Donna Neddo says she was a little girl when she realized an unsettling truth: Nobody else at school looked like her.
Her hair was the culprit, she thought. If only she could mimic what the other girls had, the long, flowing strands of hair that seemed to dance in the wind. It didn't take long.
“Third grade was when I finally convinced my mom to get me a relaxer so I could wear my hair down like all the other girls,” she told HLN in an email interview.
The days of wanting to fit in are long gone. Neddo no longer chemically straightens, or "relaxes" her hair, as it's called. Today, she gets raves online from her Instagram photos that show her hair in its natural states of wonder.
On social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, hair blogging is clearly having a moment. With the ability to upload photos of one's self on the fly, Generation Selfie's currency of acceptance -- likes, follows and reblogs -- reaffirms that she is making a difference. And the effects are far more widespread than a school playground.
“The most awesome feedback I’ve received was from a young girl who told me that I was an inspiration to her, gorgeous inside and out, and her role model," says Neddo, who posts hair tutorials on YouTube. I wish that when I was younger, I had someone to look up to that did not idealize the dominant narrative of what defines beauty,” she said.
Welcome to the natural hair movement, a tributary of the Nile-like beauty and cosmetics industry. And nowhere has its waters run deeper in recent years than online. With cojoined terms like "nappiversary" and "hair-spiration," the movement has spawned an army of natural hair bloggers that share their "hairstory" and encourage, praise and celebrate one another.
“Celebration? It does kind of feel like that, ” said Holly Pope, who spoke to HLN in an email interview. Holly blogs and vlogs at Holldroid, her YouTube channel on natural hair. "The natural hair community is growing, which is totally awesome. People are creating product lines that cater to natural hair, many people are networking and just making really good friends with other people who share the same love. Hair! I honestly think this is only just the beginning."
And it’s starting to pay off. Follicles are gaining a following -- and turning many bloggers into bonafide experts of the beauty and hair care industry.
"I see myself as a businesswoman first, mainly because I am a digital marketing strategist by trade, so building my brand ties into what I do," said Jouelzy B., who runs her own site and blogs at Black Hair Kitchen. "Though it did take me awhile to get comfortable with acknowledging publicly that I have a YouTube channel and feeling comfortable letting employers know about it."
“I would say that I see myself as a blogger who is understanding how this can also be a great business. Blogging has been a fun and interesting learning experience for me," said Erica Smith, who blogs at Honestly Erica. "I have been able to share stories, advice and knowledge with so many people, which is rewarding in itself. But I have also had blogging open up doors and give opportunities that I never would have imagined."
As for individual hair, Smith said the point is not to bash what someone else is doing. "For me, it’s all about personal preference plus I relaxed my hair for 20 years. I refuse to act like I am better or more enlightened than someone who chooses to straighten their hair."
Alexis Felder of Lexi With the Curls agrees. "I think now, people are deciding to get back to their roots. I think as black women, we are finally realizing that we can be pretty with the hair that grows out of our hair. The amazing thing about Black hair is that we have so many different textures and styles."