9 Black Women on Their Big Chop Experience


There is a black woman somewhere in America right now, staring at herself in the bathroom mirror, her palms sweating as she clenches a pair of scissors. She holds the scissors up to her hair as India Arie’s “I Am Not My Hair” blares through her bluetooth speakers. She’s about to make a major decision—”Should I chop it all off?”

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“Cause it was time to change my life
To become the women that I am inside
Ninety-seven dreadlocks all gone
Looked in the mirror for the first time and saw that…
I am not my hair, I am not this skin
I am not your expectations no no
I am not my hair, I am not this skin
I am a soul that lives within,” India Arie belts out throughout the song.

The importance of natural hair isn’t lost on black women, and abandoning our precious mane (that took forever to grow out), our weaves and other protective styles that have become a part of our identities takes a whole lot of cojones. But it’s also liberating and self-affirming; it allows us to fully embrace and accept our authentic selves and teaches others to do the same. This journey is explored in Netflix’s newest original movie Nappily Ever After, starring Sanaa Lathan, who actually took the plunge to do a IRL big chop to prepare for the movie.

In Nappily Ever After, Lathan plays Violet, an uptight perfectionist whose obsession with her outward appearance defines her entire lifestyle, ultimately pushing away her boyfriend. After an unexpected breakup and getting kicked off a project at her job, Violet has a breakdown and goes right for the clippers. Without hesitation, she shaves her head bald and suddenly (well, for dramatic effect—it’s a rom-com) she becomes a brand new person.

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Of course, not every woman’s decision to big chop is fueled by a break-up or job loss. And not every woman’s big chop experience leaves them feeling free and ready to conquer the world. Ahead, nine women share what their first big-chop experience was like and how they learned to embrace their new identity.


Marle Hylton, 23

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I’ve always been natural but when the natural hair movement blew up, I finally felt I had the permission to love my kinky hair (thanks naptural85!). I moved away from home to study at an amazing school and halfway through the year, I was shocked to find a dime-sized bald spot in the back of my head. I freaked out, I cried and I called mom. I assured myself it would be fine. It wasn’t noticeable but as the months went on, more and more began to fall out.

So at the end of freshman year, I big-chopped. I ended up cutting it into a cute tapered style to hide the areas I felt insecure about. This wasn’t the dream the natural hair movement sold me. It told me to take care of my natural curls and then my hair would reward me with beauty and length. But it didn’t.I’ve been rocking my tapered cut and braided styles since then and I’m not gonna lie—I’m pretty cute. But every day is different. Some days I wake up and love the hair on my head, and others I’m pretty frustrated that this is the fate that’s been forced upon me. But even on my worst days—I am free. Cutting my hair forced me to realize that who I am isn’t defined by societal standards of beauty.

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Nye Cardoza, 24

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Do you ever feel like the world you know is falling apart, and that everything you once had a grasp on is slipping away? That is exactly how I felt at the beginning of 2018 and the only way I felt I could get a grip of all of the things spiraling out of control was to go full on 2007 Britney.

I had been thinking of doing the big chop for months now, but up until this point, I didn’t have the guts do it. But finding myself alone on Valentines Day and at the end of my emotional rope, I decided that instead of crying about all the things going wrong, I would finally set myself free. So, I went to a local hairdresser I had been eyeing, and asked the hair stylist to cut it all off. It was the most liberating yet terrifying moment of my life, but I’m glad I did it. For me, a black woman, hair is a defining feature, but deciding to cut it off was exactly what I needed to show me I could let go of anything.


Tamara Sarpong, 17

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My big chop was one of the most impulsive, yet best decisions I have ever made. I was transitioning at the time, and I heard the rumor that trims cause your hair to grow faster, so I decided to give myself one. A disaster. I ended up looking like one of those Troll dolls. My dad was mortified, and my mother started to laugh hysterically. She immediately planned for me to get a haircut the next day. So we went to the salon, and all of my relaxed hair was cut off within minutes.

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I was nervous, as I always had hair at least to my shoulders, and I was afraid I would look boyish. However, it was absolutely liberating, I was shocked yet amazed that I actually went through with it and everyone was shocked as well. Some liked it, others called me a boy. I’m not gonna lie and say that I didn’t have any insecurities when I had this haircut, especially since I was 13 and my self-confidence was extremely fragile. However, I wouldn’t change anything about my hair journey. I even went on to cut it into tapered cut. My hair has become a part of me, and I love every single strand.

I would encourage anyone, particularly a black woman, to consider chopping off her hair to break free from the bondage that we’ve allowed to dictate our worth.


Chaia Raibon, 30

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For black women, beauty is an emotional trip. We are taught how to nurture and maintain our hair with monthly, bi-weekly, or even weekly appointments. Hair maintenance is a sign of class, hygiene, and beauty. My first relaxer was around the age of 8 and my last was at 19. I have always had thick, full hair and never imagine cutting my hair short. My insecurities with having a big head, little ears, and small features didn’t allow me to dream past a life without my large hair.

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To ensure I wouldn’t back out after I decided to chop, I secretly made an appointment and the next week got my hair cut alone. The liberation, the freedom, the joy I felt by seeing the 6 inches of my hair on the floor. It felt like a literal weight lifted off my shoulders. At first, I didn’t feel as attractive as I did with my long afro, but it didn’t matter. I was free.


Sherly Smith, 24

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A few months ago, as I finished washing my hair, I walked past the mirror and barely recognized myself. I realized that my hair had thinned, there were strings and knots, my hair was drenched in water but it formed no kinks, it just hung there lifeless, hopeless. In that moment, with no hesitation…. I did it! I grabbed the scissors and CHOPPED. A few days later I woke up and went into full panic. I had a job interview and my hair was short and kinky—I wanted to hide. I went to grab my long, straight wig and the inner strong, courageous black girl in me stopped and said, “Enough! This is who you are and who you are is beautiful.”

I am about 2 months natural and short. I’ve cut it twice since the chop and I’m planning to let it grow out. I’ve recently started a doctorate program and everyday I straddle the elephant into class with nothing but grace and pride. It may have took me some time but I am in love with my kinks and curls and ready to let my hair flourish the way it’s meant to.

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Tameka Abraham, 22

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For most part of my life I believed that my hair defined my identity. I always needed my hair done—mostly keeping it straight through the use of flat irons and hot combs. Overtime, my hair became thin and very heat damaged. There was a point where I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. My hair was arguably something I would consider to be one of my best features. Cutting my hair was a chance to redefine my identity—and filter through the more important features that I had lying beneath the surface. A lot of the time, us Black women feel pressured into having what others would consider “good hair,” when in reality, all hair is good hair. The goal is for our hair to be healthy and strong—just like the rest of our body. I went from flat ironing my hair every day to flat-ironing my hair once or twice a year. My hair in its natural curly state is an identity that I’m proud of, and the realest version of me that I’ve grown to love.


Obinna Naana, 24

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I big-chopped just days after going to a H.E.R. concert. I just did it. I guess I was feeling very inspired and empowered, especially after seeing Tiara Thomas perform—who has a cute short cut in pink. At first, I was like WTF did I just do? But everyone told me I had the head for it (LOL). I’ve dyed it blonde, pink, purple, back to dark brown. I always thought that if I didn’t keep some bundles in or if I didn’t have some type of length, I’d be ugly, but turns out that’s far from the truth. I think that’s what “they” made me think all my life, but it’s been such a journey. I’ve learned by just forcing myself to be more vulnerable. Sure, when I get bored (rarely), I say “Hey, wig!” But I’m still having fun with it.

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Black women are taught that our hair has to be “tamed” or look polished in order for us to be viewed as attractive.


Brittany Jones, 23

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I will never forget the day I decided to big chop: October 7, 2014. I was a sophomore in college and had been transitioning for about 6 months with the help of my trusty sew-ins. I had taken out an old sew-in and started the process of detangling my hair but quickly got frustrated as my hair started knotting up. I instantly grabbed conditioner and scissors and chopped the relaxed ends off, with the help of a friend. Before that moment I was afraid to big chop because I feared how I’d look with drastically short hair or what my curl pattern would look like. As soon as the hair was on the floor I instantly regretted it and literally thought, “OMG, what did I just do?” and installed another sew in that same night. After a couple of weeks, I took my weave out and began the journey of loving my hair however it was meant to grow.

I feel like hair is so important to black women because it’s one of our first memories. We all remember having to get our hair combed Sunday night for school, our first relaxer or getting a wash and set with the ends bumped. Black women are taught that our hair has to be “tamed” or look polished in order for us to be viewed as attractive. I am, however, super happy that the narrative of black women having to have long, straight hair to be beautiful has changed to us embracing our kinks, coils, wigs, weaves and everything in between.


Danique Green, 24

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At some point a few summers ago, after being completely natural since about sophomore year of high school, I decided that not only did I want to get a pixie cut but I also wanted a perm for a new, sleek, edgy look. Pretty in-tune with the fact that my mind changes about as many times as my underwear, I still went for it. After a month and a half, I ended up with box-braids. What the actual f–k did I do? Why did I put a chemical in my hair just to feel different about myself?

In that moment, I didn’t hesitate. I couldn’t! I woke up, Jackie Chan jumped out of bed, and grabbed a pair of scissors. Before giving myself a chance to breathe or think too hard, I clipped every single box braid from the root. I then proceeded to text my then-boyfriend (now fiancée), “Baby I’m bald.” With him, I didn’t have to worry about acceptance. He took me to the barbershop that weekend and held my hand through the chop. Now, on trend with the return to our natural hair, it was the perfect time to be hairless. It made it even more clear that I needed to embrace my hair as it grew, in its purest form.



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