The ‘Big Chop’ Experience

Wednesday Apr 14, 2010 – By Laquita Thomas-Banks
Courtesy of Clutch Magazine

The boldest way to start your natural hair journey is to do the ‘big chop’. A few weeks ago, R&B singer, Chrisette Michele shocked the world debuting a sassy new short and tampered look during an appearance at Albany State University. The singer’s bossy decision is celebrated by scores of black women around the country. Even more impressive are the reasons behind Michele’s choice. The “Epiphany” singer says, “I wanted to make short and nappy hair fashionable, and let the industry know that there is nothing wrong with the texture we were born with. I plan to grow it out to the big beautiful nappy hair that I have.” Chrisette Michele officially shows off her brave new look in this recent shot by photographer, Derek Blanks.

Chrisette Michele is not the only woman chopping. The following ladies started their natural hair journeys by cutting it all off. These women share their thoughts, experiences and advice on going relaxed to natural.

Faren Monique’s Experience
During my senior year in undergrad, I was assigned to do a video project for a class. I was not natural at the time, but along with another classmate (who was natural) decided to do a documentary on the dynamics of hair in the black community. Clearly skewed by the biases of its filmmakers, the film inevitably became more of a natural vs. perm discussion.

My hair was processed at the time but through talks with beauticians, forums, research on the history of black hair and discussing the negative and positive effects of naturalness and processed hair, I began to analyze why I chose to perm my hair. It was after making that film that I decided to go natural.

I transitioned for six months. My last relaxer was in March 2008 and I cut off my hair in August 2008. I was pleased with the results. To be frank, there was a slight desire to have fine hair or a loose curl-pattern — I still had remnants of “colonized” thinking. I was also very insecure about my hair. My hands were always in my head, I had no idea how to style it and I was extremely nervous about going in public with such short hair.

My initial plan was to transition for an extended period of time, however that proved to be difficult. Watching natural-related videos on YouTube gave me the courage to cut my hair. For those contemplating doing a ‘big chop’ or transitioning, Faren adds, “Do what best fits your lifestyle. But once you cut your hair it will be drastically different from your processed hair- regardless of how long you transition. So you might as well get it over with.

Faren’s Video – Naturally You, A Documentary Exploring the Hair Politics of Black Women.

When I decided to go natural I didn’t know I was in the “transition” stage. I was eight months post relaxer and had between two to three inches of hair. I felt that my transition was long enough and I went ahead and did the’ BIG CHOP’ since I had some hair to work with. Plus, I was excited to see my curl pattern. I was very pleased with my decision. It made my life so much easier. I didn’t have to worry about relaxers and long days sitting in the hair salon. Detangling was a breeze. It saved me money and time — time that I now spend on more important things.

Her advice to those contemplating a ‘big chop’ versus transitioning:

I would say just do it! No really, it gives you a sense of freedom. Transitioning is a long process and you have to do so much more when dealing with the two different textures. I also think the hair grows faster when you ‘big chop’, there is less chance of breakage. And some people (not all), tend to damage their natural hair when transitioning.

Cindy Hurst
Cindy Hurst produced and directed Natural Woman, a documentary that explores the psychological attitudes that occur when African American women decide to wear their hair natural. The film also includes prominent psychological and philosophical experts who offer insightful explanations to African Americans’ reluctance to discuss what role larger society plays in how people of color define beauty in terms of hairstyle.

Cindy’s Experience
When I reached my 30s, I began to grow tired of the process I had to go through (weekly) to keep my hair “laid” so to speak. In addition to that, I was starting to get down on myself for not having the courage to go natural. So as a compromise, I got synthetic braids. I cut my hair down to the new natural growth. When it was gone, although I didn’t really like it (and no one else did either, including my husband and others in my family). I squared my shoulders and held my head high. I had reached a milestone by choosing to finally accept my hair. Weeks later, I still struggled with my decision. I wasn’t getting any positive reinforcement from anybody. So, I began to “secretly” use texturizers in my hair. I just didn’t like the natural kink. One day, as I was applying the texturizer, my teenage son walked in my room and asked, “What’s that I smell? It smells like perm in here.” Bam! I was busted in more ways than one. For the first time, I had to admit, I was actually ashamed of the natural texture of my hair. It was then that I quietly put away the texturizer and began to deal internally with that reality.

The real pivotal moment in my journey happened about a week later. I read a book called Without Sanctuary. It’s a photograph book that displays historic lynchings in America. There was one picture in particular that showed a black woman being lynched along with her teenage son. The picture is of her and her son hanging from a bridge. I took one look at her and I saw myself.

So many emotions ran through me simultaneously. I felt pain, sadness, indignation, rage pity, and hope. But of all the things I felt, pride was paramount. I felt proud to be a black woman.

When I looked at that woman hanging from that noose, her hair was natural and her skin was black. I’m sure somewhere down the line, she was proud of every African feature she possessed. I am that woman. I am my ancestors. I am an extension of my African heritage. Now, I can say that I am truly proud of every part of my Africaness.

I would say to any woman who is contemplating going natural to go with your gut instincts. If you are considering it, really deal with all the feelings that come along with it. Fear, anxiety, empowerment…all of that. But at the end of the day, let the decision be yours and yours alone. Even if you decide you can’t or don’t want to do it, really make sure that your are okay internally with your final decision.

Cindy Hurst’s Natural Woman Film For screening information contact Cindy via the website.

Photo Credit: Derek Blanks


  1. Hello, I am transitioning from the relaxer stage to the natural.. I'm dying tryign to stay natural.. It's been six months since I've had a relaxer.. I am so in love with my naturally wavy hair, but there are days that I see sisters with that straight relaxed hair, and I'm feel like I falling into depression over my hair. I want that look.. What helps me is I just rejoined the gym which fueled my decison to go natural. I can't wait for it all the grow out natural, but I am still uncertain of the outcome and what kind of styles I'll wear. Thanks for this article... I helps me to stay on the path of my natural hair journey.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    I hope that you realize the beauty in your hair and the power that you will eminate by rocking the true you..please don't wish for what other people have because for the life of me I can not understand how my relaxed hair held a curl. I flat ironed my hair once and it would not hold a curl for anything! I have had my hair natural for 15 months and I just cut it down because I felt like it was getting to long..imagine that! Stay natural..feed your hair and your soul natural things..

  3. Well i choped mine like 3 or 4 weeks ago and i am not happy but is soo short that i won't relax it until a few more months, maybe. I did it because a supposed stylist damaged it my middle back long beutiful hair....
    I had to buy a wig because is too short and after having it so long i don't feel comfortable but i like the fact that i can wash it twice a week, at least, and condition it each time without worries about dryer or flat iron it.
    I not sure what i will do when it will grown but at this moment, my desire is relax it.

    Thanks for all this that you are doing. At least i can release some steam...Thank you!

  4. I did the big chop almost 2 yrs. Ago and I am always happy with my decision. I plan to continue with my hair natural.

  5. I did the big chop last month and it's very short and different. I'm dating my hair. We try new things every week until we find what we like. I read books and blogs to keep our new relationship fresh. I pamper it and let it do exactly what it wants to do. The B/C is the first step in my reinvention of me. I can't wait to see how God really intended for my hair to look. I'm excited! Naked and Natural in GA.

  6. I truly enjoyed this article. I transitioned for 14 months and finally BC'd in Feb 2010. I can't explain what a journey this has been! I'm 35 yrs. old and finally learning to accept and love "Me"! I'm blessed with a husband who loved me for me even when I didn't so it's made the change much easier.

    My reason for going natural was a desire to truly see the woman God intended me to be...without me changing myself to meet the worlds standards of beauty. What an awesome God we serve that He can reveal Himself to me by allowing me to look in the mirror and see a head full of curls and a revelation that beauty is not physical, but it is a humble, gentle, kind spirit.

  7. I have been natural for 2 years now and i feel free! I get so many complements from men about how they love my hair.

  8. Chrissette Michelle is DOIN IT!

  9. Wow, beautiful article.. I BC'd on 7/2/10 after transitioning about 6 months. I had planned to have my hair interlocked (both textures and all-LOL)and just clip the relaxed ends as my hair grew. But something changed inside and I wanted to see the real "Me" that God had created so I big chopped and it is soo freeing. Thank you Jesus!! I may get "interlocs" later on but for now I'm enjoying my kinky curls! So many people try to get the curls and volume in their hair that we have naturally.. We are all truly blessed and beautiful! and u go Chrissette Michelle! God bless ya!!