I’m Gina aka Natural Belle, a UK based naturalhair, beauty & style blogger, part time PR agent, novice writer and full time hair salon co-ordinator.
I was born and raised in London, now I live just out side of London in not so sunny Croydon.
I feel like your perspective is so interesting in relation to natural hair and black identity. You are of Nigerian ethnicity and were adopted and raised by a loving, white family. Has going natural helped you identify more with being an African woman? Do you feel it has brought you closer to understanding that part of yourself? Is that even a necessity for you?
Growing up my hair was always something that had to be dealt with. I was sent to various neighbours and aunties. If my adoptive mother so much as saw a black woman she would ask if she could do my hair. I was pulled from pillar to post and had every style from hospital inducing braids to relaxers that made my hair fall out. My mother always said my hair was beautiful and I think she felt bad that she couldn’t deal with it. She loved it when I had my hair cornrowed and natural but just wasn’t capable of dealing with the texture. From a young age I learned to deal with my own hair. Ever the feisty little diva, I was fed up with being told what to do with my hair so I learned to braid and also put in extensions.By the time I was 13, I was doing my hair and all of my school friends. I decided to go natural for the first time when I was 18. I went to the barbers and shaved all my hair off. No one of my age was doing it at the time. I was so scared of what people would say. The first person to see was my mother and she loved it! I didn’t much care what anyone thought after that. I’ve never really identified with being an African woman, as I was (as you have stated) brought up in a white family but I was also brought up in a multicultural community. I wasn’t picked out of some orphanage by a rich Madonna type character. I was fostered by a working class family who later adopted me. I grew up in a melting pot of culture not African, not Caribbean, not Irish just British.
Going natural has brought me closer to understanding being a black woman regardless of nationality and has helped me to abandon ideals of what black women should be.
I love your hair. It is beautiful. I love that you can see that it is beautiful. What I appreciate the most about you is your honesty about your hair journey. You admit that you struggled with accepting your curl pattern. What advice can you give to women who struggle with accepting and loving their curl pattern? What was your process to confidence?
It’s not made easy for women. Reverting to our natural hair is supposed to be all about accepting our own beauty however as the natural hair community grows as does the pressure to have the perfect curl with advertisers promoting curl creams and using models with loose curled hair. Those of us who do not have the ‘perfect’ curl can still feel like our natural hair isn’t good enough which isn’t really the point. When I first went natural I was frustrated that my curls where none existent. I’d spend hours doing braid outs and twist outs anything to get the coveted curl definition and still not feeling that I really like my hair. I felt like a fraud my blog was gaining more followers for my hairspirational images and articles and I was hating my hair! This is when I decided to BC again and start my real natural hair journey. I promised myself to relish every stage of my journey from the awkward TWA stage to the small afro. I’m not against curl definition but don’t be a slave to it. Learn to love your true texture. It’s great having hair idols but have realistic goals. When I shaved off my hair I’d only look at images of short haired naturals to inspire me. When I got a little more length I’d focus on inspirational images of women with TWA’s. This helped me to stay focused. It’s a long way from BC to bra strap length so set smaller goal posts and celebrate you hair because it is beautiful.
Why did you start blogging? What do you wish for people to take away with them after visiting your blog?
I started blogging in 2008 to keep me motivated on my natural hair journey. I wanted a place to find inspiring images that I thought where lacking in mainstream media, images of women of colour who didn’t conform to the mainstream ideals. Natural belle is about my hair journey and I guess my life. It’s pretty sporadic and I post what I’m feeling. It’s not the holy grail of natural hair blogs. It’s a visual tea break or mid night snack. I don’t take my self or my hair to seriously. I hope people get inspired and learn about new artists, models and bloggers
Your blog is such an inspiration for not only your faithful audience but for other bloggers! Your content, taste and perspective are always refreshing. I always find myself saying, “This is so dope! Where did she find this?!” How do you manage your time with work, relationships, responsibilities and blogging?
I’m not sure I manage. It’s been a steady incline for me, I didn’t just wake up and have 2000 followers. I’ve had to work really hard. I used to blog everyday and I think you need to do that until you get a following. You need to be dedicated. It’s only now that I can slow down with blogging and branch out. I have a PR company, I write articles for websites and magazine and I have a full time job in a hair salon. But I have become quite good at time management and knowing when to say no. I want to please everyone but I know that I can’t so I’m more selective now. My tip is to think about what you want to get out of blogging and figure out how to get it and make it work for you! The way I get around finding time for my relationships is getting them involved. My best friend does my PR and and my partner is my photographer, tech guy, proof reader and biggest cheerleader
What is the natural hair community like in Europe? Were you guys ten steps ahead of us (like always) in terms of unity, support and visual representation in society? Or do you find the naturals in Europe to be a bit behind, sparse and not cohesive? What do you think the reasons are to explain the “mood” of the natural hair movement in Europe?
There are not as many natural bloggers in Europe as they are in the US but the natural hair community is thriving. 3 years ago it was laughable that people would hold an natural hair event. I mean who would go? What would they sell? Now there is something happening every month! The natural hair social calendar is crazy right now! The internet has been a great help in getting the UK movement started.
Now nation wide black hair magazines have natural hair segments, home grown natural hair brands (such as Anita Grant
) are producing organic hair products. We have film screenings, meet up’s, markets, even picnics! Right now we are definitely on the brink of bringing natural hair to the forefront in the UK and Europe.
Lastly, when you think of success, what do you envision for Natural Belle?
Natural Belle will continue to be light entertainment for the natural hair scene, I try not to look to far ahead it’s seems to be working so far.