In the latest installment of our weekly Natural Hair Diary,’s Patrice Grell Yursik profiles Shawntal Smith, an attorney who, only a year ago, transitioned from a relaxed bob to super-cute, jet-black natural waves.

Natural Woman: Shawntal Smith

Age: 35

City: Omaha, Nebraska

Occupation: Attorney, creator of a clothing line for naturals, Au Naturel Diva Apparel (

Hair Journey: Shawntal’s adventures in hair straightening began at age 13, when she got her first relaxer and wanted to fit in with the girls at her new school. “Had I known then the jewel I had in natural hair, I never would’ve begged my mom for that relaxer,” she says. “But I wanted big girl styles, like Salt & Pepa.”

Shawntal regularly relaxed her hair from age 13 to age 32, and over time began to notice disastrous side effects.  “I got compliments on my hair, but my scalp was a hot mess,” she says. “The burning, itching, flaking, redness, tightness of the scalp and oozing scabs after touchups were unbearable. I asked my mom what my scalp and hair texture was like as a child, and she showed me pictures of me with long, thick wavy hair growing down my back. Meanwhile, I could barely my relaxed hair to arm-pit length because it kept breaking off.

The first time Shawntal tried to transition, she had unrealistic expectations. “I thought my hair should behave like my [relaxed] hair did. I got frustrated when the summer heat reverted my straight styles back, so I relaxed my hair…I felt so defeated.” A year later, she truly committed to going natural. “This time, I took the transition period as a time to really master my texture and enjoy the journey.” It’s been almost a year, and she’s not looking back!

Favorite Products: Joico Moisture Recovery Balm ($17,, Herbal Essence Hydralicious Conditioner ($3,, Herbal Essence Totally Twisted Conditioner ($5,, Shea Moisture Organic Curl-Enhancing Smoothie ($9.99,, Mizani Coconut Souffle ($16.99, and to smooth edges, Garnier Fructis Brilliantine Water-based Wax ($3.76, or Eco Styler Clear Gel ($2.29,

Hair Icons: Diana Ross, Tracee Ellis Ross, Marsha Ambrosius, Jill Scott, Raven Symone, Journee Smollett, Essence Atkins

Advice to Aspiring Naturals: “Do you! Go for it, draw confidence from within, and exude confidence and beauty regardless of what others think.”

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