Hair-Care Tips

As a Black Woman, Shaving My Head Has Made Me Feel More Exposed—And More Liberated—Than Ever Before

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Photo: Miguel Herrera
When I was 12 years old, I made a promise to myself: When I grew up, I was going to cut off all my hair. I saw a picture of a Halle Berry, who had recently cut her hair short, and thought, "Wow. That's something you do when you're really confident." And last month, at age 35, I finally felt like I had enough confidence to make good on that promise.

I'm someone who is always changing my hair. I'm constantly mixing things up between braids, locs, afros, and silky straight styles. In that way, my hair has always given me a sense of freedom; but even with all of the changes that I've made to my hair in the past, I've always worn it long, because it makes me feel more womanly. I'm tall and strong with big muscles, and I worried that if I went too short with my cut, I'd lose some of my femininity. So for me, knowing everything that my hair symbolizes and saying, "To hell with it, I'm going to cut it off anyway," was liberating.

While I'd been thinking about cutting my hair for two decades, the pandemic really solidified my decision. If 2020 taught me anything, it's to live. To do the things I want to do without taking them for granted. Because if not now, then when? However, even as I was driving to the appointment, even as I was sitting in the salon chair, I was still asking asking myself, "Are you sure you want to do this?" It wasn't until the buzzer went on that I realized I really was going to.

I know people always say, "Who cares what people think?" but it's scary to know you're making a change that's going to shock a lot of people.

It would have been much easier if I had made this decision two years ago, before I had a public platform where people could share their opinions about me—but I don't think I could have done it two years ago. And I know people always say, "Who cares what people think?" but it's scary to know you're making a change that's going to shock a lot of people.

When I revealed my short hair for the first time during my Women's History Month Peloton ride, the response was overwhelmingly supportive. So many women from the Black community said, "I see you." I knew that they understood what it meant to be a Black woman who was going against what society expected from them. For so long, my hair was a way for me to communicate how I wanted the world to see me. People approach me differently when I have a silky, sleek style than they do when I'm wearing locs or braids. And, to put it bluntly, wearing my hair straight helps me fit in more and makes people perceive me as more socially acceptable. To cut my hair off and possibly put myself in a place where I'm less relatable to the masses was a risky thing to do. Yet, when I showed my Peloton colleague, Jess Sims, my chop for the first time, she cried.

I realized that once you've been exposed and done the scariest thing you can think of, there's nothing left to be afraid of.

In so many ways, our hair gives us a sense of security, and when I shaved all of mine off, there was nothing left for me to hide behind. It made me feel exposed in the most beautiful way, and I realized that once you've been exposed and done the scariest thing you can think of, there's nothing left to be afraid of. For 20-plus years, I allowed myself to believe that I was too muscular or too this or too that to have short hair.

After I cut it, I realized I was lying to myself, which made me wonder where else in my life I was telling these types of lies. We all have beliefs that are limiting us—whether it's telling yourself you can't make it through another 30-second sprint on the spin bike or, in my case, thinking that cutting off your hair will make you seem less feminine—but pushing through whatever fears are holding you back is the most important thing you can do to prove those beliefs wrong. In this case, I trusted my 12-year-old self who really, really wanted to do this. Now that I've done it, all I can think is, "Why did it take me so long?"

As told to Zoë Weiner

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