“One day, with my lit­tle mini-fro, I was rid­ing the ligh­trail and this old­er black wom­an sits in front of me (she looked late 50’s-ish). She had the longest, thick­est, black hair with threads of sil­ver flow­ing through­out, going down her back in one sin­gle braid. I was breath­less… This wom­an was so serene, solid, and just had this aura about her. From that day, I knew I would be that wom­an one day.”

BGLH: Where are you from?
Gem
: Born, raised, liv­ing, per­med, and nat­u­ral in Hous­ton, Tex­as!

BGLH: Why did you make the deci­sion to go nat­u­ral, and when did you do it?
Gem
: I used to be the empress of hair col­or. I’ve been black-tressed, all shades of brown, auburn, high­lights, what­ev­er. I turned 21 in 2005 and was going through an identity/life cri­sis and rrreeeal­l­ly want­ed to go blonde. So I said, aha! I’ll just stop per­ming and that way I can use bleach and then mag­ic and uni­corns will hap­pen! Sooo, I had my mom cut my hair in a bob and she bleached it, and we put some Lore­al Feria gold­en blonde on there. If that wasn’t enough, I then went white blonde just to see how blonde I could get. From some angles I looked absolute­ly insane, from oth­ers it was kin­da hawt. I worked in a book­store full of hip­pie, cool, arty peo­ple so I and my white hair were embraced.

I quick­ly came down from this bleach high and want­ed to dark­en it quick­ly. I thought, hey I nev­er achieved that per­fect red that I always want­ed, so I’ll do that! So here comes Lore­al box of Per­fect Red hair dye. Only…it turned out Per­fect Red kool-aid. Mind you, all of this is with­in weeks of each oth­er, ON TOP OF the relax­er. It’s at this point that my hair starts throw­ing all types of mid­dle fin­gers at me and starts thin­ning and break­ing off. I wear ban­danas for a week and then decide to dye it a dark brown but with SEMI-per­ma­nent col­or. I do this and my hair actu­al­ly turns a nice shade of auburn. Except that bald patch in my head. Yeah, can’t for­get about that.

This last col­or was around the time Hur­ri­cane Rita hit, so I remem­ber evac­u­at­ing with ban­danas and all types of messed up pony­tails. L says~Hurricane Rita was the fourth-most intense Atlantic hur­ri­cane ever record­ed and the most intense trop­i­cal cyclone ever observed in the Gulf of Mex­i­co. Rita caused $11.3 bil­lion in dam­age on the U.S. Gulf Coast in Sep­tem­ber 2005. More infor­ma­tion here. Then I had a ligh­bulb moment. Why not just go natural…to just be nat­u­ral? So I start­ed doing my research, looked up motowngirl.com, fotki, napp­tural­i­ty, etc.

I decid­ed to grow it out and to sat­is­fy my hair col­or thirst, I would wear dif­fer­ent cheap, fun wigs every mon­th! Yay! This was in Octo­ber 2005. I had my mom cut off the poor, sad, strips of per­med hair I had left and then hid what remained under wigs and scarves. In Decem­ber 2005 my then-boyfriend now-hus­band told me I was beau­ti­ful with my nat­u­ral, short, Chia-hair and should get rid of the wigs. I was so crunk about this brown Tina-Knowles look­ing wig with red and blonde high­lights too. But I ditched them and felt so free! And the growth was on!

BGLH: What products/ingredients do you use?
Gem
: I eat veg­an so I try to only use ani­mal friend­ly prod­ucts and I also lean toward all-nat­u­ral prod­ucts so the two often over­lap. Before I went the natural/organic pro­duct route, I used Pan­tene Pro-V Hydrat­ing Curls which detan­gles like a DREAM! The natural/organic stuff can get pricey but it’s one of the only lux­u­ries I have. I also save mon­ey by buy­ing on Ama­zon in bulk, when avail­able. Right now, I’m using Whole Foods 365 brand plain con­di­tion­er (the gigan­tic size) and Nature’s Gate Lemon­grass and Clary Sage con­di­tion­er (smells heav­en­ly). When my hair was short­er, I used Kinky-Curly’s Knot Today Leave-in and Curling Cus­tard.

BGLH: Could you describe your reg­i­men?
Gem
: One day I stum­bled upon Teri from tightlycurly.com. I began cor­re­spond­ing with her back and forth about her reg­i­men and decid­ed to try it. I had been in a hair rut because no mat­ter what I tried, I couldn’t get my hair to “hang down” with­out look­ing life­less, and it was get­ting too long for an effort­less afro look. Then the heav­ens part­ed and sent Teri to me. I am EXTREMELY low main­te­nance as far as hair-styling goes, so I was look­ing for some­thing easy that used min­i­mal prod­ucts, and let my hair just BE. So here is the rou­tine (that I sing the prais­es to every nat­u­ral wom­an I encoun­ter);

I des­ig­nat­ed Sun­day as my hair wash day. I wash my hair/scalp with the Whole Foods 365 plain, unscent­ed con­di­tion­er and rin­se it out. (I learned a long time ago that if I don’t use many prod­ucts in my hair, con­di­tion­er has enough deter­gent to clean the hair/scalp and keeps it mois­tur­ized, so I gave up sham­poo eons ago) I then lath­er my hair with the Nature’s Gate con­di­tion­er (tak­ing care not to put much on the scalp because this will give you flat, hel­met hair) and make sure the hair is nice­ly sat­u­rat­ed and creamy. I detan­gle with a Den­man brush (note: I used a wide-tooth comb at first, but I noticed a dra­mat­ic dif­fer­ence in frizz reduc­tion, curl def­i­n­i­tion, and non-shrink­age with the Den­man brush). Depend­ing on how lazy I feel, I’ll smooth each curl and pin sec­tions back after I detan­gle to rein­force the curls so they won’t clump togeth­er and form super­curls. I don’t rin­se this con­di­tion­er out. I let the hair air dry. Leav­ing the con­di­tion­er in pro­tects again­st the ele­ments, and as it drys (DON’T TOUCH OR PLAY WITH IT. This is a mes­sage to myself as well as you, lol) the curls or kinks show their tex­ture and there USUALLY isn’t too much shrink­age.

At night, I put the hair into 1 sin­gle braid and scarf that bad boy down (because I sleep like a wilde­beest). L says~lol! In the morn­ing I de-braid (sounds more impor­tant than un-braid), smooth a dime-to-quar­ter sized amount of con­di­tion­er mixed with water over my hair, smooth­ing any fly­aways. I then shake my head out like an Herbal Essence com­mer­cial (this step is option­al). I repeat until the next Sun­day.

BGLH: What mis­takes have you made in your nat­u­ral jour­ney that you’ve learned from?
Gem
: I can’t real­ly say I’ve made mis­takes, per se. Every mon­th, in the first 2 years or so espe­cial­ly, brings new growth and new issues so you con­stant­ly have to adapt. You may need more or less of what you were doing a mon­th ago and you have to learn from EVERYTHING.

Oh! I col­ored my hair the first cou­ple of months of 2006 (sub­tle col­or). I’ve since given up hair col­or cold turkey and don’t even want it or miss it any­more. I like see­ing my unal­tered hair grow and the col­ors the sun changes it.

One quirk I have noticed is that my hair is two dif­fer­ent tex­tures for some rea­son. On the right, it is super curly and on the left, the curls are looser and tends to get frizzy more eas­i­ly. I won­dered if it was due to flat-iron­ing. Since I went nat­u­ral, I flat-ironed 3 or 4 times. Once when I got mar­ried, once when I grad­u­at­ed col­lege, and 2 oth­er ran­dom times. I have not flat-ironed since 2007 and do not intend to. Too time con­sum­ing and hot for my per­son­al taste, and I don’t think the poten­tial dam­age is worth it. If I want a length check, I’ll just stretch a curl out with my fin­gers.

BGLH: Where do you get style inspi­ra­tion from?
Gem
: I must say, Fotki was my biggest resource going nat­u­ral. There weren’t as many blogs per­tain­ing to every­day nat­u­rals back then, so Fotki was a gold mine. Every­one is so friend­ly and help­ful and I have found as my hair has grown, I am where I once want­ed to be, so I pay it for­ward to new­er nat­u­rals who have ques­tions.

BGLH: How does your hair work for your life?
Gem
: The rou­tine I use now is SO sim­ple for my life. I am a full-time grad­u­ate stu­dent and I work full time. I nev­er have any prob­lems with my hair (unless I messed up with the amount of con­di­tion­er or didn’t let my hair dry all the way. Pony­tails then). Every­one thinks my hair is the bees knees (I know I’m not alone with that one, fel­low nat­u­rals!). I work at a uni­ver­si­ty in a laid-back Art depart­ment so I don’t have to change or dis­guise my hair at all…even when I had the in-yo-face afro, I nev­er had any prob­lems pro­fes­sion­al­ly.

BGLH: Did it take long for your hair to grow out?
Gem
: Look­ing back, I would say no. It seems it takes FOREVER when your hair is at a cer­tain length (not quite pony­tail, not quite fro) but there was some­thing new to look for­ward to all the time with my hair. This is why I rec­om­mend doc­u­ment­ing through pics (or set­ting up a Fotki) so you can SEE the pro­gress mon­th-to-mon­th. You’d be sur­prised. Patience real­ly is the virtue to mas­ter when grow­ing out (ESPECIALLY that first year). I am 3 1/2 years in and my hair reach­es mid-back when stretched. Crazi­ness.

BGLH: What’s the best thing about being nat­u­ral?
Gem
: So many things! Hav­ing peo­ple of all ages and cul­tures walk up to you and com­pli­ment you on your hair. Hav­ing oth­er nat­u­rals give you that “nat­u­ral” smile and stop­ping to chat about stuff. Look­ing unique. Hav­ing a full head of healthy, kinky, spi­ral­ly hair.

I just think wom­en who have nev­er known their nat­u­ral tex­ture out­side of baby­hood should con­sid­er this. It real­ly is an amaz­ing feel­ing that you can’t quite under­stand until you go through it. One day, with my lit­tle mini-fro, I was rid­ing the ligh­trail and this old­er black wom­an sits in front of me (she looked late 50’s-ish). She had the longest, thick­est, black hair with threads of sil­ver flow­ing through­out, going down her back in one sin­gle braid. I was breath­less. I thought to myself, wow I can think of many black wom­en over 40 who either have thin, break­ing per­med hair, extreme­ly short or mod­er­ate­ly short per­med hair, or straight up Pat­ti Labelle wigs. It awed me to think of the roots behind per­ming hair in our cul­ture. This wom­an was so serene, solid, and just had this aura about her. From that day, I knew I would be that wom­an one day. L says~This is such a beau­ti­ful thought! I would let my hair grow to it’s heart con­tent, unchem­i­cal­ly altered, and I didn’t desire to col­or my hair after that day. I wished I could have got­ten a pic­ture from my phone but I will nev­er for­get her. I would add to the patient thing, find inspi­ra­tion some­day. It’s amaz­ing, the lit­tle things that give us a lit­tle more fuel to keep try­ing. It will pay off, if full, healthy, nat­u­ral hair is your goal.

Gem Relaxed


Gem Nat­u­ral






Thanks for your insights Gem! You can find her fab­u­lous, hilar­i­ous blog http://www.thebohemianbookworm.blogspot.com/ and her Fotki page http://public.fotki.com/LoveMyMane/.

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noel­lis­te, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop cul­ture and black beau­ty enthu­si­ast. bell hooks’ hair twin…

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22 Comments on "Rock Solid Regimen: Gem"

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larepublicadeblackbottom
larepublicadeblackbottom

I love this inter­view, it was so enter­tain­ing. love your blog too. the nat­u­ral hair jour­ney is a wild one, i hon­est­ly wish i nev­er want­ed one, nev­er desired one b/c now the dam­age is just too much, but hey–everything hap­pens for a rea­son i sup­pose. keep the great entries com­ing!

Dr.Muse
Hi Sis­taopin­ion,I fol­low Ter­is method step for step with a few excep­tions: 1) The con­di­tion­ers that work to smooth her hair were too light for me. I use Aussie Moist. I’m think­ing about try­ing Oyin’s Hon­ey Hemp- any­thing of that tex­ture is prefer­able than too run­ny or oily feel­ing. 2) Amount of con­di­tion­er- this is tricky tri­al and error. My hair is way short­er than Teri’s but I still need­ed a gen­er­ous amount. Too much is a sticky mess though- it’s tri­al and error in the begin­ning. 3) Parts- if you want a twist out yes you have to do… Read more »
Kingsmomma

Go gem!
I think yuo may have helped me in my deci­sion makng process.…

WYGBA

Love Gem! Her hair is F-A-B!

A*E*

I also use Teri’s con­di­tion­er method and it works like a dream! I think the trick to mak­ing it work is the kinkier your hair, the heav­ier the con­di­tion­er.

SistaOpinion
That wom­an Gem saw on the bus…I saw her in a restaurant…except this was in Chicago and her long braid was most­ly sil­ver. I had the exact same reac­tion: I want to be her one day. And I will be if I don’t cut my hair before then, lol. Re the con­di­tion­er method: I’ve been extreme­ly skep­ti­cal about this method but Dr. Muse, your hair tex­ture sounds very sim­i­lar to mine. I would appre­ci­ate hear­ing how you apply this method to your hair and whether it takes hours (because I hear that for our hair type — which is the TRUE… Read more »
serenissima

hilar­i­ous… i eff­ing love it!

Dr.Muse
I agree that Teri’s method can and does work GREAT for kinkier hair. It has been a real light bulb moment for me and I have for the most part (like 85% of my head) very kinky hair with the rest pen spring coils. My hair does clump and coil when wet but dries unde­fined over­all. I’ve been nat­u­ral a long time and had I tried Teri’s sys­tem ear­lier I would have saved a lot of mon­ey on products.My hair hates gels and too much oil and the­se are often present in hair rou­ti­nes for nat­u­rals. I have washed and… Read more »
ChocolateOrchid

Gem, as usu­al your deliv­ery had me rofl! Won­der­ful inter­view!

thehoustongirl

I real­ly enjoyed this arti­cle! I always want­ed to go nat­u­ral! I put on a perm every oth­er mon­th and bare­ly comb it so it can ‘breathe’ and it has grown health­ier [less flat iron, ect…] 

ohhh the pics are SO cute! :d

karrie b.

go gem­m­m­m­m­m­m­m­mm! go gem­m­m­m­m­mm!

i will one day, have the patience to be nat­u­ral again. i got my 1st perm when i was 14 (fresh­man yr in high­school) and the longeest ive ever gone with­out a perm was like 7 months. i just weave it up now. the mid­dle of my hair is nat­u­ral and curly while the edges are relaxed straight.

some day, one day…

-kb

Sunshinelovespeace

This was a dope inter­view. Loved the respons­es!

Peace

Beautifully.Conjured.Up
Beautifully.Conjured.Up

I love her hair…and her blog *smile.*

Natural Hair Rules!!!
Natural Hair Rules!!!

This is a won­der­ful inter­view. Thanks for shar­ing.

Gem

Thank you for fea­tur­ing me! I didn’t know it was up until some­body told me on Twit­ter.

Thank you all for your com­ments! Re: the con­di­tion­er method; I rec­om­mend all tex­tures at least try it because on Teri’s web­site, she does have ladies from curly to kinky tex­tures who have tried it and had it work for them. But, every­thing doesn’t work for every­one. Tri­al and error, part of the jour­ney, lol.

keisha

beau­ti­ful all around!

Kristy

She’s so fun­ny, love her hair too!

jenteel

“It’s at this point that my hair starts throw­ing all types of mid­dle fin­gers at me”

LMBO!!!
love­ly hair and spir­it gem!

Naturally Leslie

I agree with Jc. I tried to leave in reg­u­lar con­di­tion­er and it just DOES NOT WORK for me. But I am glad it does for so many oth­ers. Cute lady!

Patricia Grannum

Her hair is gor­geous and she’s hilar­i­ous on her blog. 

http://womanofcolour.blogspot.com

Jc

Oh how cute is she!! Love the style and hair.

I have to say that the con­di­tion­er method works well for looser tex­tures. I think with tighter curls, clump­ing just doesn’t hap­pen. Con­di­tion­er in small amounts though works as a great mois­turis­er.

Off to stalk anoth­er blog :)

Aisha

Hilar­i­ous! She is too fun­ny, and her hair is gor­geous.

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