How Author Benilde Little Changed Her Signature Hairstyle

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I’ve worn my hair in some kind of kinky, curly mass for close nearly to two decades. I’ve always loved the look of it, long before “big hair, don't care,” became a T-shirt saying.

When my first novel, Good Hair (it isn’t about hair), came out my author photo shows me rocking a crinkly curly messy updo. Over the years the hair just kept getting bigger and bigger and it inadvertently became my signature. It was not planned — I don’t think I could even say the words “personal brand” with a straight face. To me kinky, curly, messy, hair is sexy hair. I like sexy hair.

But in the last year I’ve changed up my look, not all by choice. I let my natural white, gray come saying goodbye to the lovely golden brown locks my now retired colorist Joy Harris used to lovingly create. I gave up my signature look for a number of reasons: partly because of self-acceptance and an embrace of aging, the other was not having the interested to try to replace the talented, unconventional Joy whom I’d been a client of for 15 years (a lifetime for me and hairdressers).

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My gray locks don’t do what you tell it do — my hair has its own mind, like most gray haired over 55 year old women I know. Mine has spiral curls of various diameters, limp frizz, textured frizz and some other stuff that defies description. In its natural state, there is no one texture, no one-way to be. Like me.

I am lots of things. I’m an introvert and an extrovert. I’m down to earth and fancy. I’m emotional and pragmatic. I’m psychologically intellectual and love an evening in front of the TV with my girl Viola getting away with murder. I like clothes. I like Jacquemus and Zara. I was doing high low long before Isaac Mizrahi gave us permission. I love nothing more than a Sunday alone with my New York Times and Nespresso latte after a Saturday night house party.

Hence, I’ve been rocking a top knot, wearing these Imma do what I wanna do strands up. For some women pulling hair up or back is not a hairstyle, it’s just what’s done between appointments or when you need to wash it. I like it up. It’s simple, classic, and on the good hair days I twist it so that it has just the right amount of texture and loose strands.

I’ve made loving peace with my white grey hair as my signature top knot.

The other day I was doing an author talk for a national women’s group of professional, Black women. I was signing books, when a woman, who was wearing a hat, leaned down and said into my ear, “I didn’t feel like doing my hair either.” I continued signing, smiled, but didn’t respond.

I could’ve copped an attitude and said something sarcastic, the younger me might have. But the good news about getting older is that I know it doesn’t matter. None of it. I’ve made peace with my ‘ish and trying to make it with other folks’ ish to. Just like I’ve made loving peace with my white grey hair as my signature top knot.

Benilde Little is the bestselling author of the memoir Welcome to My Breakdown and the novels Good Hair, The Itch, Acting Out, and Who Does She Think She Is?

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