I grew up in Trinidad, in a very tight knit family that believed strongly in loyalty and tradition. My mother is the kind of Trini woman who believes in old time sayings and practices, and she passed down everything that she had absorbed from her mom and aunts back in the day. That included some internalized beliefs about hair, but it also included some really applicable, still important, still useful beauty tips that have informed my own beliefs.
My mom is in her 70’s now but she looks like time stopped when she was in her 50’s. That is because she drinks water like there’s no tomorrow. I do my best to get in 8 glasses a day and still I fall short. My mom drinks water all day long, and she’s never been one for soft drinks or juices, and that obsessive water drinking shows in the quality of her skin, and also in the length and strength of her nails and hair.
I grew up believing in the power of aloe vera, which we consume in Trinidad for a number of reasons. My mom taught me to use aloe to purify your system—if my perspiration smelled particularly strong, for example, I would get a spoonful of aloe pith covered in condensed milk to mask the taste. Before knowing of aloe’s curative properties for sunburns, I knew about using the slimy part of aloe leaves on your face to cure acne. It wasn’t until years later that I started using aloe-based gels on my hair.
My mom also taught me the meaning of self-care. She is the kind of woman who to this day, won’t come downstairs without her hair styled and her makeup on. Even though we differ in the fastidiousness of our hair routines, I’ve learned so much from her. I wouldn’t be Afrobella today, if I wasn’t Peggy Grell’s daughter.
Afrobella was the natural hair blogger at AOL’s Black Voices and a writer for Vogue Italia’s Vogue Black website. She has also presented keynotes at several major media expos and seminars.