June 2013 - Natural of the Month: Saunya Shelise

Saunya Shelise

I am a creative, driven, Jesus loving, music lover who is constantly evolving into someone I am becoming proud of everyday. I currently am the owner of an online jewelry boutique, SASHgems handmade jewelry (www.sashgems.com) which is part of my creative outlet. I find most comfort in writing, singing and creating. I am obsessed with organic skincare and health and will spend ALL of my money in a health food store lol. I was recently blessed to receive my Masters degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. As I am evolving, I am constantly seeking new ways to allow God to use me for His glory. Being able to share and encourage is on of them.

LEI: What made you decide to go natural?
Saunya: Well to be quite honest, my reason was multidimensional. At that time I was on a long hair journey, and was documenting growing and taking care of my relaxed hair myself without salons, and was actually doing a very good job at it. I had grown my hair to almost bra-strop length. However, the more educated I became, the more I understood the dangers and unhealthy side-effects of using chemicals on my hair & scalp. And really, I was getting tired of scalp burns from relaxers. I had subconsciously became an advocate for natural hair but didn't think my hair was "good" enough to wear in its natural state. I knew then that I couldn't advocate for something and not do it myself. I made the decision to educate myself on returning natural and do it for me. 

Secondly, I made this decision partly to prove a point. It hurt my feelings to see and hear young girls opinions on what is considered beautiful. I would hear things like "long hair", "straight hair", "good hair", "light skin," etc. I knew that if I could show them the opposite, I could be a part of the influence that helps kill those fallacies.

LEI: Did you transition or BC "Big Chop"?
Saunya: I did the Big Chop! It was definitely a shocker to everyone because it was so spur of the moment. I began transitioning around September of 2010. That was the month I knew that I was never going to put a relaxer in my hair again. Between September and May, I wore transitional styles, mostly braid outs and Bantu knot-outs. Toward the end of my transitioning journey, I had a full sew-in installed for my graduate school trip to France. I kept my sew-in long enough to wear my graduation cap for graduation. I took my sew-in out myself and my hair underneath was SO matted and tangled! I knew at that point that it was time to chop it off. So I took the scissors and went for it! All that raced through my mind was, "My Mom is going to kill me! Haha.

LEI: What were your fears going in and how did you overcome them?
Saunya: I made the decision to return natural back when it wasn't nearly as popular or accepted as it is now. My fears surrounded around concerns like, if people would accept my appearance or if men would look at me differently or if my hair wouldn't curl the way I wanted. I had many concerns but the Lord had a bigger plan in mind. He used this drastic change in my physical appearance to humble me. See, I was one of those girls who hid behind her long hair and identified her beauty with having long flowing hair. God used this physical change to change me from the inside out. He changed my mindset and he changed how I identified myself. He showed me that my outward appearance did not define who I am inwardly. Once I learned that lesson I was free.

LEI: Name some reasons why you were happy about your decision?
Saunya: Returning natural has honestly been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I have evolved so much as a person partly because of this decision. Many think that making a decision like this is easy, but really it can be quite tough. Returning natural for me had a lot to do with identity, learning who I was and standing against the odds of what people expected me to look like and being secure in how God created me. Not to mention that it looks amazing on me! Haha, I love my kinks and curls. I love that my hair isn't like anyone else's and that it's unique to me. I have two sisters and all three of our hair are different colors, textures and curl patterns. How awesome is that? I love the versatility of my hair. Because my hair pattern is so tightly curled, it is very moldable. I love it. I've also noticed how this natural hair epidemic is becoming a culture. It is uniting African American women of all ages. It's one less thing that divides women of color. the commonality we share unites us and I am proud to be part of that.

LEI: What are some of your favorite hair products?
Saunya: I tend to stick with what my hair likes, so I don't try new products often. But it definitely took me a while to figure out my staple products. Currently my favorite products are:
  • Carol's Daughter Rosemary Mint Clarifying Shampoo
  • Curls Unleashed Lavish in Lather Sulfate Free Shampoo
  • Vo5 Moisture Milks moisturizing conditioner (hands down my favorite for co-washing)
  • Still searching for my staple leave-in, but I've been using Giovanni Direct leave-in and Carol's Daughter Hair Milk original leave-in moisturizer.
  • I moisturize and twist with my own Shea Butter mix that I create which includes -  Raw Shea Butter, olive oil, coconut oil, Shea Moisture's Curl & Style Milk and African Royale Hot Six Oil.
  • Coconut Oil
LEI: What is your hair routine?
Saunya: I really don't have a regular regimen like I should but I usually clarify, shampoo, and deep condition once every two weeks and moisturize with my Shea butter mix daily. I try not to ever sleep on my hair without prepping it the night before by moisturizing or twisting, and covering with a satin scarf.

LEI: What advice would you give someone considering going natural or who is new to being a natural?
Saunya: I would tell them something no one ever told me. It's like learning to ride a bike. You may fall a couple times, cry or get frustrated. But don't give up, keep at it! The beginning is tough. There will be plenty of "bad" hair days where you just don't know what to do with your hair because of your unfamiliarity with your hair in it's natural state. It takes time, trial and error, and patience. Once you learn your hair and what it likes/dislikes and how to take care of it, it will be smooth sailing! The natural hair journey is a constant one. You will always learn something new about your hair. This is what I love the most.

LEI: How can we follow you?

Shop: www.sashgems.com
Instagram: Saunyaaa

Saunya! Thank you so much for sharing your natural hair story with us. You are truly an inspiration to so many women out there. Continue to do what the Lord places on your heart to do.

Love & Blessings!
Tiffany Nicole


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