Meet Accented Glory's #BeDifferent Feature Zahra! Zahra is a health and wellness blogger at The Natural Journey For Life. Read below to learn what being different means to her!
Being different means acknowledging the uniquely wonderful person that you are. Not apologizing for seeing the world unlike others and living in your true skin and loving your true skin and hair no matter what the trends of the day are. - Zahra
Accented Glory's visionary had the pleasure of connecting with high end fashion designer Avnah Long, back in 2013. Our sister organization The Vine Events featured her for a "Black History In The Making" article. Our visionary and Avnah are from the same home town in North Carolina! Avnah now resides in Atlanta, Georgia where she launched her crochet swimwear and clothing line brand AVNAH Collection.
Her designs have been worn by various celebrities, such as Kelly Rowland and Cynthia Bailey. She has also been a featured designer during New York Fashion Week (NYFW)! We're thankful that she granted us an interview where she shares about her experience as a natural in fashion. Check out her interview below!
What inspired you to pursue a career in fashion?
I began my career in fashion as a crochet designer creating swimwear and clothing pieces, but I was inspired to expand my fashion line actually from my great grandmother Ida Davis that use to sew herself. I use to watch her as a child sew little thing around the house. Starting as a crochet designer was good for me, but it took a long time to make certain pieces as my visions grew. So, I started teaching myself how to sew. As I began designing pieces by using a sewing machine, it opened up a whole world for me as a designer. I was able to put pieces together faster than it would take me to crochet by hand and I was able to incorporate structure, play with fabrics and use other elements that allowed me to create a line that was diverse.
Being a featured designer during NYFW is an amazing accomplishment! What impact has it had on your career?
Being a featured designer during NYFW is always an awesome experience in itself, because the platform is so great. I was able to present my collection on a platform where many people in the audience is of some influence in the fashion industry. I meet a lot of people who connected me with textile suppliers, buyers, and gave me great feedback on the line in general. All of that is important when you're building a brand.
Share with us about your natural hair journey. What kind of experience has it been?
My natural hair journey started in 2003, when I decided to do my big chop. It was also around the same time that I opened my first salon in Atlanta. Many people don't know that I am a Master Cosmetologist and hair was my first passion. As my hair grew out some, I went through the twa (teeny weeny afro) phase until I could maintain my twist outs. Then I decided to loc my hair. I had locs for five year and I've big chopped three times since then. Now I'm just letting it grow out. I shampoo and sometimes co-wash, I use a shea butter mixture and I keep it braided up for protective styling. If I do wear it out, it's usually pulled back into a puff or I'm wearing it out in an afro.
With celebrities like Taraji P Henson embracing their natural hair, do you think it'll have an influence on the fashion world? Will we see more naturals on the runway?
I think a lot of celebrities and people in general are finally starting to embrace their hair. I am seeing more people on the runways wearing their natural hair and I actually tell many of my models not to straighten their hair for my shows. For the longest time people thought you had to have straight hair to look presentable, tamed, or well put together. Now we are loving and embracing the hair we were born with. Our hair is beautiful! There are so many textures and to have healthy hair that is thick, soft, curly, and can be styled beautifully is more important to a lot of people than being over processed with chemicals.
What's next for AVNAH Collection?
I have so many projects that I am working on including an accessories line. The accessory line includes neck pieces and I'm currently creating the beauty bangles. I'm also revamping the online store to make it easier for customers to purchase. I'm just having fun creatively right now. Whatever God puts in my spirit to create is what I'm working on. It's so much better for me right now to do it this way. I'm just in a really good spot right now with my brand and I'm excited to share the accessory line with my customers.
Avnah Long of AVNAH Collection
Since being natural I have been able to love and appreciate myself more! I have learned to love my hair for what it is - kinky, coily and a little frizzy! It has been an awesome journey learning my hair and making the right choices to bring my hair to its healthiest. Though I have had some difficult moments with my hair, overall being natural is the best thing I could have done for my hair - it is healthier, thicker, longer and stronger and the last time I recall my hair like this, I was a young child. Then, I did not really appreciate my hair type but now I have embraced its uniqueness. I know to some, maybe many, it's "just hair" but being able to truly love and accept my hair has boosted my confidence and creativity and I'm excited to be able to encourage others to experience this journey as well!
Morgan (Instagram: The4cProject)
I started my natural hair process in 2013, however, I didn't truly embrace the idea of being natural until 2015. When I started the process in 2013 it was simply because my hair was extremely damaged due to dying and relaxers. I decided I would give up the relaxers in an effort to maintain my color....I just wasn't ready to go gray.
Well, let's fast forward to 2015. On July 1, 2015, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Prior to the start of chemotherapy I was told I would loose my hair in about 14 days. My oncologist was right. In two weeks I was bald.
Five months after being completely bald, I embraced being natural. In January 2016 my new hair blossomed. Although, I love this brand new, chemical free, beautiful hair, I do understand, "I am NOT my hair."
Being natural my entire life has given me the opportunity to experience versatility in hairstyle choices over the years and especially in most recent times. However, I can easily recall when salons were inundated with Cosmetologists providing a variety of hair relaxers/perms, hair straighteners and chemical treatments to their clients and being natural was rare.
Growing up, I was happy that I didn't experience the horror stories that my friends shared about scalp irritation, head sores, chemical burns or hair breakage after they acquired a relaxer or chemical treatment. However, I have been burned a few times on my ear and scalp by the notorious pressing comb. During those times, being natural provided me with a uniqueness that heightened my self-esteem. Possessing natural hair wasn't the norm and I liked being different.
I take a holistic approach to my health and being natural is part of it. I love looking for healthier alternatives for my hair, skin and food intake. Products/ chemicals that we put on our hair and scalp, over time, in addition to the food we eat, can negatively/positively impact our overall health and appearance of our hair. Natural hair responds well to the organic oils in my kitchen and I love it! Being natural, though not always popular, has truly been a blessing and I am thankful for my mother passing the torch from her mother to be natural and stay natural.
Choosing to wear my hair in its natural state has allowed me to be able to embrace my hair has built my self confidence. It has also influenced my daughter's to love their natural hair too. My girls are my motivation and knowing that they embrace their hair at an age where appearance means so much is awesome to me. They are in the 7th and 9th grade.
When I first started the natural hair process, I chose to wear locs. As I continued to grow and learn as a person, I wanted my hair to grow with me. The process of achieving a goal in life to me was very similar to how my hair grew. The beginning process was hard; I had to stay focus and dedicated. As time went on, my hair continued to grow and learn it's pattern. It became something beautiful. Then I started a new cycle in my life and cut my locs. I continue to keep my hair in its natural state, because it was now a part of who I am. My hair has its own natural hair pattern and continues to transform as it grows, just as I do!
Even though the process of washing and styling my hair has increased in time, I feel my hair is much healthier. I also feel like my skin looks better without the relaxer chemicals being applied to my scalp. I get complimented much more on my hair now then I did when it was relaxed.
My natural hair journey began around age 30. My relaxed hair was damaged and brittle so I decided to go natural and see if I could grow some healthy hair. Transitioning natural and working in Corporate America wasn't the easiest thing to do back then, so I went natural for about a year and then cracked under the pressure to conform and fit in the workplace. I ended up relaxing my hair after my manager called me into her office one day to inquire about how I was doing. She made it a point to tell me that I needed to get my hair done.
Since that time, I've attempted to go natural three more times with no avail. I still was not experiencing the healthy hair results that I wanted and I felt self-conscious about my tiny fro.
At age 40 I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. During radiation treatments my hair began to thin out in the crown of my head. I made a decision to cut my hair really short and once again let it grow back naturally. So far it's been great this time around. The difference is that I was more confident and strong, after just surviving breast cancer. My perception about myself has completely changed. It's been about 8 months so far and I'm still loving it and it's growing and very healthy. I receive overwhelming compliments on how nice and thick my hair is.
I am now loving my natural hair!
The impact of choosing to wear my natural hair has sparked my imagination, boosted my confidence and eased my mind. I say it eased my mind because after a decade and a half relaxed, I wondered if I could ever make peace with my kinks and accept them as beautiful. Well, I have. I style creatively, I have no shame in my ethnicity but embrace it fully. I'm not Black but bea]utiful. I'm beautiful because I'm Black.
Cierra has been a part of Accented Glory since its launch in June 2013. Outside of being an "Accessory Diva", she's a millennial who's currently navigating adulthood. Click Not One Of Your Little Friends to check out her podcast!