Natural Woman: Dr. Phoenyx Austin (aka Dr. Phoenyx)
City: Washington, DC area
Occupation: Physician, Writer (www.DrPhoenyx.com)
Hair Journey: At the tender age of five, right before her kindergarten graduation photo, Phoenyx went to a salon to have her first relaxer. A couple of years later, her mother began doing her relaxers at home. She became so good at it, that she became the neighborhood hairdresser, hosting "relaxer parties." But young Phoenyx sometimes wondered if there was an alternative. "I'd wonder what it would be like to be free of the relaxer ritual," she says. "But I felt safer and more "socially acceptable" with a perm. I was a prisoner to my hair."
In high school, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" had quite an effect on Phoenyx. "Lauryn's hair was gorgeous and I'd never ever even seen my own hair texture before," she says. "I wondered what mine would look like." A trip to Jamaica sealed the deal. "I'd just come from the beach and was desperately trying to style the chemically-damaged mess on my head," she says. "I forced myself to answer a really hard question: 'Why am I doing this to myself?' I made the decision to go natural right then and there."
Phoenyx went to a barber and cut her hair all off. When she did the chop, there was resistance from her family and even from the barber, who initially refused to perform the task. Now Phoenyx describes her hair as liberating. "It's so wild to look in the mirror, style my hair, smile, and love the woman I see. There's nothing like the feeling of freedom and inner peace that comes from finally embracing the hair that I was born to rock."
Favorite Products: Carol's Daughter Hair Milk Curl Shampoo & Conditioner ($16 each, macys.com), Kinky Curly Knot Today Detangler ($12, amazon.com), Miss Jessie's Rapid Recovery Treatment ($9, missjessies.com), Shea Moisture Curl Enhancing Smoothie ($9.99, at Target), Lavish Curls Moisturizer ($10.99, target.com), olive oil for daily conditioning
Hair Icons: Lauryn Hill, Tanika Ray, Lisa Bonet, Erykah Badu, Meshell Ndegeocello