Lehman Women Embrace Natural Hair

By Kimberllee Mendez

From left to right: Drumgool, Newsome, and Milan show off their hair. Photos courtesy of Dominique Drumgool, Bre’Ann Newsome, and Amber A. Milan.

“A lot of people inspired me to go natural,” explained Bre’Ann Newsome, a junior at Lehman, on her choice to wear her natural hair.  “I had this friend who had a much looser curl pattern and she stopped straightening her hair,” Newsome said. “She used to come to my house all the time and she would tell me ‘oh you need to stop getting perms,’ and I’m like what do you know? Then seeing my cousins and my best friend embrace their natural hair made me want to do it to. Embrace what I have.”

For Newsome, who went natural in July of 2016, the transition was daunting but satisfying. “Before I went natural I always permed my hair and used harsh chemicals which I’ve done for 10 years. My hair has always been processed, I did all of it,” she said. The defining moment for her was when she had to wear short hair, although at first, she had trouble adjusting to it. 

“I realized my natural beauty is all I needed.”

- Dominique Drumgool, a Lehman alum

Newsome is not alone in her choice. According to curlcentric.com, the demand for organic hair products is rising, with sales amounting to more than $750 million between 2012 and 2017, while sales of hair relaxers has dropped by more than 25 percent in the same time period.

Lehman senior and music major Amber A. Milan, who has been natural for five years, was inspired by such products, through a salon that goes by the name DevaCurl.  “My aunt found this salon that specializes in my hair texture and any other natural curly and thick hair. So, the fact that a place like that exists took my breath away,” said Milan.  With DevaCurl, she found that she was able to use products that made her hair stay curly and stylish.

For Dominique Drumgool, a Lehman alum who has been natural for six years, it wasn’t a person who inspired her to go natural, but a diagnosis. “What made me go natural in 2012 was when I got diagnosed with alopecia areata, but it was not a severe case,” she said. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune skin disease which causes hair loss in the scalp area, face area, and also occurs in other parts of the body. “I wasn’t too happy about it, but it inspired me to start my journey to having natural healthy hair.” Drumgool finalized her decision when she tried a perm and found “it didn’t work out for me, so I decided on doing the big chop.” 

Drumgool’s time at Lehman, away from her mom who previously had taken care of her hair, also contributed to her managing her own hair.” “In college I basically understood my hair more. And how to take care of it,” she said. “So, I braid and style it on my own, and have a procedure for washing and overall taking care of it.” 

Ultimately Drumgool found a greater sense of autonomy and independence in her choice. “The moment I defined my hair and said to myself this is my hair now is when I realized I didn’t need my hair to be straightened, permed or pressed,” she said. “I realized my natural beauty is all I needed.”