Meet Megan and Natalie, co-founders of @KapeKweendom, students in their final year of high school, public figures of pride for natural hair, and already stirring up storms in teacups. This best friend pair aims on “sprinkling magic everywhere” by “loving the crown you’re in” according to their popular Instagram page.
As a closeted curly-kinky-frizzy-haired teenager, I had zero confidence in my natural hair. I wouldn’t dare leave the house without making sure it was dead straight and passable for being my own, natural hair. My bouncy curls were nothing to be proud of, all I saw was an unruly mess. As I grew older and became aware that I was brainwashed to believe Eurocentric standards were the epitome of beauty, I started to let my hair down…untouched by heat, chemicals, or my hatred.
Natalie and Megan aim on never letting any more people feel the way that I felt in high school.
With the natural hair movement in full swing, supported by the hair protests at Pretoria Girls’ High School and San Souci Girls’ High School back in August 2016, there’s no looking back. Natural hair is here to stay. Megan makes sure of this stating, “natural hair is not a trend, it’s a movement”. Natalie is excited about so many people embracing their natural hair, coming together, sharing tips, and ‘oohing and aahing’ over their magical, gravity-defying hair, saying “it’s no longer different from the norm, it is the norm”.
@KapeKweendom (Cape Queendom) is Natalie and Megan’s pride and joy, starting the platform in February 2017. Natalie and Megan have both been through extensive journeys with a lot of lows to get to the highs of complete pride and embracing of their natural hair.
This came with a lot of research in times of desperation and sadness over hair that didn’t look like everyone else’s around them in their school and exposure through social media to people all over the globe embracing their natural locks. They want to be those people for someone else now. Natalie says,
“I think natural African hair is often looked down upon. You hear people saying bad and negative things about natural hair. We want to encourage womxn to say “my natural hair is beautiful!”, “my natural hair is okay!” and that “the hair that grows out of my scalp should be embraced.”
Through motivation and education, Natalie and Megan want to teach other girls about how to look after their hair, styling through tutorials, and self-care methods for womxn of colour who go through the trials of existing in opposition to the dominant standards of beauty.
The New Monarchy – Caroline Petersen
This pride in natural hair did not come without their own ups and downs. Megan says, “I hated my hair” and Natalie used to use chemicals, such as relaxer, to get her hair “straight straight straight!”. “As I got out the womb, man! I think my hair’s always been relaxed.” Even after Natalie’s sister burnt her entire scalp from relaxer in attempts to get her hair straight, that did not stop her obsession with achieving straight hair. Natalie and Megan’s friendship used to consist of “frying” each other’s hair before they went out to friend’s parties and finding the best straighteners to use.
When Natalie “transitioned” to natural hair, she remembers crying, saying,
“I cut [most of] my [damaged] hair off. I cried, it was so emotional. I was thinking, ‘all this time I’ve been hating myself and who I was.’ Finally, I was embracing [myself]. Finally, I was getting to understand the way that I am [is] beautiful, I [am] perfect. I was sick and tired of society, of everyone in general, telling me that my hair was not good enough. […] I was finally embracing myself.”
Megan battles with people, especially her mom and close family, about the definition of “good hair” and “bad hair”. “Everyone’s hair is nice!” she shouted. Unfortunately, the indoctrination has brainwashed the older generation beyond repair, they believe. Natalie finds it sad that people like her mom will never “start the journey of self acceptance that [they are] on”. While some of the older generation turns a blind eye to issues such as the normalisation of Eurocentric standards of beauty and cultural appropriation, millennials like Megan and Natalie rise up to educate their peers, while calling out racism and injustice as well.
“Cultural appropriation is a big problem at school”, the two remark, “especially at parties”. When white girls’ appropriate African hair styles, Natalie has a lot of valid points to raise,
“[Traditional African hairstyles] have a history in them and people don’t realise that. They have culture. It’s been passed down from generation to generation. When my mom threads my hair and I sit in between her knees getting my hair done, that’s been passed down from her mother, and her mother before that.”
Megan used to cornrow her hair when she was in primary school and believed it was a ‘rite of passage’ to be teased because of them. Comments like “your cornrows are looking pretty ghetto”, got thrown around constantly. Megan is angered that “now [white people] are wearing the same hairstyles without any of the negative connotations”. In fact, Natalie says, “they get praised for it.” Megan narrows it down to “it’s cool to be black now, I guess.”
This further explains that ‘borrowing’ hairstyles from oppressed and discriminated cultures is not ‘fun’ or a simple ‘fashion trend’. It is cultural appropriation and it continues the colonialist cycle of stealing and exploiting resources that you do not have ownership over.
Some may have the power and the privilege to name a historical and cultural item as “just a hairstyle”, for example. However, for people of colour, it’s our history, it’s our roots, it’s the cultural war that we’ve endured throughout time and survived nonetheless.
While they continue to motivate others to embrace their natural roots, Natalie says that pride can only come from within. No person can make you love yourself.
“When you decide, this is my time, this is who I am, when you change your mentality and your frame of mind, you can begin accepting your hair.”
Natalie explains that once this is understood, you will begin your transition ‘out of the (natural hair) closet’ to “loving being you”.
all photography by Caroline Petersen