BIG CHOP DIARIES - Shi Ryke: I felt more feminine & confident with short hair

BIG CHOP DIARIES - Shi Ryke: I felt more feminine & confident with short hair

Name: Shi
Age: 33 years

Shi, 33 years old and I work for Nike for a few months now. Previously at the Dutch bank, I kept an eye on the pension funds. I studied pension law and now I work for Nike's pension fund. But since they don't have such a large pension fund in the Netherlands, I also do HR. And that's really great fun. It is a corporate world that I live in and there are a lot of Western men there. That's why I think it's cool that as a black woman I can make a statement through my head of hair.

I am also mother of Chris (5 years old) and I live with my boyfriend Angelo. Together we have a dance school, we teach Kizomba twice a week.

And in recent months I have enjoyed participating in the Miss Black Hair Netherlands election 2018. I registered myself on the advice of someone else when I posted a photo with my big fro. I then looked at the website and it really appealed to me. Empowering Black women, acceptance of yourself and loving yourself as you look.

Shi Ryke during Miss Black Hair 2018

Tell us the first time you thought about doing the big chop? .

It started in high school in 1997. My mother always did twists and braids in my hair and at a certain point I got tired of that because I thought it was childish. I also just wanted to walk around looking cool with flowing loose hair. I was 13/14 at the time when I asked my mother if I could take care of my hair myself because I didn't feel like braids anymore. My mother approved of that. And then I started working with Gel and things like that, to stick it and get it smooth and I started making pigtails. But over time I thought, why doesn't my hair look like those other girls at school and then I understood that there was such a thing as relax, which I actually never knew. I then talked to my mother and she agreed if I relaxed. So I relaxed my hair and had relaxed hair for a long, long time.

But it was already in my younger years, 15/16, that I had a weakness for short hair. It was during the time of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air which featured a character named Lisa, she had very short hair. I thought that was so beautiful and I've actually wanted to do that ever since. And my father was like: No, you're definitely not going to cut your hair because that's your signature, my grandfather also thought the same way, by the way, most men in the family thought so. They also said no, your hair is just beautiful and women should have long hair. Because your long hair is your jewel. Then I just resigned myself to it.

What finally convinced you to do it and how much time was it between thinking about doing it and actually doing it?

And when I was about 18/19 years old, I think I cut my hair for the first time. I had cut off a lot of my hair at the time, but it still went past my shoulders. So it wasn't a BIG CHOP. And when I got home my father really looked at me like: What did you do? While actually it was still just long.

But from the moment I discovered scissors, the roof was a bit off for me. I find there's something liberating about cutting my hair! And then I started cutting my hair little by little, actually more and more.

The first time I did the really big chop I was 25, so that was about eight years ago. At one point I was like, I've wanted this for so long, I'm just going to cut all my hair off.

Of course it also played a role that I had relaxed my hair and I was constantly straightening my hair. And I just had a bunch of hair, and it was still quite beautiful because I did get compliments from people but, for myself, I had a lot of trouble with the fact that when I got out of the shower, I just had strands instead of of curls. My hair was simply damaged by relaxing and straightening it many times with tongs. Then I thought, you know what, I'll just cut it. My mother and father also lived in Suriname at the time and I lived in the Netherlands, so that made the decision a little easier. I thought my father isn't here anyway so I just cut it.

At the hairdresser I was really sweaty when I said to her: I just want to get rid of my hair completely. She asked, “Are you sure?”

So we first cut my hair into a Bob-line. It was very short and nice but I thought, no because I want everything off. So the next week I went to her again and she said again: “I want everything off”. So then she cut everything off and then a whole new world opened up for me, I was so happy, I was so happy, I really had the feeling of wow! THIS IS WHO I AM!

What was the main reason for doing the Big Chop?

It had several factors. It was that I thought no, my hair is really deteriorating, I was literally straightening it almost every day because my hair curls very quickly. So I was touching it up every morning with a hair straightener, which really deteriorated it. Someone once asked me: but is your hair naturally straight? And I said no, I have curls, but then I washed my hair once and I thought, yes, I say I have curls, but there is nothing left. So that was realization number 1 for me.

And on the other hand, I thought yes, I am styling, styling and styling my hair, but this is actually not who I am at all. Because as a young girl I had a huge head of hair. And I walk around with nice straight hair all the time along my face, but that's not me at all . And then I thought I'm going to cut my hair.
And finally, it was just from childhood that women with short hair appealed to me. When I saw a woman in a movie, television or in a magazine I always thought yes, I really like short hair.

What were the reactions like after you did it?

And it is the look that you have kept from then on.

The first time I did the Big Chop, I spent six years just cutting my hair because I felt like this suits me and somehow I feel more like a woman with short hair. I feel more feminine, more confident, stronger with short hair.

I think it mainly has to do with what people often say: if you cut your hair short, you have to be very strong. Because you have a certain appearance towards people, which also affects how you feel about yourself. At least I had. I felt really confident and strong and I thought, I don't have to have hair to be beautiful, without hair I'm beautiful too and it doesn't detract from who I am as a woman or as a person at all. 

I now have a head of hair again, because a year ago in December 2016 I decided not to cut it anymore. That also had several reasons.

One in particular was because I had short hair for so long that I lost sight of the reason for doing the BIG CHOP. The reason was that I wanted my own hair back. But I actually wanted to look again for 'who am I?' So I let my hair do its thing and leave it natural, so no straightening or relaxing.

In addition, there are three men, 1 my son, who said: you always have short hair, why do you have hair like a boy, for those little boys it is of course a bit strange. Men have short hair, women have long hair, but mommy also had short hair. 2nd was still my father who said: you have so beautiful hair and you keep cutting it and the third was: my grandfather. In 2016 when I decided to let my hair grow, my grandfather also passed away. And he always thought I was beautiful with short hair, but at one point he said, “as a woman, your hair is just your jewel and just let it grow to see what it looks like.” And I must honestly say that because he had died then, it really stuck with me and then I was like no, I'm just going to let my hair grow now. So in a year and a half my hair has grown to a little longer than shoulder length when I pull it.

And actually I've never really had an afro or anything, but I do now and I really, really like that. And I also notice that I think this is really cool and I really feel in touch with myself. And that is partly because it is natural (so no relaxer or straighteners) and because it is natural, it is my own hair, I don't do anything with it at all. I take care of my hair with a lot of love and I really don't think anymore about straightening it. Since I stopped cutting in 2016, I haven't straightened my hair once, so I go through life with a nice head of hair.

Because you have also noticed lately that more and more black women are starting to accept themselves and choose to wear their hair natural and I can also proudly say that I have inspired women around me to do that . Many ladies with me have chosen “yes, actually it's really cool, we don't have to adapt, we don't have to be ashamed, we don't have to hide under wigs, etc.”

 What kind of products do you mainly use to maintain your hair? Are they all natural products or do you not really pay attention to that?

Because my hair is natural, I also use natural products. I have to say I do use a few products from Sheamoisture that are not completely 100% natural. But otherwise I only use natural products. I often use oils, which I often bring all the way from Suriname because I am sure that my hair grows quickly, and for me it is very important that I protect my hair with oil because the climate here does not really care for my hair. do.

I swear by Marlon Rozenblad's Tonka oil . That really is the best oil ever. And the sun is very good for us anyway, but also very good for your hair growth.

I have heard that many women who have done a big chop often start something new in their lives, was this also the case for you?

Yes, I think this is the case with me too. I made a conscious choice at the time because I was really ready for it. New me, new beginning. For me it was a symbol of a new beginning. The only thing I really remember about my choice is that I had wanted it for so long and was really ready for it.

For me it was also somewhat of an ode to my grandfather that I let my hair grow. Because thick eyebrows are also our family signature look. But of course I was also going to epilate that nicely. So at a certain point I didn't look like his little girl at all anymore.

And did you do this for cultural purposes or awareness?

I did grow my hair for cultural purposes. This is because I mainly want to oppose the Western standard that has been somewhat imposed on us from the past. If you go back a long way, we black people had to cover our hair because we could express ourselves with our hair. And during the times of slavery we were of course allowed to express ourselves as little as possible and we were allowed to express our African culture as little as possible. On the plantations during slavery we even passed on messages to each other through our hair and then the way we braided our hair. For example, you could convey your mood to other men and/or women through your hairstyle. Since you were not allowed to communicate with each other on the plantations, this was the way to express yourself to each other. So at one point we had to cover our hair. Fortunately, we were creative enough at the time and started communicating by wearing headscarves in different ways.

And after slavery was over, a kind of mechanism emerged that the smoother your hair the better and people started to believe in that. And of course that was very much promoted in the media. And then we started to lighten our skin and make our hair smoother because we also naturally wanted to belong to the norm. And what you see now, mainly in Europe, is that dark people say: we are also beautiful, we are also the norm and our hair is also beautiful. And I'm very proud, and the reason I wear my hair like that now is, I just love wearing my hair like that, to show wherever I go that I'm proud of who I am and that I am proud of how I look. So for me it's actually a kind of statement and I feel great about it.

Do you have any tips for people thinking about doing it? People who have done it but don't get the desired results in terms of healthy hair?

 I would say just do it because I found the big chop to be one of the most liberating things I have ever done . It's just a wonderful feeling and it can be a whole new start for women who are going through something. Just the start of something new. And your hair grows super fast, especially if you take good care of it.

So tips, listen to your hair. Because people can say all kinds of things about what you should do for better, stronger and longer hair, but it is a process. I have also tried all kinds of methods that you hear people talk about, but it may not work for you. What works for other people may not work for you. So just have time, patience and love for your hair and you will get there.

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