until recently has not provided products that were nourishing and effective for our hair type. Note to the hair products industry: stop with the heavy silicones, sulfates and other unnecessarily harsh and damaging ingredients in your products. For those enlightened product lines that are coming onto the market, a big thank you.

  • Kristi Garrett

    As a natural, I am so happy to see this topic covered on NPR.  There is such a large number of African American women whom embrace their natural hair and the many styling options offered with natural hair.  Thanks for person at NPR whom suggested this as an important topic. Great interview Robin!


    Congratulation!!! I am also HAPPY TO NAPPY. I accepted the challenge about 8 years ago.My biggest challenge was job intreviews. After I was hired at my present job the black women  shared all of ther negative comments regarding my hair.

    Few of my favorite comments

    you would be cute if….if you changed your hair
    you can wear your hair like that  but I don’t have the right hair, shape of my face

    Is that yours? or what type of  hair is that

    That’s not professional


    • Jameel

      “After I was hired at my present job the black women  shared all of their negative comments regarding my hair”
      The only negative comments I’ve received since I chose to go natural are from BLACK WOMEN.  White people love all the little curls all over my head, but black women say, “You should straighten your hair, it would look so cute” “You should just straighten it once to see how long it would look.” 

      White people don’t have a problem with natural hair – black people do!!

  • Trish in Detroit

    I am so proud of NPR for airing this story.  It is incredible how much time, effort, money, tears, and identify issues surround hair for black girls and women.  It took 10 years for me to embrace my natural hair while working for a Fortune 500 company. I went natural 18 months ago by locking my hair and it have been liberating!!
    Thanks for addressing this topic in the main stream!

  • Janelle Thomas

    Maelingk, you are truly becoming a pioneer in this natural hair  industry… Yes, there were many others before you, but your meek and humble spirit is what causes others to listen and want to make the necessary healthy changes for their hair… Always remember to keep that spirit and other ventures that  you pursue will have this same effect…

    To all the sisters that are afraid to go natural, build the confidence and “Just Do It”… Learn to love yourselves for who you are not what others desire you to be… Let’s teach our daughters this same concept by walking it out be example… GOD BLESS EVERYONE!!!

  • Salenamoore

    Thanks so much for airing this interview. I have been following the Natural Chica on youtube for the past 2 years and have seen the progression of the website as well as the natural hair movement. It is exciting to see her get recognition as one of the virtual pioneers of the natural hair movement as well as seeing the natural hair movement receive such popularity, growth, and respect over the past years.  I decided to go natural about 8 years back and am just now deciding to share my experiences online, primarily due to the African American community finally starting to embrace natural hair. Thanks again for your respect and recognition for this underrated yet prevailing subject. 

  • Chicboots

    I have never  relaxed my hair I the queen of press and curl . When started over 10years ago it was awefully someone actually told  me during the transition I would not go outside with my hair looking that bad.

    my natural hair makes me so happy!!!!

  • Mary

    Maeling, you and your natural hair are beautiful.  Thank you for being a role model for young girls, and for mentioning the Obama girls in your interview.  Bravo to you, and to Robin for featuring this topic.  (FWIW, I’m a white girl who grew up hating her naturally curly hair.)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_D2JU54QTMQJO2IGAMOE4HEE5KA Big BakedApple

    I am LOVING what is going on with natural hair. I went natural in 1999, again in 2004, and for the last time in 2009. The difference between those older attempts is the information and creativity these women (and some guys too) where willing to share. More black women and men in Africa, Canada, Europe, and the US are making brands, books, products, and educators, its so exciting. Good interview.

  • Oliver_whitehurst

    Mae you have been a great wealth of information.  Thank you for inspiring and sharing.  I tried the transition but I have such coarse hair and the natural hair and relaxed hair was too much of a difference for me so I did the big chop on 12/31/10 and I have been loving it.  I love my natural hair….more than I did my relaxed hair.  My hair was a hitting my shoulder but that didn’t matter to me…..I wanted to go natural so off it went.  It is just hair and it will grow back.  I have gotten so many compliments from men and women all the time.  In the words of McDonald’s slogan….”I’m loving it.”

  • Rhonda McKnight

    I went natural almost a year ago and I’ll never go back to relaxers. The transition was almost spiritual for me and I’m a better person as a result of this change. So happy Mae (Natural Chica) is representing for natural hair community, because she is doing a great job.

  • Bridgett

    Love being natural. Thank you for bringing awareness and this interview.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ayo-Ogun/776833269 Ayo Ogun

    Embracing our goddess-descended tresses was inevitable! The love for ones WHOLE self is being reborn! Say it loud, I LOVE my Crown! http://www.naturalhairloveaffair.com

  • Carla T

    Great interview, Maeling!…I just did my big chop. Right now, the people  at work think it’s “cute” at 1/4 of an inch…but I am reasonably preparing for a change of heart when my teeny-tiny-afro is full grown. At any rate, accepting my natural hair is a journey for myself as well as for others.

    Again, great interview!

  • bronzebeachbaby

    I really enjoyed this interview. I recently went natural after transitioning for 7 months. I love learning about my hair texture and embracing different styles. Thanks to youtube, natural haircare book, and the support of my many natural friends I am enjoying my journey.

  • Mae

    Thank you all for your kind comments! It has truly been my pleasure to share my natural hair journey over the past 2 years. A huge thank you to NPR for allowing me to discuss natural hair on their platform!

  • Melanies

    I am bothered by the implication that we can discuss African American women as if they are a monolithic group: “African American women…must make the choice…”, etc.  Really?  There is an “otherness” is the way this topic is discussed.  It is a worthy issue, but I find here an undertone of paternalism that–though subtle–is offensive.  Would we say “Caucasion women must make a choice”?  No, we would not, because we recognize diversity in the Caucasion population.  Or “young Caucasion women are rebelling”?  No, we would not, because that would be too blanket a statement.  Please be more nuanced in your reporting.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Melanies,

      I’m Kassandra, the producer who worked on this piece with Robin. I’d like to hear your thoughts about how you would approach a story like, or how you would feel comfortable refering to the group in question. It’s something we discussed in the newsroom before the interview, but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.

      Thanks for your note,

  • Gracey

    I’m stone white with thin, not glossy, not flowing, not glamorous, not nothing, flat red Irish hair. My mother snag-snarled our skinny hair into messy pigtails for school, but all my black girlfriends had pretty, thick, not-straight, black hair with nice hair beads and bows. 

    Now I’m a competitive ballroom dancer and my best dance friend and I travel together. I can smell the hair chemicals from her bed. When we get up in the morning to fix our hair, makeup and costumes, she sprays, mousses and gels in my hair to do something with it. And yet, she straightens her own hair with a flat iron and chemicals. I wish we’d leave ourselves alone.

    • Carla T

      I agree, Gracey…women of different nations/cultures should fall in love with what they were born with naturally instead of migrating toward a limited shallow definition of beauty…notice I mentioned “nations/cultures” and not “races”…there is only one race: the Human Race!

    • Onebetterperson


      Have you thought of something short and spikey for yourself. You could really rock something out with that color, girl!

      The longer your hair is the more it weighs. Chop it off and unleash the volume!

  • Janet

    So sad, so sad.  I have naturally long and curly hair.  Black girls and woman and sometimes men hated me when I was a kid growing up in the 70′s in Harlem, NYC.  All because I had naturally long hair.  They called me white.   Black woman today are spending way to much money to wear weaves. Ask Jada Pinkett how she grew her hair long,  and do the same…throw away the weave please

  • Carynne

    Cute hair. Maybe one day I will go natural, but I remember trying to deal with my curly thick hair was a disaster. My arms would get tired just from combing it, was always late arriving to work/school/activities because I was dealing with my hair. My hair always looked dry and unhealthy. Glad that some people can rock the natural look, but please do not hate & talk about the women who have relaxers in their hair, it is so much easier for me. The goal should be to have healthy hair regardless.

    • Lulu

      our hair is not impossible to take care of…i’ve been in your shoes but I just made sure to learn how to take care of it…

  • http://www.naturalhaircommunity.com NaturalJael

    Robin and NaturalChica thank you for this interview. As many African American women choose to redefine what beauty means, they are realizing the options that are available; and wearing their natural hair is definitely an option. Being natural is more than having relaxer free and for some women; it is not a choice but a must. 

  • Aharringtono

    I’am 55 and a product of the Black liberation movement in the 70′s. There was not a question as to if I   wore my hair in a naatural or not. It was my responsibility to wear my hair in a afro and to take on any questions about it. I do so till this very day.

  • Brooklyn

    Black women and girls who straighten/process their hair and then stop, allowing the hair to grow naturally, are not “going natural,” in fact, they are going BACK to allowing their hair to be expressed in it’s natural state. The phrase “going natural” or “go natural” is to me, an annoying misnomer that is somehow only linked to the experience of black women and girls. White women and girls/women and girls from of non-white/non-african-american descent also chemically process their hair/straighten … when they stop, are they too “going natural?”

    • http://www.facebook.com/mgaby Margaret Gaby

      white women/girls aren’t throwing on afro wigs that completely cover their real hair. The majority of white girls aren’t going to school with permed hair. It’s not a ritual or coming of age to kill their hair with chemicals to be pretty and deemed better. The term “going natural” is used because there is a lack of a better word. The other non-black women are not looked down upon for not relaxing their hair. People that this this way are just making excuses to keeping killing their hair in an effort to look like everyone else around them- the insecure black girls and the white girls. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ENHN5O5ETUSA5FJK5F6FPCII7M Inna Step

    nice post


  • http://twitter.com/DTopCatBlu Apryle Vaughn

    I would say try Diva Smooth by Janelle Beauty, its natural and chemical free and makes your hair straighter, shinier, and smooth~ http://www.janellebeauty.com/jspot
    Apryle Blu~

  • Adeenmckenziekennedy

    I had the same problem as you did Stephanie! I went natural a year ago as well because the prm was badly breaking out my hair. I don’t believe in getting the perm because it isn’t good for Black hahir and plus, it just makes it more fragile and breaking!

  • Omegalee2007

    why do black women have to be portraid as unattractive???wow

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Melissa-Locks/100002491375568 Melissa Locks

    I’m african american (texturized/semi-relaxed hair) and I get my hair straightened in a salon about every 12 weeks. Once I wash my hair I go back to the natural looks because straightening my hair on my own has never turned out right…not nearly as nice as when I leave the salon. 

    Well, with Shielo’s Antioxidant Leave in Protectant I was TRULY amazed!! Normally my hair would straighten but the ends would be dry and stiff and I’d end up with a frizzy mess after straightening. With the Shielo Antioxidant protectant it is silky smooth, light-weight and bouncy and NO greasy film! I can wear my shades on my head with out a greasy mess, lol. I blow dry my hair and part in 4 sections. I then apply a dime-sized amount to each section…so as other have said, a little goes a long ways! I’ve gotten SO many compliments!

  • mai

    I left a comment moments ago and just wanted to say that I believe this mainly applies in corporate America.

  • Conita

    I also decided to go natural and love it, it’s  an easy maintain hair style, I ‘ve also gotten negetive comments about it but I don’t care what others say or think, it’s what’s best for me and my hair, I have gone without a perm for 8 months now and had been just triming it slowly the entire time because I already had a short hairstlye any way   and used a blow dryer and curling irons and straitning comb but got tired  of the breakage from the heat so thats when I  made up my mind to go natural, I , simply just shampoo, condition and use s-curl moisteriser or gel activator and oil sheen moisteriser spray, it curls my hair naturaly and everyone thinks I have a texteriser in my hair but it’s my own curly hair, I love it   

  • Agranddiane

    I have salt and pepper hair and i am chemical free for the last 15 years.  I was wearing it in a short cropped fro. but decided to let it grow.  Now one side is nappy but the other side and the top has these straight hairs that won’t kink up.  How do i get the kink back in my hair.

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