My name is Justene Hilary Josias. I am 24 years old and I live in Cape Town, South Africa. I was born in Johannesburg but moved to Cape Town at a young age. I studied Politics at the University of the Western Cape. I am a music producer and singer and I have my own company called JuJo Productions, focussing on various projects. I attended Riana van Wyk Music school for 12 years before pursuing music professionally. I was on a television programme in 2007 called ‘Supersterre’, which was an Afrikaans singing competition. I actually took up singing because it helped me to speak more fluently after I had developed a stutter as a result of contracting meningitis when I was 4 years old.
How long have you worn your hair natural and what made you decide to do it?
I have been wearing my natural hair for the past 2 years. I did the “big cut” on 3 March 2013. I was working on a project that required me to cut off all my hair and to re-grow it from scratch.
When did you first realise that you love your natural hair texture and what exactly do you love about it? Describe your hair.
The first month was very hard as was I used to wearing long hair for 5 years before I cut it. I just decided I have to accept my new look and it grew on me from there. I come from mixed parents. My hair texture is more to my father’s side, who has Sotho roots, than my mother’s Muslim roots.
I love that my hair is extremely thick. When I was younger, my hair was so thick and course that the hairdresser felt the need to relax it. That was the worst mistake ever. Since then my hair was often relaxed until the age of 19. Then I started to do Brazilian straightening until March 2013 when I did the big cut.
I love that my hair is a pure afro. It is not curly, it is kinky. I have a type 4c curl. My hair is dry but big. It looks hard but it is soft. My hair does not touch my shoulders no matter how long it gets. It just grows upwards. The colour has changed from dark brown to light brown as it’s been growing. If my hair had a sound, it would be “loud”. It stands out. One day it’s long and thick, the next day it’s fluffy and thin.
What is your hair regime, including products that you use. What do you do to keep it healthy?
When I initially started my natural hair journey, I used multiple products like Dr Miracle Curl Care, Twisted Sista, Dark and Lovely Cholesterol Treatment and Protein Feed to name a few. I also used some home-made creams and recipes. In the beginning when I had a small afro I used Soft and Free Moulding Gel and Hair Spray to define my curl. The longer my hair got, the fewer products I began to use as it started to weigh my hair down. I brush my hair only once every 3 weeks. The more I brush it, the thinner and flat my afro is. I try as much as possible not to stress my hair with various hair styles. If I do decide to do a style, it will be low maintenance like adding a simple headband or making a Swiss Roll.
Currently, I am using Tres Emme Naturals shampoo and conditioner. I wash my hair with these products maybe once to twice a week. I do feel sometimes that it weighs my afro down, so I do not use excessive amounts. The other available weekdays, it will be a wash and go where I wet my hair with water only and no product. I do give my hair an apple cider vinegar rinse every 3rd day to get rid of the oil build up.
I also take hair vitamins, namely Nu-Hair. I have been using this since I did the big cut. This has given my hair the strength and thickness it has today. I use these supplements every three months. If necessary, I use them when I am in stressful situations when I can feel my hair becoming thinner as it tends to fall out more. I use coconut oil once a week on my scalp when it gets flaky due to maybe over washing or dry scalp.
When I sleep, I use a silk scarf to wrap my hair. If I do not feel like it, I sleep on a silk cushion to retain moisture. I drink 3 litres of water a day. I am bit obsessed with water. I also eat lots of fruit and vegetables because they are readily available in my town. This contributes to healthy nails, skin and hair. You need to understand, having an afro exposes your face much more than straight hair does. Your face and neck are exposed, therefore it has to look healthy and clear. Water really helped me in this department.
What have your experiences been as a natural, including reactions from friends, family and colleagues?
When I cut my hair initially, my family and friends were so supportive. They made me feel comfortable about my new look. I had low self-esteem while growing up. So when I did not have long hair anymore, I thought I was not good enough. I did not even realise I had this problem until I did not have any hair to hide behind. Once I started doing different hair styles, I started to ease into knowing who Justene truly is. Both my eating patterns and clothing changed. I needed to pay more attention to my clothing because my hair looked so different. You naturally stand out. People on social networks and on the street always stop me and say that they love my hair and look. The opposite sex loves my confidence. There were some people though who thought that I wasn’t “black enough” to have an afro. They took it as a personal insult to their race for some reason. My work colleagues love my hair though. The overall response has been positive.
Do you know of any other women who wear their hair naturally in your community?
Yes, I know quite a few actually. These are some of the women I truly admire on my natural hair journey: Victoria L Oxford, Lauren Van Der Schyff, Ashleigh Davids, Deslynn Malotana, Desne Jodamus, Shireen Mentor, Jenilee Carolus, Robyn Jessi, Roxanne Francis, Melissa Johannisen, Lisel Melo, Terri-Ann Browers, Carly Hendricks, Glene Vlotman, Chandre Petersen, Natalie Denton , Chante Bailey, Amy Jones, Andrea Coetzee, Donna-Lee De Kock , Lee-Zan Malgas, Leandra Coetzee, Oslynne Williams, Tasneem Hendricks, Chemonley Hartley, Janera Carelse, Kim Lategan, Sharnte Dickson, Simone Thomas, Tracey Leak, Robyn Arendse, Amy Campher, Requel Petersen, Kaylee Sayce, Adelaide Coetzee, Albida McMillian, Grace Petersen, Joy Petersen, Tracey Daniels, Canvas Fielding, Danielle Cupido and Karen Petersen. There are so many other women who I either meet over social media or in the street, or who I know personally who rock their hair amazingly.
Have you experienced any opposition from anyone in your life regarding how you wear your hair? Have you ever been made fun of?
I have had a few people who do not like me wearing my hair in its natural state, especially the older people who knew me with long straight hair. A few women actually stopped me in the road and grabbed my hair to find out why I would wear a wig when I had nice long hair before. A young boy stopped me in the middle of the mall and asked why I wear my hair like Winnie Mandela. I found it quite funny until his mom told me that he is referring to the struggle South Africa went through, so wearing my hair like this is a sign of “poverty”. I felt offended actually. Some people, especially the females from various African cultures would get mad at me because I am English speaking and wear my hair like a Zulu woman, as they would say. So there have definitely been some negative reactions, but they never over power the positive comments I receive.
Do you ever experience any moments of doubt about your natural beauty?
I did have hair doubts in the beginning, when it was completely short. I could not do anything with my hair until l I read some blogs and watched YouTube videos. Once I spoke to a few other natural haired beauties, I gained more confidence. Since then I’ve never looked back. The messages and feedback I receive from people who have returned natural because they saw my hair, make me realise that people do not have to know you for you personally to have a positive influence.
What is your hair goal?
My hair goal would be to have a thick, long, bum length afro. Not curls. A kinky afro. I know it would be very hot but I’d love that!
What is your best hair advice to someone who is thinking of returning natural, but who is apprehensive about doing it?
I would say going natural should not be a decision you make because it is the “in” thing. You will get frustrated because you need lots of patience to do this. In addition, if you are not sure what your natural hair texture is, you will get despondent. Do your research – speak to as many other natural haired women. Organise a few women in your network you can talk to daily and who you can ask advice from etc. Check out YouTube videos and join forums. I learnt a lot just by reading blogs and natural hair pages. They give real women with real questions honest answers.
What is the biggest lesson you have learnt during your natural hair journey?
I have learnt how to love myself without my hair being the main reason for my beauty. My hair does not define who I am. It enhances who I already am – a strong, driven South African woman. I love my body, I love my skin and I love my hair. I don’t even remember the last time I was at a hairdresser. I haven’t touched a hair dryer in almost 2 years. How my life has changed from spending at least 1 hour everyday flat ironing my hair to less than 5 minutes a day. I love myself so much more. In addition, I’ve learnt to have patience, something I was never good at. I’ve even found out that my hair changes colour during the different seasons, so I’ve learnt to accept myself more than anything.
In certain parts of the world, like the UK and the US, the shift from relaxed to natural hair is referred to as the “natural hair movement”. Do you think it’s viewed in the same light in South Africa? What do you think of this phenomenon?
I do not think that it’s a movement in South Africa yet. We are still a developing country. We are still trying to figure out who we are as the country tries to accept itself as being African and not conforming to American patterns. We are just trying out new things and finding out what we like and do not like. In addition, it’s quite obvious the products available for natural hair are not very readily available in South Africa. As the market expands, much more interest will be placed on natural hair and then gradually it will become a movement.
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
I am willing to help any lady who is going through her hair journey – whether it’s to answer questions or to connect you with others who are also going through a similar journey. I will always try my utmost best.
Is there anywhere else where our readers can find you online?
Currently I’m working on my blog, but in the mean time you can find me on Instagram: @justenejosias, Twitter: @justenehjosias and email: firstname.lastname@example.org