Karen Constant aka Glamfun made waves on YouTube with her witty lyrics and infectious personality, gaining popularity via natural hair parodies and providing tips and information for 4c natural hair. But when she began experiencing breakage and thinning late last year, she turned to a dermatologist for help — and relaxed her natural hair as a result.
Some subscribers were not happy with her decision and even went as far as making response videos, starting threads on forums, and writing articles debating and discussing the use of relaxers to treat her derm-diagnosed Center Centrifugal Cicatrical Alopecia. On behalf of BGLH, I had the awesome opportunity to have a Q&A with Karen and dig a little deeper into her thoughts and experiences of going natural, relaxing and transitioning back to natural on a public platform like YouTube:
Your experience of going natural, relaxing and now transitioning back to natural hair is a unique one. What are the three most important lessons you’ve learned on the road back to natural hair?
The first lesson I have learned from my hair journey is to accept my hair for how it is. My hair is coarse, kinky and beautiful and I love to play in it. The second lesson I have learned from my hair journey is that I have to accept what my hair likes. I know that if I want my hair to grow healthy I have to leave it alone. The third lesson that I have learned from my hair journey is that I really cannot care about other people’s opinions when it comes to what works for my hair. I have proof of what works for my hair. Leaving my hair alone under weaves and wigs does wonders for my hair and grows it out fast. Listening to other people’s suggestions can sometimes set you back from your goals. People sometimes accuse me of hating my hair because I don’t wear it out. My goal for my hair is for it to be thick, long, beautiful, and healthy. I no longer care about being “not natural enough” for the natural hair community.
Why, in your words, did you decide to go back to a relaxer in the first place? Was it the ease factor? The familiarity factor? The convenience factor? Why did it feel like the best decision at the time?
I wanted to go on vacation and didn’t want to deal with kinks or detangling. I wanted to go in the water and not have to detangle it afterwards. My hair was in such bad shape I knew I had to cut it off and start over. I wanted to enjoy the little bit of hair that I had on my head without tangles or braids.
Why didn’t you consider seeing a natural hair professional to consult about her hair loss. I know you were seeing a dermatologist. Was that dermatologist also a natural hair professional?
I went to the dermatologist. She did a whole bunch of tests — checked my thyroid and anything that could be serious. When they said that everything was normal, that’s when she started making stupid suggestions. I knew that a natural hair professional would give me cliche answers to my problems, and I can read cliche answers to my problems online. So I decided to do my own research. I just didn’t wanted to waste anymore of my money getting other people opinions about my hair.
Was it always your plan to transition back to natural hair after relaxing? Or did it just sort of happen?
My hair grew best when it was natural under a wig so I knew I always wanted to go back to that.
Some of your subscribers were incredibly upset that you chose to relax your hair. What is one thing that you wish everyone could understand about your decision?
I wanted a new beginning. This natural thing was not what I expected it to be. I thought being natural would be liberating because everybody said it was, so I wanted to try it. At this time, I was tired of spending so much money at the hair salon and the thought of not having to pay someone to do my hair would be so liberating to me. Natural hair was also supposed to be healthier. I thought to myself, “so you’re saying with this whole natural thing, I can keep my salon money in my pocket and my hair will grow healthier and longer and I can still look cute?!?! Sign me up!” I was all in to being natural. Then, I started documenting my journey but I never put it on YouTube at the time because it actually turned out to be the complete opposite for me. I felt secluded and uncomfortable because what seemed to be working for everyone else was not working for me. The products that were working for other people weren’t working for me. I spent so much money on products at times it was more expensive than going to the hair salon. Some of the products thinned my hair out, so it wasn’t healthier….my hair was not responding well to the aloe vera juice that was recommend a lot, and the apple cider vinegar and water rinses that were supposed to heal and cleanse the hair were making my hair dry and brittle no matter how much I diluted it.
I started to evaluate this natural thing I was doing. I stopped and thought, is this benefiting me? Why am I doing this? I was spending so much time on my hair daily trying to get it back to health. My goal in life is not to be a hair dresser, why am I spending so much time on my hair? I realized being natural [was] not worth the amount of effort. At this time, my hair was thinning like crazy. I knew I would have to cut a lot of it off and start over again. I didn’t want to have to go on vacation with a weave in my hair either. I wanted to wear my hair freely and enjoy the little bit of hair I had on my head. At the time, a relaxer was exactly what I wanted so a relaxer is what I got.
There are some people who believe that you were never “comfortable” with your (4c) hair texture, and that influenced your decision to relax your hair. How true is that?
When the health of my hair isn’t at a good place, that is what makes me uncomfortable. It has nothing to do with my hair texture. When I feel and see that what I am doing isn’t benefiting my hair that is what influences me to do something new. When my 4c hair texture was healthy and flourishing, I loved it! I wore it proudly. I even made a whole YouTube channel about it. When my hair started thinning, I was frustrated. I wasn’t proud of it and I started to get uncomfortable with the health of my hair. I got uncomfortable and started looking for something new. That new thing was doing my hair by myself in a natural type of way. After 1 year of success of braiding it and wearing wigs on top, I decided to actually style my hair and the health of my hair took a turn for the worse. Relaxers aren’t that good for my hair, but a relaxer never thinned my hair as bad as trying to style my natural hair. I felt uncomfortable with the health of my hair. It was time to try something new. I am comfortable with my 4c texture. I get uncomfortable when my 4c textured hair gets unhealthy.
I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to do what they want to do with their hair — whether it be relaxed, natural, chopped off, dyed hot pink, or under a weave 24/7. Do you think there is an entitlement mentality within the natural hair community — where everyone feels entitled to tell you what you can/should do with your hair, even if those opinions are unsolicited?
I think that some naturals feel that wearing their hair natural its a representation of self love and if someone wears their hair straight it is a representation of self hate. If someone doesn’t wear their hair natural, some naturals feel the person must not love themselves and they are just following what the world sees as beautiful. And since the naturalista is showing such an act of self love by wearing their hair natural, they think their opinion is better or more important than a person who wears their hair straight. If that is what you mean by ‘entitlement mentality’ then I agree that some naturals do think that way.
What are your favorite cleansing, deep conditioning, moisturizing and styling products right now?
Shea Moisture’s pink bottles shampoo, [and] Shea Moisture Deep Treatment Mask to deep condition. Glycerin and water to moisturize. I also like castor oil. I use Shea Moisture Curling Soufflé when I braid my hair.
You’re super talented and funny. Any projects outside of YouTube and natural hair in the works?
I have so many future projects planned that everyone will hear about by the end of the year, so watch out for that! I can’t wait to tell everyone.
Any final words?
Thank you so much for the interview Christina!