Elissia Tenea Franklin
I am @theReseachHer on all platforms
Chemistry PhD student / Research Assistant
When did you go, or should I say, return natural?
I believe that I am still on the journey of fully returning natural. I still dye my hair which is a chemical so I think I am still working toward it.
Why did you decide to go natural?
When I was a junior in high school, my mom started growing out her relaxer which inspired me. I have suffered from seborrheic dermatitis my entire life and eliminating that from my routine greatly improved my condition of my scalp. Anyone who has had a relaxer knows that the chemicals can literally burn off your scalp leaving sores. Well, imagine that times 10 for someone who already has a skin condition.
When I got to graduate school, I had this sudden urge to stop putting heat on my hair. God came down when I drinking a glass of wine sat down on my bed and pretty much told me stop conforming. I spent so much effort straightening my hair each week and I literally DREADED how dull it made me look. I have always had long and health hair even with a relaxer. The problem for me was I wasn’t being me with the straight hair.
Were you a professional when you made that decision?
Yes, and actually when I told my mentor how I was planning to rock my fro, she told me “that is so unprofessional” how sis? It is unprofessional to be black? It is LITERALLY the way that the hair grows out of my head. What if straightener were never invented? Black people wouldn’t be able to go to work… because they are “unprofessional” I am done conforming to norms that were set in place to literally make black people feel like they had to be something besides black. At the time, I did not have the words to describe my feelings. All I could say was “Ima be dope though”
How do you feel natural hair is received in your profession?
My hair is always a conversation. Now, that is 2019, other black people understand, so I do not have to explain my choice to them. However, it is always people outside of the culture who I have to talk through the fact that the texture is just how it grows.
Did you big chop?
Yes I have big chopped a few times.
Did you have any reservations about wearing your natural hair? If so, why?
No I didn’t.
Do you currently have any hair goals?
To stop putting dye on my hair. One, it is an unnecessary chemical. Two, I want to see my hair it is most natural state.
What are your favorite hairstyles for work?
I like any hairstyle where my hair is not easily accessible. What ends up happening is when I am sitting at my desk I find myself playing in my hair and trying to look for single strand knots to pull out. It is bad so I stick with anything pulled up or back.
What are your favorite hairstyles for play?
I love a good twist out!
Do you have a hair crush?
I actually have two and they are for similar reasons. Kim the Co-founder of Curl Mix and Wendy from Food Heaven Made Easy. I love how they unapologetically rocks their hair with such confidence and grace. Somedays you will catch them with perfectly styled hair and other days they’re rockin’ a fro, but no matter how you catch them, they are never apologizing for what God has given.
What are your favorite or staple products?
Honestly, I am not too in love with any product right now because my hair is in survival mode. I am in China and it is a hair product desert so I am hoping to get my hair right and some great products into my head when I return to the states.
Has your natural hair influenced any other aspects of your life?
Yes it has made me more aware of the things that I am putting into and on my body. I think more about the different chemicals I eat and even cosmetics that I use including makeup and lotion.
Any advice for anyone considering going natural?
Love yourself and cherish your journey. If you are going to big chop, be sure to stay in-tune with your beauty.
Are you working on any projects or have any events coming up?
The Research Her is a podcast discussing topics that are relevant to women of color. On the show, we discuss research that helps us live our healthiest lives. Each episode is relatable information that is made for women of color.
Anything else you wish to share?
Peace and organic hair grease.