I wrote this story for three reasons: one, to inspire women with natural hair to continue to wear their fro’s proudly (I wore my natural hair in a national publication and I’m very proud of that!) Two: To let people know that ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. We made that trip happen on a rather small budget! Right before Christmas, at that. Three: To let people know that the right attitude is everything. I could have grumbled about having to ride a bus there and back, but I didn’t. That opportunity was a blessing. I wouldn’t trade that experience. <3
In Dec. 2012 I received the blessing of being asked to be featured in Seventeen Magazine as a ‘Hair Ambassador’ for natural hair. A blessing truly, because I love seventeen magazine and the feature was going to be shot in New York City, so for a South Carolina girl like me, who’s never been to NYC before, it was really exciting. I rode the bus- all the way from South Carolina. A total of 14 hours there and back, I believe. My mom decided that this trip would be the perfect family vacation, and 4 round trip tickets to NYC, in the middle of December were not cheap. So, we all ended up on a bus.
The bus ride was cool, quaint, and gritty for the first few hours. The characters on the bus ranged from an old black man who wouldn’t stop laughing and passing out candy to a Latino couple who cussed each other out on the bus for hours at a time.
Once we arrived at the station, we were right in the middle of Time Square and I looked around in awe. Even in it its cold, dreary, rainy weather, NYC was amazing. After a few minutes of awing NYC, a crowd of people bumbled by and my mom reminded me that it was raining, and we had a few blocks to walk before we got to hotel. Walking for ‘blocks’? in cold and rainy weather? Well, I guess I have arrived.
Once we got to the hotel, I immediately wanted to do something that I can never do in the south, or at least in my particular city, and that’s order Chinese food.
After that was scarfed down by my family and I (which included my mom, grandma, and brother, we bundled up even more and went walking the streets of New York City. We were in Manhattan. We caught a mall a little before it closed, and wandered around hailing taxis (cool to me) until we reached different stores like a HUGE H&M (which SC doesn’t have, so I had to purchase SOMETHING.), and an underground Apple store. We finally reached the Rockefeller Christmas tree, which gave me all kinds of Home Alone tease. New York City is loud; a different type of loud that I’m accustomed to- chorus of horns and car screeches and even weirder things like the ticking of a giant projector display of a cloud ticking on a side of a skyscraper, or a random horse and carriage giddying past on a sidewalk. It was just too much stimulation.
The night before, Seventeen Magazine’s beauty editor sent me an email saying that a car would arrive outside of my hotel to pick me up in the morning. How cool is it to walk outside and see a driver standing in front of a car with your name in the window?
We rode through Time Square again, and this time I could really appreciate the flashing lights. It was still cloudy, so the lights were even brighter. Everything seemed so chic. We arrived at the building and rode the elevator upstairs to the studio. I was greeted by the few of the other girls in the photoshoot, and I felt insecurity creeping in. The girls were nice enough, with long straight hair and Michael Kors bags.I didn’t own a MK bag at the time (the one I own now is courtesy of my boyfriend) and my photoshoot was about natural hair; I was rocking a bantu knot out at the time, and although I LOVE my curls and coils, I was transitioning at the time and still adjusting to being confident with my fro. The girls talked about where they were from and what time they flew in, and I felt myself shying away from the conversation as I remembered our bus ride from South Carolina.
We were welcomed inside the studio to eat breakfast by some of the Seventeen Magazine Crew, which I delighted happily in, I was definitely hungry by the time the food was offered. During this period, the beauty editor came over to the table to introduce herself and find out exactly what time we flew in and everything for her records. My cheeks flushed as I had to tell her we rode the bus, for 14 hours, to get there. She was amused, not in an condescending way, but sheer surprise as to why I didn’t fly in from such a long distance.
One of the girls, who I found that day was beauty guru Chloe or BeautyShock15, had her photoshoot first, because she had another place to be soon after.
My hair was going to take the longest to style, which I was already worried about because I knew heat was going to be involved, so I went last. The girls who stayed were friendly and inviting, so I opened up a little more. one of the girls rode the bus from Baltimore, and that made me feel a little better. Finally, it was my turn to go to hair and makeup. I thought that the stylist was going to cut off the rest of my relaxed pieces since there were only a few left, but he insisted that he needed the length for the style. (I cut them off myself the next night once I got home :D) he was nice enough and assured me that he’s styled plenty of natural hair in his career, which should have been cheesy, but was actually comforting at the time.
The finished result of the style was a head full of spiral curls, with natural makeup. At 20 years old, 21 by the time the issue would be out, I was one of the older girls that would be in the shoot, so I think the natural makeup was chosen so I wouldn’t look even OLDER. We also had to be careful with the outfit I chose, because some outfit choices easily made me look every bit of 21. It was my turn to step up and get my picture taken. I remember the beauty editor saying “India’s our girl next door,” which I decided to take as a compliment. At first, I literally had no idea what to do, but it easily turned to a load of fun: a lot of fake and real laughing, awkward, poses, and hair touching- all things I do on a regular basis. I saw some of the proofs and was so excited about seeing the rest of the magazine. After the shoot, the glamtime was over. It was time to hustle back to the station in time to catch our bus, right after stopping at a mom and pop pizza place, of course. Skip over to April 2013 when my friend sent me a picture of the magazine, and there I was! I was so excited to see the picture, right there. It made that bus ride all worth it. I looked in the next month’s issue of seventeen and it turns out I DID inspire someone: I was super happy about that!
I thank God for that opportunity! I hope that photoshoot and this story touched you in some way 🙂