Doing What's Natural

Toya Smith Marshall i i

Toya Smith Marshall is a makeup artist and government employee in Baltimore. She is a member of The Niraja Dance Company and owner of Makeda Make-Up Artistry. Courtesy Toya Smith Marshall hide caption

itoggle caption Courtesy Toya Smith Marshall
Toya Smith Marshall

Toya Smith Marshall is a makeup artist and government employee in Baltimore. She is a member of The Niraja Dance Company and owner of Makeda Make-Up Artistry.

Courtesy Toya Smith Marshall

Marshall is founder of the beauty blog "The Life of a Ladybug."

Questions Or Comments?

Michel Martin Weighs In:

What I believe is that I am right and beautiful — now, in this moment, in this body, I am right and beautiful. Do you know how hard that is — to believe in my own rightness, in my own beauty? But my greatest desire in life is to be free, and freedom means that I have to loosen the shackles of others' expectations and just be.

As an outward symbol of my determination to embrace my own personal beauty, I decided to stop straightening my hair and to "go natural." Going natural often seems more simple than it really is. But in the back of my mind, I've always known that it's not that easy.

I've always known that the very essence of my being is militant. I am the last to cave to authority. I am the first to question. Admit it or not, choosing to rock a natural is still a political statement. For me, that statement is, "I will not let you dictate. I will not concede to your idea of beauty."

It didn't go over well with everyone. The only one who accepted me without any back talk was my daughter, and she was a baby. In her innocence, she saw me, and the texture of my hair made no difference. In her eyes, I was beautiful and loved. And I love me this way. I love not having to wonder, "What am I going to do to my hair?" I do nothing to it. I work with it. My hair and me? We're a team. A wild, nappy, adventurous, rules-be-damned sort of team.

Growing out 18 years of relaxed hair allowed me to get to know myself through getting to know my hair. I realized that my hair is a reflection of who I am. It is stubborn, unyielding — it takes much heat to beat it into submission. It fires right back, even after it's been subdued. Those little kinks burst right through within a week or two.

At different times in my life, when I've made transitions, my hair has transitioned, too. It has gone from long to short; it's been black, red, brown and blond; it's been straight, and now it's nappy. When I finally reached a point in my life where I was happy and secure in my own being — as a woman, a wife, a mother — I allowed it to do its natural thing.

And my hair and me? I believe we're the most beautiful we've ever been.

Independently produced for Tell Me More by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.

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