Hair As Identity Menu



LOVE OUT LOUD! Ms. Verta Ayanna’s Beautiful, Personal Story (Part 2 of 2)

love it and let it go

part 2

by verta ayanna

naa sees verta

i have come to learn that alopecia is the medical term for balding.  like so many things, using the term alopecia alone is not descriptive enough.  it does not encompass or adequately define the various types of alopecia that exist. when i returned for the results, dr. jones told me that i had two forms: androgenetic alopecia and scarring alopecia. i am not a doctor, however, experience is making me more expert at understanding my alopecia.

androgenetic alopecia is in essence pattern baldness.  yes, my eyes got wide too. it generally affects men and women differently. for me it started with the shedding/thinning hair i was experiencing. i would literally have large amounts of hair in my hands after running my fingers through it. over time this form of baldness will likely lead to thinning hair mostly at the crown of my head and eventually could lead to baldness in that area.  scarring alopecia, as i understand it, is a relatively rare diagnosis and it can only be diagnosed with a biopsy. there are several forms of scarring alopecia and symptoms usually include burning, itching and pain in addition to hair loss.  the hair follicle is destroyed under the scalp in scarring alopecia and in its end stage results in smooth, clean, bald surfaces on the scalp (scars) that can be raised.  to prevent permanent hair loss it has to be treated pretty aggressively.

since my diagnosis in 2013, i have received several injections in my scalp. i am being treated with kenalog, a steroid solution. this is injected directly into my scalp and it hurts. i started with injections every six weeks. then every three months and now every four to six months depending on how i am responding. eventually i will only need the injections once a year. according to dr.jones and no second occurrence of balding to date, i am responding well. in fact, hair has actually grown in places on my scalp it was not present before.

alopecia, while ego threatening, is not life threatening. i chose an aggressive treatment because i still cannot and currently don’t have to imagine life as a bald or balding woman. shortly after i was diagnosed i decided to dye my hair blonde. my new motto on hair is “if i may lose it anyway, then no regrets” i have long adored dark skinned women with blonde tresses. my entire life i felt i could never pull that off. i was wrong. alopecia taught me that. currently my hair is exactly representative of who i am becoming on the inside. a more bold, more honest, more open and more confident version of myself.

alopecia is teaching me to let go of some of the external things i use to define myself. i am being forced to slowly let go of hair as such a strong definer because it is deciding to slowly let go of me. alopecia is a reminder that i am meant to grow. that with each passing day, every cell in my body is growing older, just as it should. i, just like you, am miraculous in this way. i am not ready to lose my hair, yet i know that i will one day. in accepting this inevitability i get to use my hair to weave whatever identity i choose to or not. i get to love it and let it go.




LOVE OUT LOUD! Ms. Verta Ayanna’s Beautiful, Personal Story (Part 1 of 2)

love it and let it go

Part 1

by verta ayanna

in january 2013 my hair fell out. a huge patch of hair, the size of the motherland that blessed me with my divine kinks as far as i was concerned, was gone. it was not especially gradual. one day i recall hair, somewhat thinning, but hair none the less. the next day, bald. smooth as a new years baby’s bottom.

for months i strategically wore my hair in what i like to call the contained fro. the style too many of us with naturals sport when our fros are too much for twa status and no where near the goal length of the natural hair goddesses we aspire to become. the beautiful ones who are posted on our bathroom mirrors as daily inspiration or torture. i would fold what hair i had left over itself at the nape of my neck to cover my bald spot; slip a thin headband around my head; pull till the right amount of fro was contained and the right amount exposed and carry on with my day. the hair had started to grow back slowly. this little bit of new growth allowed me a bit of false hope and a great deal of true denial.

i convinced myself it was stress. i self diagnosed to avoid the possibility that something more serious was to blame. when my best friend saw my bald spot, she stayed composed and said “you need to see a doctor.” she never says that. she is ghanaian, super smart and has a PhD from google so generally offers up all kinds of accurate and alternative solutions for my ailments. i didn’t go.  not right away. i had work. i had children to raise. i was too busy with life. i was scared. when i had amassed a decent amount of new growth, i made two appointments — one to get my hair cut and one to see a dermatologist.

i wanted to find a black, female dermatologist because i needed to see someone who would understand. understand that like most women, i have over-identified with what was on top of my head as opposed to what was inside of it more than i care to admit. understand that my hair defies gravity and grows towards the sun and the gods in tight brilliant coils. i needed someone i could see a little bit of myself in and feel comforted because deep down i knew it was more than stress that was to blame for my recent hair loss.

in april 2013 i sat in dr. elena jones’ chair for the first time. she examined my scalp and immediately said, “we need to do a biopsy.” six words no one ever wants to hear. the moment i heard biopsy i thought cancer. i said to myself, i didn’t even know there was such a thing as scalp cancer.  i will have to google that when i leave the office. dr. jones was not testing for cancer. she was testing to see what form of alopecia i had. she used her scalpel to cut out a small piece of my scalp to be sent to the lab. she gave me two stitches and told me to come back in a week for the results. like so many, the only form of alopecia i was familiar with was alopecia areata totalis.i was already deciding what earrings i would need to wear to detract from my bald … everything.

i have come to learn that alopecia is the medical term for balding.  like so many things, using the term alopecia alone is not descriptive enough.  it does not encompass or adequately define the various types of alopecia that exist. when i returned for the results, dr. jones told me that i had two forms: androgenetic alopecia and scarring alopecia. i am not a doctor, however, experience is making me more expert at understanding my alopecia.

scarring alopeica 2

Scarring alopecia

androgenetic alopecia 2

Androgenetic Alopecia

  • Camille DeFreitaa

    I appreciate you in every way!

  • erica addison

    The PhD from Google. Loved that one, and am gonna steal it! Thanks for this story. Can’t wait to read part 2!

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Carol’s Daughter Purchased by L’Oreal USA

Hello everyone,

Carol’s Daughter has just joined L’Oreal USA.  Click here for Lisa Price’s announcement.




  • Paul

    I think it is a step in the right direction for the general market, but I wish as a salon owner and professional that it would be a professional salon product, not mass market.

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A Wig Confession: Why I Shouted GLO-RAYYYYYY!!! When Viola Davis Pulled Off That Wig

As one of the more than 14,000,000 viewers of “How To Get Away With Murder” #HTGAWM and a hair/identity researcher, I was baffled by the less than attractive wig worn by Professor Annalise Keating (brilliantly played by Viola Davis).  This top-notch show can’t get a more attractive hair do for the gorgeous Ms. Davis? Really, I feel GUILTY about how much I hate that wig.  I didn’t want to speak poorly about Ms. Davis so I refrained from posting about that wig. I have to admit that I was particularly disappointed to see Ms. Davis in that wig after seeing her ROCK her beautiful natural hair.




oscar arrivals 13 260212

So imagine my great relief when Ms. Davis TOOK. THAT. UGLY. WIG. OFF.  HALLELUJAH!  (along with her false eyelashes and makeup).  Then, to emphasize the wig’s removal, Ms. Davis stroked her hands over her natural hair.  Her husband then kissed her.

This suggests that the wig is somehow connected to the show’s plot.  Now, I am even more intrigued by this show than I was before the “reveal”.


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Ms. Pam Oliver, Weaves and Women in SportsCasting

I am not much of a sports fan.  I mean, I like to watch the NBA Finals, the SuperBowl…you know, I’m a fair weather sports enthusiast only watching when BIG events are coming up.  So I was taken off guard when FaceBook and Twitter blew up with remarks about soon to retire Pam Oliver, a woman who began her journalism career in 1985 and began sports journalism in 1991.  The remarks weren’t about Oliver per say but her HAIR.  This is an old story dating back to 1/14 when Oliver provided sideline commentary for the National Football Conference.  I won’t honor the comments by repeating them here but let’s just say that folks (many of them Black apparently) took umbrage with what they considered a bad weave.

Fast forward to 7/14 and it was announced that Oliver would no longer be on the “A” team comprised of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman that has been together for mor ethan a decade.  Instead, Oliver would be relegated to the “B” team. Oliver’s replacement on the “A” team?  Erin Andrews, who began her sports journalism career in 2000 and recently began hosting Dancing with the Stars.  

Pam Oliver and Erin Andrews

Image found at Eonline!

Again, this is somewhat old hat but I’m bringing it up now because I recently learned of an Essence interview that Oliver did for the magazine’s 10/14 issue.   In the interview, Oliver details how hurt she was by her demotion and how she had to learn to move on.  She adds that she believes that she wasn’t removed because of her race but perhaps because of her age.  Others have chimed in that the 1/14 social media uproar over her hair as well as the TV station’s desire to have a new, younger, blonder cohort of journalists may have also contributed to the decision.  Oliver stated “It’s not difficult to notice that the new on-air people there are all young, bond and “hot”.” (Essence, 2014).

This is so unfortunate to me.  Granted, I’m not a sports fan but when I have tuned into sports events, I find Oliver’s commentary to be sharp, insightful and personal.  She seems able to connect with the players, coaches and fans in a way that is authentic.  I haven’t seen Andrews in action.  But, I listened to a HuffPost Live interview with several sportscasters / media personalities.  During the discussion, the panelists made two key points.  First, Pam Oliver is the top in the field, bar none.  It will be difficult to replace the social and professional capital she’s accrued during her career.  Second, why in the world are most sideline reporters female.  Is there some sort of force field in the TV studio that only permits males, causing women to spontaneously combust when they approach the inner sanctum (please, hear the sarcasm in my voice)?

I also wonder why the debate becomes boiled down to Oliver versus Andrews rather than broadened to focus on the entrenched gender discrimination in sports reporting?  If a knowledgable, well-liked person like Oliver can be replaced at the drop of a…weave, what is sideline reporting REALLY about?

What do you all think?  Is this about agism?  Racism?  Sexism?  Feminism?  Please, weigh in.

  • Nadia

    I am not a fair weather fan. I am a sports addict. My TVs (yes, plural) are also on ESPN. I have to say that I was guilty many times of making derogatory comments about Pam Oliver’s bad hair days but it also didn’t keep me from appreciating her tremendous works as a sports journalist. But I’m an equal opportunity abuser when it comes to that. I get distracted when anything physical, hair, makeup, tic, etc. is noticeable. I was very struck with Pam Oliver’s demotion not because of race, gender or hair but on the merits. Pam is a far more superior journalist than Erin Andrews, Sam Ponder and a whole slew of others. But that’s the way of the business. It happens in the newsroom too, where maturer, seasoned anchors and reporters and traded in for younger and fresher faced though not necessarily better.

  • MeredithD

    Being a woman that watches NFL football as a religion, I can say that I have always found Pam Oliver to be honest, knowledgeable and not afraid to ask the players and coaches those hard but needed questions. The last thing I look as is her hair, or weave. Yes, I do think that overall there is a bit of sexism in terms of women working the sidelines rather than being in the booth. Granted these women have not been on the gridiron like many of the male commentators, but that doesn’t mean they don’t know the game nor can provide insight, which is what I feel drives them to being relegated to the sidelines. No one has really given them the opportunity to showcase their insight into male dominated sports. Now, as far as Oliver being passed over for Andrews, its a sad fact but it happens all the time in the media. Not to say that Andrews isnt a capable reporter, but networks will push aside the veterans for the next “it” girl. It’s like Hollywood. Once you hit a point you go from being the love interest to the love interests parent. Until we as a society start putting more stock in wisdom over youth, we will continue to see this happen.

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Body Hair Politics- Shaving One’s Leg Hair


When we talk about “being natural”, we’re often referring to how we wear our hair on our heads.  However, I recently came across a Reddit thread that discussed the following scenario.  Here is the initial inquiry entitled, “Help!  Body Hair Politics” by TheShowIsNotTheShow:

“Greetings, all! I am a self-identifying feminist who believes that a) everyone should have the right to do what they want with their body and I should support them, b) for me, shaving my legs feels infantilizing but also actually unpleasant in sensation. I am about to attend a professional international conference in Portugal, and since it is hot, and they are easy to pack, I will be wearing only knee-length (or slightly shorter) dresses. In this situation, I care much more about people paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth than whether or not my legs are shaved.

Are the myths about body hair being more socially acceptable in Europe true? Will that hold for Portugal? If it will be a distraction, I think I will shave my legs. (My hair is light, and it’s not the sort of thing that would ever be visible in a photo, but definitely would be noticed if you are sitting next to/near me, or maybe if you have a habit of checking out people’s calves while standing and talking to them?)

I would personally feel shallow if I valued my appearance over getting my message across — I don’t see this as selling out, but it might be? Because feminism based on appearances is weak, right?”

What do you all think?  Do you remove your leg hair?  When did you start?  Why?

 * I found this image online, I cannot attest to its authenticity.  To me, it looks like a fake, but the picture gets the idea across!

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Blue Ivy’s Hair?

Hi everyone,

I am shocked to learn that there is a petition to Blue Ivy (Beyonce and Jay-Z’s two year old daughter) to COMB HER HAIR! Really, people?  With all that’s going on in the world, this is what you choose to petition?

Blue Ivy and Jay-Z

Here’s a link to the actual petition:

I get that you think her hair is unkempt.  I get that you think Beyonce and Jay-Z can do better.  But, have you noticed that she seems like a happy little girl?  That she looks well-nourished?  That she’s probably already seen more of the world than most of us have?   Plus, when did peoples children become fodder for public discourse?

This is crazy.  A petition?!!!  SMH.


  • Erica Addison

    That’s taking this WAY too far! Look at the big picture people. She’s a baby girl with loving parents that are more concerned with her well being and adjustment, rather than material things and self-absorption. Anybody remember when Suri Cruise was rocking little high heels?

  • Tina Opie

    Erica, I couldn’t agree more. People need to keep their opinions to themselves.

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Watch Tina’s Television Interview!!!

I was recently interviewed by Emily Rooney on the WGBH Boston show “Greater Boston” about the army’s ban on particular hairstyles.  Here’s a link to the show:  Tina’s WGBH interview. Please let me know what you think!

Now, for a litle bit of trivia.  Who is this?

gene anthony ray fame newspaper report 1983

Post your answers in the comments section before you watch the video!

Once you watch the video, you’ll understand why this particular image is in this post!!!!  

  • Erica Addison


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naiga girls: what we can do by verta ayanna

on may 2, 2014, shahara jackson, led one of the first #bringbackourgirls rallies in new york city. when we talked about it she told me, “i don’t want to be just existing. i wanted to do something. if i can share my passion and outrage for what has happened with just ten people that’s enough.” i decided if there were to be only ten people at her rally, i would be one of them.

i went armed with my camera. i have come to know and embrace that capturing stories is one of the ways i take action.  when i arrived, the energy was warm but tentative, almost reserved. slowly, more women and men arrived. the energy shifted, more purpose filled the air. at 1:30 a young activist spoke. her father was nigerian. her name is africa yoon. she held a people magazine with lupita nyongo on the cover in one hand; a bring back our girls sign in the other. she thanked us for coming. she spoke of naiga girls. naiga, a term of endearment in Nigeria. we used naiga to lovingly represent each of the 234 kidnapped girls who had yet to return. whose names we did not know. we used naiga because we wanted each girl to know that she was more than just a number.  when africa yoon called naiga girl out, we all responded “present!” just as the roll call at school may have gone that april 14, 2014 morning for each of our still captive naiga girls. it is my hope that each time i chanted “present!” the universe let each girl now that my heart was with her. that she felt a glimmer of inexplicable hope during an incomprehensible time. it is my hope that my actions, however small, will do something to bring each one of these girls home.

i despise empty gestures and lack of action even more so here are some things you can do:


  1. learn more. this is not the first brutal or atrocious act of boko haram. they must be stopped.
  2. sign this petition to bring voice to this story.
  3. tell 10 people you know about this atrocity. ask them to tell 10 people they know.  here are some other things you can do.
  4. read about the president for Nigeria that Chimamanda Adichie wants in response to this atrocity.
  5. listen to Shahara (4:17) talk about why she decided to organize a #bringbackourgirls rally and be inspired by what one person can do.
  6. act. not just for these naiga girls. act whenever and wherever you bear witness to injustice. act in any way you can and know how.


on may 2, 2014, in honor of each abducted girl still to be brought back we chanted …


naiga girl 1 … present!

naiga girl 2 … present!

naiga girl 3 … present!

naiga girl 4 … present!

naiga girl 5 … present!

naiga girl 6 … present!

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SBD Days: Some Days All You Got to Do Is Stay Black, and…. by Petra E. Lewis

Kevin Ryan Headshot - ColorIn Black America, at some point the following is almost a universal scenario: Someone will tell someone else they “have” to or “need” to ________ [INSERT BLANK DIRECTIVE]. And that person will sassily reply (tone of voice the equivalent of hands akimbo, and sometimes hands actually akimbo): “All I got to do is stay Black and die!”

This for me is the genesis of SBD Days: ones that are obligation free.  I’m one of those people who works (hard) constantly, my ambition almost a flaw. And when SBD Days come, they come vengefully and unapologetically: I sip hot chocolate and catch up on literature. Cruise the web and LOL (the stupider the post, article, or video, the better). I have no desire to see significant others—that, after all, would be an obligation—an obligation–when all I got to do is stay Black and…. Well, you know.

Kevin Ryan Headshot _ B+W

SBD Days are lovely, lazy things when I allow myself to luxuriate in sloth, and contribute to the unraveling fibers of American society by ignoring the Protestant Work Ethic. Curiously, I don’t have SBD Days when I’m on deadline. Why? Simple: Mama didn’t raise no fool–plus I carefully guard my professional reputation.  SBD Days that fall on client deadlines are greeted with tough self-love—and a big stick. Hot chocolate and lethargically scrolling through hipster posts on Guest of a Guest’s Facebook page do not pay the bills.

However, SBD Days do sass and trash hair rituals. Due for a wash, a detangle, a deep condition? What? (Suck teeth.) All I got to do is stay Black and…. Well, you know. And guess what? My hair is just fine. I even get compliments. Race is irrelevant. Everyone deserves at least one SBD Day in their lives. Just become courageous enough to be selfish and put your peace and sanity above all else.

P.S. I was supposed to scribe this post two months ago, but I decided: All I got to do is stay Black and…. Well, you know.

Petra E. Lewis is a writer, author, entrepreneur, Tastemaker, and Synergist who lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. The first novel in her trilogy, The Sons and Daughters of Ham, Book I: A Requiem debuts February 2014, : : @tastemistressp : :

  • verta

    yes. yes. yes. we all need SBD days!!!

  • Petra

    LOL, Verta–yes, we do! BTW: I greatly enjoyed your first-ever post for HAI.#greatstuff

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