Wig Out: Charli Penn On Why I Wear Wigs (and Embrace It)

woman with long, curly hair
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The biggest misconception about wig wearers, like myself, is that we’re hiding something. False! My natural hair is happy and healthy beneath it all and growing stronger every day. I embrace wearing wigs because it gives me the flexibility, the comfort and the fierceness that my busy lifestyle requires. When I was a teenager, I was all about Saturday mornings in the doobie shop; roll, wrap and go was my religion. But then when I got to college in Atlanta, my hair was no match for the humidity and the late night party scene. I hated knowing that dancing my heart out on a Saturday evening meant that my wrap would be non-existent by sunrise. I felt like I was wasting money getting my hair done and I couldn’t afford to look a mess throughout the week. I didn’t have the answer, but one day while shopping for a new brush in a local beauty supply store I noticed a wig sitting on a mannequin that looked just like my relaxed hair – length, color, style and all. I flipped over the price tag and it was only $20. (Cheaper than a wash and go, hello!) I had to try it. I put it on and I was instantly addicted.

Just like that, I could wake up, shower and make it to class on time and skip all of the hair drama that usually made me late. I could sweat it out in the daily sun or on the dance floor and never have to worry if my bangs were still bumped. It was a life savor. I rocked my signature look for a while but then curiosity led me to try on all types of cuts and colors in the shop. The prices for synthetic wigs, which last about a month, were unbeatable so I started trying new looks on for size. I called them my $25 makeovers. It was so much fun. The next thing I knew, I was showing up to class looking the way I felt – I had a wig for every mood and occasion. Plus, I could take it off when I walked into the door, and clean, condition and scratch my heart out without worrying about messing up the next day’s style.

Since college, I’ve jumped back and forth between wearing wigs and my real hair relaxed, depending on how much I was juggling at the time. I’ve had over 40 wigs hanging around in my closet at different points in my life. I’ve bought them all – human, synthetic, hot pink. As a little girl I loved playing dress up, and this feels like the grown and sexy version of that. Being a full-time editor keeps me busy, so I admit, the wigs are the norm these days. But you know what? I love them. I can channel my favorite hair divas in an instant and keep my hair healthy in the process. About three years ago, I did the “big chop” and cut all of the relaxed hair off. My hair has grown tremendously since then and I love the fact that even though I’m changing my styles like the weather, my hair’s still healthy underneath.

Wigs are gaining a better reputation, but they till get a bad rap. I laugh when people ask me if I’m bald underneath it all or if it feels like I’m wearing a hat. Nope, and nope! Don’t believe me? Give it a try. I try to encourage more women who want to have more flexibility with their hair to give wigs a go. As long as you’re putting in the work to keep your hair healthy and you’re willing to spend the cash, you might find that waking up with a new look can be just as freeing and fun as embracing your natural curls. It was for me.

Charli Penn is the Relationships Editor for ESSENCE.com and a marriage blogger who enjoys taking in a breathtaking city skylines from a rooftop bar, online shopping and changing her hair like the weather. She's a proud member of #teamlonghairdontcare and a wig enthusiast. Say hello below!