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Thursday, 10 June 2010

Immerview: Andrena Simmons

Andrena Simmons

How long have you been natural and what inspired you to begin?

I’ve been natural since 2000. I big chopped unexpectedly on a normal day in September. I had recently come back from holiday in the NYC. I was more concerned in preparing for that holiday and the idea of attending university in the US. So much so that my form teacher in sixth form didn’t bother to submit my UCAS form on time and I didn’t noticed. So after two months in NY, a breakup and being 18, I felt rebellious and needed a drastic change. I asked my sister to cut off my hair while washing them and that she did with glee.

In 5th January 2001, I started locing my hair. I always wanted to have locs and fancied myself being in love with all of the Marley’s. My uncle had amazing long bongo-natti locs and I used to think that one day I will have locs – even if it was a “taboo”. I’ll have it and show everyone that you can be successful in the corporate world or at which ever career you choose, no matter the condition or style of your hair.

I guess you can say for the next 9 years, I did that and inspired many friends to start their journey with dreadlocs. Between ages 19 and 25, I interned every summer during university and then after university at an international finance company. First few years, I was the only black employee in the department. In some way, my dreadlocs give me courage and a certain fierceness.

But since 2008, I started longing for a change. I went through some upheavals and started longing for a change in direction. I wanted to give back more to the community. I wanted to volunteer and do more artistic and creative stuff.

Now in hindsight, my prayers got answered. In a nutshell, my passport got stolen while starting a new job in March, 08. I had to stop working, apply for a new passport and my residency in August 08. I’ve been waiting since then for my residency and cannot work until all that is sorted. I started blogging and writing more poetry, which was a challenge coming from a mathematics and scientific background. I’m also volunteering at two major youth organisations – International Award for Young People and YEP Enfield.

I realised that I was hiding in many ways from myself and behind my hair. At the start of the New Year, I transitioned from having beautiful dreadlocs to wonderful natural hair. I feel as if I’ve lost my identity, but it is a slow process and I’m getting there – back to the caterpillar and soon to be once more a butterfly.

I thought that I would have had dreadlocs for ever, but I feel as if in the past 2 years being out of work, I have learnt so much about myself and it is as if I’m entering into a new era. What better way to signify this, but my hair.

Did you find your family/friends were supportive in your decision to go natural?

My mum used to threaten to cut off my dreadlocs while I sleep and I had nightmares for months. But they were very supportive and they love to show off to their friends that I have dreadlocs.

Some of my friends thought I was crazy when I started. It’s great to see them now with their own dreadlocs and natural do. One girl at my old job told me that I’m the first person she saw with dreadlocs that made her want to have them.
Now, it’s taking a long time for them to get used to me without my dreads. My bf says that it’s as if he has a new girl friend.

Do you feel where you live is open to natural hair?

Thankfully, London is very metropolitan and I’ve been seeing many beautiful people with beautiful dreams. Adornment (natural hair show) was amazing - so many wonderful dreads in the crowd.

What do you love most about being natural?

I love being true to me and not hiding behind accessories. I love being natural and knowing that what you see is what you get. No makeup – no weaves – no fake eyelashes – just me

What do you love least about being natural?

Bad hair days – I’ve been having them since this is the first 2 weeks of me without locs. It’s been frustrating. I’m trying to roc a fro, but the detangling process afterwards is a nightmare. But, I’m learning.

Have you learned anything about your Self through this journey of natural hair?

I have learnt a lot and then I have to relearn. It’s an amazing journey. Life and Time is fluid and so am I. This month, I learnt that I am not my hair. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be a lion-ess anymore when I cut my locs. 

What is your hair routine?

Thank God for all these natural hair blogs. When I started locs, I couldn’t find any. Now, I subscribe to so many.

I tried out my new hair regime today actually. It was crazy, but I learnt patience.

I pre-pooed over night with Organix coconut milk conditioner + rosemary and olive oil

I shampooed with John Masters Organics evening primrose shampoo and clarified with diluted apple cider vinegar.

Detangled with Organix coconut milk conditioner – two-strand twist my hair in fours.

Deep-conditioned with Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle rose conditioner for 3 hrs (I cooked dinner in the meantime)

Moisturised with John Masters Organics Rosemary and peppermint detangler as leave-in and whipped butter from Anita Grant mixed with coconut and olive oil and spritz with John Masters Deep Scalp Follicle Treatment & Volumizer

Tell us a little about where you live... What do you love about the city/country? And where would you recommend to go?

I’m from the Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines, which is a must-go if you like unspoilt beauty and not just the boring sun, sand and see. In St Vincent, we have everything – high mountains and volcano for hiking, 3 waterfalls, natural trails, rough beaches for water sports, tranquil and beautiful sandy beaches, corals reefs for snorkelling, over 15 inhabited and uninhabited islets to sail around and explore, vibrant and cultural events like carnival throughout the yr and tasty Caribbean food, drinks and music.

I’ve been living in London for 11.5 yrs. For a hint of what it is like to party in the Caribbean, check out Busspepper - for their events.

Any advice to anyone thinking of going natural?

Take the plunge and do it. There are so many resources via blogs, forums and youtube. A huge family awaits and will support you.

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