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July 6, 2012

Girls with Curls

margeaux rawson

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Subject

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By Margeaux Rawson

My parents were horrified when, as a teenager, I told them I wanted to chop off my luxurious, shoulder-length chemically straightened hair and start growing dreadlocks. I would be graduating from high school in a few months, and they couldn't stand the thought of me, their firstborn, receiving my diploma from one of Maryland's most prestigious private schools with "nappy little dreads." They implored me to wait until after the commencement ceremony to do whatever I wanted with my hair. But I was impatient, rebellious, and totally obsessed with Lisa Bonet, Bob Marley, A Tribe Called Quest, and early Spike Lee movies. Coming of age during the pro-black arts movement of the late 1980s and '90s, I was eager to rage against the machine by making a bold statement with my appearance. So, shortly after my 18th birthday and just weeks before my graduation, I made an appointment at Africentrics, a natural hair salon in downtown Baltimore, and walked out with a head full of baby locks — freshly back-combed and twisted with beeswax — that were barely three inches apiece. My parents were aghast.

Nearly two decades later, at age 36, I'm still rocking my locks, which now hang down to my waist. As a New York-based entertainment journalist turned music exec, having locks has never been a problem in my career — I work in an industry that glorifies fashion and personal style. If anything, they're the centerpiece of my signature look and broadcast to others that I have a strong point of view.

As my look has evolved from granola to glam over the years, from time to time I've been pinched by the desire to try something new with my hair. But, afraid that I'd instantly regret it, I've never been able to go through with the painstaking process of having my locks combed out — a process that can take up to two weeks and cost a total of roughly $2,000. For me, my locks represent a commitment I made to myself to embrace my natural beauty and live not in fear of judgment from others. I take great pride in them.

Having locks has also made me lazy and cheap in the maintenance department. In fact, I haven't owned a comb, brush, curling iron, or flatiron in 18 years. Once a week, I wash my hair, let it air-dry for a few hours, and then twist the roots with Carol's Daughter Loc Butter or Jane Carter Solution Twist & Lock before going to bed. After that, I tie my silk Roberto Cavalli zebra-print scarf around my head like a bandana and let my hair continue to dry overnight.

The only drawback? The physical weight of my long locks. They pull at my scalp, put a strain on my neck, and make swimming — my favorite sport — a challenge. So once every two years, I visit a natural hair salon in Brooklyn called Khamit Kinks and get five or seven inches trimmed. I always feel a dramatic lightness afterward.

I don't see myself having locks forever, but they've been part of my entire adult life and I'm not ready to part with them just yet. Even my parents love them now, and my mom often tells me, "Your hair is so beautiful. I can't believe I ever used to think having locks would ruin your life!"

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