Identity Project: Part 1A : Preparing for the braids

Probably the hardest part of getting braids for me was deciding to actually get them. I had the support and encouragement of many of my friends, and they assured me it wouldn’t look weird (which I assumed in my head it would) and that they’d help me figure out how to manage them. And so after going back and forth about a million times, I finally agreed to do it.

You see, my hesitation came from the fact that this was a style unknown to me. I’d literally, just this past semester come to terms with my curly hair and how much I actually love the fact that it doesn’t listen to me. I just learned how to take care of my curly hair, and accept that it’s not a fro, but it’s pretty awesome, and if I take care of it, it will be awesome for a very long time. So now, to think of changing my entire head in this fashion was a challenge for me. When it came to my mind to turn it into a sociological experiment, then it became more acceptable in my mind. Why? Well I believe its because I didn’t want to confront the real reason I was hesitant.

I was scared.

Scared of something that I’ve actually always wanted to do, but have never had the courage or belief that I would ever get to do. I’d always admired my friends who would get box braids and wondered how they even worked, because believe me when I say I had no idea, I truly had no idea.

Scared that I couldn’t pull it off, the same way I didn’t pull off that awkward red hair I accidentally had in the 8th grade after dying my hair to get a lighter brown.

So what I did was, tell people. I told people I knew would hold me accountable for this big change I was going to go through, and that’s what held me to it. I’m a person of my word, and so if I said I was getting braids, then I had to get braids.

Let me tell you about my process.

Let’s start with my inspiration. When I finally decided that I was going to go through with this, I looked for inspiration. Where you ask? Pinterest of course.

These two beautiful women were my inspiration:

inspiration2 inspiration1


The picture on the left, was how thick I was thinking they would be. The one on the right, was how long I dreamed of them being. They aren’t that long, but they’re long enough. BELIEVE ME. Any longer, with my height (or lack thereof) I would have been tripping over my own hair, no good.

My friend Jayana Lott is the beloved, endless patience having person that did my hair for me. And I must have nagged the mess out of her about when we were going to the store, and insisting that I went. She was always nice about it, and finally we went to : Venus Beauty Supply on Patton Avenue in Asheville, NC.  A whole new world for me.

You see, I’ve never used weave before in my life. Never bought it, wouldn’t know the good kind from the bad kind on the shelf even if I guessed. The closest thing I’ve ever had to using weave was that one time when I was 7 and I had a clip in ponytail for no reason except all the other girls had them.



When we went inside, she immediately told me “now this is the braiding hair over here” and I nodded, trying to pretend that I knew that there would be more than one type of hair for different types of styles. The style I got was called Kanekalon hair by Vivica Fox.  Let me pause to say I didn’t know you could have your own weave line either.

We bought 6 packs of hair initially and it came to around 14 dollars. I also discovered that this store also has any type of hair ointment, gel, conditioner, lotion, mousse etcc that you would ever need. So I spent time gawking over that too.



Once we bought the materials she told me that she wanted to start at about 9 or 10 am the next morning (April 19th) and I said okay, completely underestimating how much time it would take. She told me it would take 8 hours or so, some people even said 16 hours. I didn’t know what to expect. I ‘m so happy that I got it done on campus, with someone that I trusted, because sitting in a salon with a stranger  for more than 90% of the day was something I was just not prepared to do.

The preparations were what had me the most excited. I was still nervous about what they would look like, and at this point I’d told my mother who still didn’t really understand what I was doing or why. The only thing left for me to do was actually sit down and get them done. Literally.

Part 1B: 11.5 hours of my life—Braiding Process coming later this week!



5 thoughts on “Identity Project: Part 1A : Preparing for the braids

  1. Kyja Wilburn says:

    Ha! This is so sweet. I used to get box braids when I was in middle school and high school and LOVED it so much. I would also know nothing about them (buying hair?! lol!), but my Godmother is from New York and more “cosmopolitan” than my family and knew I would love to have a break from worrying about my hair, which got cut really short when I was in fifth grade :(. It was cool to be in the know and notice the different quality and style of braids. I used to always sternly correct people by saying “BRAIDS ARE DIFFERENT FROM WEAVE!” because I had built a hierarchy in my mind that braids are better, or more authentically black, than weave. Shrug, I have calmed down about that with age.

    I love this talking about hair that is fun and not about struggle. It’s great to hear all of the facets.


    • Stephanie Watkins-Cruz says:

      Thanks! Yeah it’s been a fun process! I’m so used to curly or straight that this side of things was never really taught to me. What essentially was my worry that often comes with being mixed
      was that I wasn’t “black” enough to get the braids? And so that’s where a lot of inner turmoil kind of started because I realized how ridiculous I sounded reinforcing the ideals forced upon
      me growing up about not counting as a full person in one race or another. So this experiment really is a fun way to deal with it.

      Thanks for reading!! I really appreciate it 🙂


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