Last night I sat with a male friend at a local bar, and as if to tease me, the passionate naturalista that I am, he counted all the ladies in the bar with natural hair. There were five women (it was a weekday)- four were natural. The fifth was in braids-but I want to believe natural coils were hiding underneath her synthetic hair exterior :-p
Are all the women of Nairobi going natural? Well as we wait for Ipsos Synovate to share with us research data on KTN 9 o’clock news I will share with you what I’ve seen.
And what I’ve seen in the last two years since I went natural is that the number of women who are going natural is exponentially growing.
In 2013 I was one of the few naturals rocking into a club with a TWA. In 2015 it’s safe to say one out of three women sitting in a cafe, will be wearing a natural hairstyle.
So why is there a natural hair craze taking over Nairobi middle-upper class women?
The answer is simple, well according, to Abraham Maslow.
Anyone who has taken a psychology/management unit in university is familiar with Maslow’s hierachy of needs theory but just in case you didnt I will break it down for you.
Abraham Maslow was a psychologist in 1943, he saw , described and identified what motivates human beings and summarised them Hierachy of Needs.
The hierachy of needs are divided into 5 levels.
Level 1: Basic needs-food, water, shelter, sleep and sex (haha, yes people, sex is a basic physiological need)
Level 2: Safety needs-security, order, yphysical safety, health, financial security
Level 3: Love and Belonging-family, intimacy, colleagues, professional groups, sport teams
Level 4: Esteem-need for respect from others, prestige, attention, self-confidence, mastery, fame, self-respect
Level 5: Self-actualization-realizing your full-potential, self-development, being the most that you can be.
Only 1 out of a hundred people will reach self-actualization. Albert Einstein, Mother Theresa, Eleanor Roosevelt are the few people Maslow considered to have reached self-actualization.
At level 1 and 2 our hair is natural because we are too busy trying to fight for survival.
At Level 3 and 4 most women are looking for a community, acceptance, friendship. We are more willing to conform because of this need. So we straighten our hair, weave it , wear wigs etc
Now this is where it get’s interesting.
Once we satisfy level 3 and 4 needs some women embark on a journey of self-development in search of fulfillms ient of a higher purpose. It is on this journey of self-actualization that Kenyan woman are on and that is why they go natural. This theory also makes sense because of the socio-economic class that is actually going natural. It is the middle-upper Nairobi class who are actually going natural. However as natural hair get’s more socially acccepted, the need to go natural will move lower down the tier to level 3 and 4.
Also the characteristics and behavior patterns of Self-actualizers are similar to those of women with natural hair. Take a look:
Self-actualizer:I accept themselves and others for what they are
Curl-actualizer: I accept myself and others for what they are
Self-actualizer: I am problem-centered (not self-centered)
Curl-actualizer: I am going to learn this three-strand twist and do you-tube video and share it with the rest of my curl-friends
Self-actualizer: I am resistant to inculturation but not purposely unconventional
Curl-actualizer: I have a big natural ‘fro…i can’t help it if it get’s noticed.
Self-actualizer :I experience life like child with full absorption and concentration
Self-actualizer: I like trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths
Curl-actualizer: I’m a product junkie who has tried twist outs, braid outs,
So what does all of this mean actually?
1. The number of Kenyan women that go natural will increase
2. The number of hair products for natural women will increase and so will their prices (phewks, thank you)
3. Most Naturals are currently on a journey of self-fulfillment, they want to be the best that they can be but this may
4. The natural hair journey phenomenon might stop as more products will be available, salons will be having more than one natural hair stylist.
Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs has since been criticized. Some psychologists regard it as outdated while others consider it not culturally applicable but I find validity in Maslow’s Pyramid when it comes to why the Kenyan woman is embarking on a natural hair journey.
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