Naturals and Neo-Naturals — the evolution of a new movement


Afro Sheen commercials set the standard for the ideal Afro

Let me start by telling you my assessment of what a Natural is.

As a late baby-boomer — born in 1960 — I grew up in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement. By time I was about 7 or 8, my mother had abandoned the dreaded straightening comb and sheared both of our kinky locks into oval halos.

At the time, my parents were outspoken defenders of the cause in the new modern city of Columbia, Maryland. So, sporting an Afro completed the statement. Truth be told, I really believe it was because my mother wasn’t confident in her hair styling skills and putting me in an Afro made her job easier. Nonetheless, by my reckoning, we were Naturals.

Many people of various ethnicities wore “‘fros” between the mid-1960s and late-1970s. This is the period of the original Natural movement. It was a bold style trend borne from a growing “black consciousness” to embrace our looks in their natural state. It was an in-your-face statement of defiance brought home with the clinched fist: “I’m black and I’m proud!”

The Natural Reversal


Oprah Winfrey circa 1992,

Black hair care and style trends almost reversed in the 1980s. No more afro.

It was the age of high couture and it was defined by a roster of companies and style innovators – like the Bronner Brothers and Dudley — who ruled the market.

They set the standard for salon and home chemical services such as relaxers, thioglycolate curls and color highlighting. A new class of stylists perfected precision cutting and heat styling techniques resulting in smoother, sleeker, finished looks never before achieved in black hairstyling.

Together, top black hair care companies and couture hair show stylists set trends for two decades. Despite its hair damaging effects, straight was in.

The Neo-Natural Movement

At the turn of the 21st century, a movement brought on by the next generation of women has favored a quieter protest. This movement of Millennials followed on the coat tails of a trend that popularized and Americanized dreadlocks.

Since then, going natural hasn’t been a statement of defiance as it was post-Civil Rights Movement. Rather, the act of going natural has taken a step past self-declaration to self-awareness and self-acceptance. As a middle-aged broad, I get the vision.


Vlogger, blogger and graphic designer Whitney White known as Naptural85. Courtesy of Naturally Curly

So now, we have a movement with a new class of innovators and style mavens who rule YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.

I call them the Neo-Naturals. They’re the vloggers, bloggers, kitchen chemists and bathroom stylists who tell us how it’s done.

They’ve dusted off old tips and tricks many of us have long forgotten and added new spins to them. They found new ways to work with their natural curls and kinks not against them.

They’ve been leading us to a new golden age of ethnic natural beauty and they’re not alone. They are a branch of a much larger multi-ethnic community of curly, kinky and coily headed women who are determined to wear their springs, kinks and ringlets without apology.

They’re speaking for an undeclared majority since Lorraine Massey, pioneer of The Curly Girl Method, declared two-thirds of all people on the planet have curly, kinky, coily hair.  I’m one of them.