“I’m too young to look like Toni Morrison!”
That was the thought I had back in 2015 as I surveyed the wiry gray kinks sprouting from the roots of my waist-length dreadlocks. I’d been dyeing them black for years, but now I was spending almost an entire day at the salon every two weeks just to keep them at bay.
Acutely aware that I’d be turning 50 the following year, I was in the midst of a serious freak-out. How and when did I suddenly get so old?! Smooth-skinned and baby-faced (I credit genetics and liberal daily applications of SPF 50 sunscreen), I’d been passing as much younger for most of my life, like many Black women. I knew I didn’t want to be a slave to the salon, but I just couldn’t see myself with a headful of progressively gray locks. That, I decided, was the purview of older women who’d chosen simplicity over style trends — certainly not me. I was convinced they would signal to the world that I had given up, not just on fashion, but on my femininity and my youth.
So, on my 49th birthday, I had my stylist cut my hair into a TWA (teeny-weeny afro). My husband, who adored my dreads and had absolutely no issues with my encroaching gray, wasn’t happy. But I had a vision of a big, bold and bodacious silver halo of hair, a style that would make a statement as loud as the dreadlocked topknot for which I’d become known.
But the journey toward that silver cloud has been neither as fast nor as easy as I’d imagined. I turned 50 and my ‘fro didn’t turn any heads. Now that, at nearly 52, my halo has turned out to be just a large patch of gray at my crown and a band at my hairline, I’m actually disappointed that I’m not as silver as I thought I’d be. I’ve resorted to evening my hair’s hue with temporary spray-in hair color. And on top of that, after decades of dreadlocks, learning to care for unlocked kinks proved expensive, time-consuming and often frustrating.
Thankfully, through social media I’ve connected with thriving communities of women who support each other through the challenges of going natural and going gray. There are Facebook groups such as “ GGG Going Gray Guide” and “ Our Gray Hair Is Beautiful (It’s A Black Thang, You Wouldn’t Understand),” filled with inspiring women of all races wearing their kinky, curly and bone-straight hair boldly, creatively and proudly. I also follow Instagram silvers such as @silverroxstyle, @speeccchgirl, @naturalsilversista and @silverbychoice, and the hashtags #thegreymovement and #grayhairdontcare.
About a year ago I came across the Instagram feed of LaShawnda Becoates ( @runtowardyourlife), a striking stranger who looked roughly my age, with skin as brown and smooth as an acorn and a bountiful head of steel gray, shoulder-length locks. She’s innately stylish, with a youthful energy that is in no way diminished by her silver mane. Too late I realized I could have simply let my gray grow in and watch as my ebony crown slowly transformed. What’s that they say about hindsight?
Fast forward to today, and my hair journey that has come full circle. Three years ago, when she cut my dreads, my longtime stylist Lizette Eugene had encouraged me to save them. I opted not to. But dear Lizette had the foresight to keep them herself! And two weeks ago, she permanently reattached all 80 of them! It took five hours and some serious Black Girl Magic to make it happen. And I couldn’t be more thrilled.
Now I’m rocking an ombré crown, my sparkling silver roots giving way to natural(ish!) black locks, and I’m looking forward to becoming a fully transitioned member of the silver sisterhood. I realize that silver hair doesn’t have to age me; in fact, it can add extra sparkle to my already effervescent spirit. So at 51, I’m still maintaining that I’m too young to look like Ms. Morrison, whose regal beauty is undeniable, but who’s also 87 years old. But I know that I’m exactly the right age to rock my hair with pride, silver streaks and all.
Photos courtesy Roxanne Henry, Danielle Finney, Marrica Evans and Tyrus Ortega Gaines