“As I Style and Transform My Hair, My Personality Changes, Too”

Photography courtesy of Ebonie Walker

Getting your hair done can be a transformative experience. Ebonie Walker explores the many ways this is true.

This is Texture Talk, our long-running column that deep dives into the dynamic world of curly hair, from crowns of curls that are free flowing to strands that are tucked away in a protective style.

On a gloomy Saturday morning this past spring, I knocked on a stranger’s door and waited to be let in. I was there to get my hair braided and was equipped with the essentials of a hair appointment: an inspo screenshot from TikTok waiting on my phone, some almonds in case I needed a snack, four packs of braiding hair and my fingers crossed for a good experience. Three and a half hours later, I walked out with perfect waist-length golden-brown braids. I also walked out as a certified true-crime connoisseur.

During my appointment, my stylist and I binged the entire Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal series on Netflix, chatting about our own opinions and conspiracy theories the entire time. She updated me on cases that had happened in our area and strongly encouraged me to subscribe to the 24-hour Court TV channel that she watches. I admired her knowledge about and passion for crime, but I also quickly came to admire my own ability to transform into a person who was just as interested in and passionate about a topic I’m normally lukewarm about (at best). The experience got me thinking about how my hair — or, more specifically, the process of getting my hair done — has shaped my personality.

Growing up, I would get my hair straightened with a hot comb. To avoid getting burned, I’d sit as still as a statue and stare at the wall, the ceiling, my lap — ignoring all distractions around me. The only time I dared to move was when my mom instructed me to fold down my ear so she could get to the very edges of my hairline. And while my friends complained about their hair taking 15 minutes to straighten, I would think about the three hours of stillness required to get my own hair so sleek. To me, it was worth it. To this day, I’m able to tap into that place of calmness and serenity with ease, silencing the anxiety and chaos of the world around me — an ability that has outlasted all of my many hairstyles.

Another time, when I was seven years old, my mom took me to get my hair done at the mall for the first time. She had made sure to call ahead to confirm they felt comfortable working on Black hair. They said yes. But, in an experience many Black women sadly know quite well, it quickly became clear that that wasn’t the case. I walked out of the salon with a soaking-wet afro after the stylist finally admitted she couldn’t figure out how to dry my hair. As I left with a towel draped around my shoulders, past a line of white women and girls, each watching with joyful anticipation as their new hairstyles came to life, it was as if I could feel my skin thickening in real time. Today, its protective guard envelops me in uncomfortable situations.

In my adolescence, I decided to pursue journalism as a career because I was good at connecting with people about the things they were passionate about. I thought my shape-shifting ability to conjure up interest in niche topics was something I was naturally good at. And perhaps, in part, it was. But upon further reflection, I realized it was a skill that I’d been unconsciously practising in the salon since childhood.

Hair grows and sheds. It gets cut, dyed, braided, wrapped and covered. It’s always changing. That’s why I’ve never been too attached to my own. But as I style and transform my hair, my personality changes, too. Because when I walk into a salon, I’m opening myself up to an unknown experience. A new house, a new environment, a new stylist. The day I got my braids done, I loved true crime in a way that I’ve loved ’90s music videos or the latest season of Too Hot to Handle in previous sessions with other stylists. Like Cinderella transforming for the ball, with each appointment I become untethered from my true reality for a brief moment in time.

As we approach the colder months, I’m gearing up to get braids again. It’s my go-to style for protecting my delicate hair from brisk winds in the winter. And with braids, I don’t need to worry about my hair getting messy when I need to throw on a hat for extra warmth. I’m going back to the same braider as last time, where I’ll connect with her by turning into a true-crime superfan once more. Even if it’s just until the clock strikes midnight. Or for the three and a half hours it takes to finish my braids.

Ahead, the products Ebonie Walker uses to keep her strands healthy in between styling sessions.

DesignMe Fab.Me Leave-In Treatment

Hair transformation product

“I douse my braids with this leave-in spray to keep them hydrated and smelling great.”

Shop Now

Mielle Rosemary Mint Scalp & Hair Strengthening Oil

Hair transformation product Mielle Rosemary Oil

“I use this TikTok-viral oil to soothe my scalp after it’s been parted and pulled into different styles.”

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African Pride Moisture Miracle Shea Butter & Flaxseed Oil Moisturize & Define Curling Cream

Hair transformation product

“If I’m wearing my hair natural, I use this leave-in to deeply moisturize it before styling it.”

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Ouai Super Dry Shampoo

Hair transformation product

“This is the dry shampoo I reach for to refresh my hair when it’s in a protective style.”

Shop Now

This article first appeared in FASHION’s October 2023 issue. Find out more here.

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