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Souls Of Sankofa: An Organic Lifestyle Series | GG Renee Says… “Think of your life as art.”


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What better way to create beauty than to take what we have naturally, our hair, our food, our resources, our imaginations and creative instincts, and explore these things thoroughly so we can be completely comfortable in our skin, with who we are and what we are putting out into the world.

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PSLoveCharli: Tell us your name and where you’re from/currently living. How long have you been natural? Why did you decide to transition back to your roots?

GG Renee: My name is GG Renee and I live in Maryland just outside of Washington DC. I’ve been natural since 2009, but I transitioned for three years prior to that.

My decision to stop relaxing my hair was triggered by the emotional transition that I was going through at the time. I’d spent most of my twenties feeling lost and uncertain about everything and at 28, I just hit a wall. I was tired of making all of my decisions based on what other people told me or what other people thought I should do. I cared so much about what other people thought that I had no idea how I really felt about a lot of things and how I wanted to live my life. I began to question everything and I gradually began the slow process of un-programming and learning how to think for myself. I had to stop living for the approval of others.

One of the first things I did was stop relaxing my hair. I’ve always had poofy hair. Even when it was relaxed, it would never stay bone straight the way I wanted. I used to always play with my new growth and admire the texture of it and I decided that I wanted to see more of it and more of it and more of it. The longer it grew, the more I fell in love with it.

PSLoveCharli: What were some of your challenges when transitioning and post-transition (i.e. discovering products that worked and didn’t)? How did you overcome them without getting frustrated with yourself and the process you were challenged with?

GG Renee: My biggest challenges were learning how to keep my hair moisturized and how to style it in ways that suited me. When I was relaxed, my main concern was over moisturizing and ending up with stringy, flat hair. But my natural hair soaked up moisture and laughed at the products that I used to use on my relaxed hair – mostly products with mineral oil as the base. Mineral oil blocks moisture from getting in and out of the hair shaft, which is what many of us want when we are relaxed. Through research and trial and error, I learned that my hair loves natural oils and shea butter, aloe vera juice and plain old water. I learned that the best regimen for my hair was to keep it hydrated (with water), moisturized (with aloe vera, glycerin, or creamy products that are high in these ingredients), and sealed with oils and butters. Simplicity works well for me.

As far as styling goes, my natural hair didn’t frame my face the way my relaxed hair did.  I had to adjust to seeing the shape of my face differently. I always wrapped my hair when it was relaxed, so I was used to it laying flat against my head and hanging down. Generally speaking, natural hair grows outward not downward. It also tends to shrink up and get frizzy more easily. None of these are bad things, but they require a change in perspective. At first it was awkward, but once I stopped resisting, I learned to embrace these new qualities and get creative with the possibilities. Natural hair is extremely versatile and it helped me to discover unacknowledged aspects of my beauty and personality.

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PSLoveCharli: Talk about the different styles that you wear. What is your top/go-to style and process/regimen to maintain that particular style?

GG Renee: My most common daily hairstyle today is a twist out. If I want a more defined bob, I twist it when it’s wet. If I want a longer, less defined look, I blow dry it before I twist it. After a wash or cowash, I section my hair into about eight sections. I apply a moisturizing styling cream like SheaMoisture Curl Enhancing Cream, Camille Rose Naturals Almond Jai Twisting Butter or their Moisture Butter and then I twist it, leaving about 2 -3 inches at the bottom unbraided. I then spray the ends thoroughly with my aloe vera/grapeseed oil/rose water mix, and seal with something thick like Barry Fletcher’s Grease or Koils by Nature Hair and Body Butter and I coil the ends of my hair around my finger until it is completely wrapped, then I slide my finger out without distributing the spiral. This keeps the ends clumped together, sealed, and less prone to knots.

I do this for each section and let it dry/set overnight. To maintain the style, at night I section it into about 4 – 5 pieces and put chunky two strand twists in it, sealing the ends with more grease each night. There are some nights where this does not happen, of course. I have three kids under the age of 11 so needless to say, I am not able to twist my hair every night. I often just put a ponytail on top of my head, pineapple style, and pray it doesn’t get too crazy. In the morning, I’ll apply a curl refresher like Jane Carter’s Hydrate Quench followed by their Creamy Leave In Styling Smoother or Camille Rose Hair Milk or Camille Rose Moisture Butter. Whatever I have on deck. When my hair is not out, it’s usually in a messy top knot.

PSLoveCharli: Who is your ultimate natural hair inspiration and why?

GG Renee: I have always loved healthy, thick hair so I have a lot natural hair inspirations – Corrine Bailey-Ray, T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, YaYa DeCosta and Esperanza Spalding to name a few. But I would have to say that my two daughters are my biggest inspirations! They both have such beautiful cotton candy hair and I want them to love it the way it is. I want to show them how versatile it is and what a blessing it is to have highly textured hair.

It has become a priority for me to create an environment for them that celebrates natural hair and rejects any messages that say that only straight hair is beautiful.

PSLoveCharli: What other “natural” changes did you make besides your hair? If none, do you plan to?

GG Renee: I am in the process of transitioning my diet. As I mentioned earlier, so many of my habits were passed down to me by my parents or simply what I saw other people doing. This includes my eating habits. As a result, I’ve struggled with gastrointestinal issues and skin issues for years and instead of changing my diet, I would just take medicine or worse yet, I would just deal with it and continue to eat the same things. It just felt too overwhelming to consider making changes because I wasn’t even sure what changes to make.

Now that I’m in my thirties, I’m much more conscientious about what I eat, educating myself on what’s in my food and taking the time to cut back on and eventually eliminate certain foods altogether.

Also, when it comes to skin care, I use mostly but not yet all natural products. I remove makeup and oil cleanse with castor oil and grapeseed oil. I use grapeseed oil to moisturize. I use primarily shea butter and coconut oil on my hair and body. I absolutely love African black soap to exfoliate and bentonite clay masks to give my face a deep clean.

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PSLoveCharli: My favorite word is “evolve” and I like to think of myself as “constantly evolving” – meaning that I’m always growing in all forms of life. Has wearing your hair in its natural state evolved you as a person? And if so, how?

GG Renee: Through my transition, I learned to appreciate the texture of my natural hair, which was something I’d always tried to suppress.  It was just the wake up call that I needed.  I began to question: What else am I holding back?  Why am I limiting myself?  After that first taste of personal freedom, I haven’t looked back. That’s why I love to call it my freedom hair.   The experience was a major turning point in my life and I’m still in awe of it.

PSLoveCharli: When people think of “natural”, they automatically think of hair – in these days. But living a natural lifestyle covers hair, beauty, food habits, etc. If you could also “go/return natural” in another organic form, which would it be and why?

GG Renee: In addition to my hair, my diet and my beauty products, I am constantly becoming more aware of who I am naturally. It’s so important to be true to yourself. As I mentioned earlier, I’m always checking in with myself to ensure that my thoughts, beliefs and decisions are based on my own inner voice and not the pressures and expectations that the world places on me. This is not something that can happen overnight and it’s not a set-it-and-forget-it kind of thing, but it’s definitely becoming easier for me.

PSLoveCharli: Do you understand the phrase “returning to our roots”? What does it mean to you in regards to returning natural? Mainly, what’s the true meaning behind your “return”? If any.

GG Renee: My interpretation is that we are all pressured as children to assimilate. Even I, as a mother, see how my children are constantly being molded and structured into obedience with social and educational norms, and it is often stifling to their personalities. As I’m painfully aware of this, I do my best to give them perspective that I didn’t receive as a child. I tell them that they can learn how to function productively and cooperate without necessarily internalizing everything that they are taught. I teach them to speak their minds but to be respectful and be aware that there is a time and place for everything. I believe that “returning to roots” is the process of reeducation. When we are young, we are completely dependent and we blindly believe all that we are taught by society, all the second-hand information we receive that comes from someone else’s interpretation. As we get older and more aware, more introspective, we begin to analyze all that we’ve been taught that doesn’t feel right or make sense to us and we begin to get back to the foundation of who we are and come to our own conclusions.

We are all suffering from information overload these days and that just makes it even more important to develop a strong inner voice and stay grounded in our truths, or in other words, our roots.

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PSLoveCharli: We would like to think that more women are rising, growing and becoming QUEENS, as it seemed so in year 2013. Sadly, we still need more of those women. When choosing my features, I must admit, the chosen one must have the qualities of a beautiful soul. So what advice can you give to other women who want to “evolve”, but afraid to wear their hair naturally? And/or transition to an organic lifestyle?

GG Renee: My favorite advice to give to women who want to evolve is to think of their life as their art. We are literally works of art. We are spirits who are given a body, a life, and circumstances and it is completely up to us how we will use what we have to create more beauty in the world. What better way to create beauty than to take what we have naturally, our hair, our food, our resources, our imaginations and creative instincts, and explore these things thoroughly so we can be completely comfortable in our skin, with who we are and what we are putting out into the world.

PSLoveCharli: Thank you for sharing your story GG. Where can we find you on social media?

GG Renee: I can be found writing about the complexities of womanhood on my blog, All the Many Layers. I’m on Twitter and Instagram everyday – @ggreneewrites. I also wrote a book called The Beautiful Disruption. It’s a unique story that explores the dynamics of family mental illness, self-prophecy and transformation through the lens of a heartbroken woman. It’s currently available on Amazon.

 Souls of Sankofa is an organic beauty + lifestyle series for the urban souls.
100% all-natural. Real people, real stories. 

Every Monday at noon EST!

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