In the same way that transitioning back to natural hair is a rite of passage for lots of Black and mixed-race women, so too is cutting all our hair off and going bald or having a TWA.

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Our reasons for going short or bald are vast. We might have killed our strands with chemical relaxers, daily straightening or ill-applied hair dye. Or are reverting back to healthier hair practices so our wellbeing can thrive. Sometimes we didn’t heed the lesson the first time so have big-chopped more than once. Now, we’ve grown to love a short do so have kept the frohawk.

Whatever the reason, going short or bald is often a big deal, if not for the woman whose head it is, everyone else around them with an opinion.

The memory of my two university friends crudely mocking that I’d look like a starving Biafran child if I big-chopped is clear in my mind. I was offended and shocked at the ignorance whilst they belly laughed. They later changed their tune (“We were joking!”). When I returned to university in 2010 after a second big chop, with a no-frills level two haircut, they were silenced.

After the first teeny weeny afro (TWA) as a natural, my hairdresser coerced me into having my hair texturised. It wasn’t what I wanted and he wasn’t shy about his dislike for natural afro hair so on recommendation, I switched to Stag Barbers in Birmingham. For some reason I went back to my hairdresser years later for a birthday restyle, but after not being hot on the cut, I left my hair to grow out again before another birthday chop, aged 24, back at Stag.

From there on I trusted Ben with all my experimental short styles like an Aphrodite-style high top fade.

Vicky Gayle

My relaxed hair experienced a lot of breakage and lacked personality. I remember looking at my reflection and being so disappointed with how boring I looked, but I was scared of the unknown. However, around 2008, I had this overwhelming desire to go back to basics as I became more conscious about the toxicity of beauty products.

I couldn’t remember my hair’s natural texture so I scrutinised childhood photos in hope of figuring it out and spoke to my mum. My hair wouldn’t resemble the silky textures I saw on Google images searches but surely, I’d be able to handle my own hair?!

Whenever I went short, I felt absolutely liberated. Whether my hair was relaxed or natural. There was nothing to hide behind anymore. I’d be lying if I said I felt beautiful all of the time, especially when I was battling hyperpigmentation or when my friends received all the attention at clubs. When there’s nothing to hide behind, it can mean you judge what’s on show more harshly. In hindsight, it was the best thing for my confidence. My forehead is too big to go short again though, but I certainly think about it a lot.

Now, over to our fierce Melan readers for their short hair stories.


Venessa Taylor, Educator and author of Baller Boys Books

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Venessa Taylor

What inspired or prompted your short cut?

In 2016, I was diagnosed with leukaemia. Although my hair hung on for quite a while, each morning as I took off my headscarf, the thought of seeing my beautiful locs fall to the pillow was too much. After I found the first few, I made the decision to trim off my locs of over 20 years.

With the support of my two eldest daughters I had a haircut party with family and my closest friends. I didn’t want my youngest daughter, who was seven at the time, and my two young grandsons, who I wasn’t seeing regularly, to suddenly see me with no hair. Everyone at the party cut a few of my locs and my best friend, who is the hairdresser that started them off, cut the rest and then shaved my head.

Being in control of this situation was extremely empowering because at that time, I had no control of anything else. I continued to shave my head bald for a further six months and then kept it short for a further year, initially for it to grow back more evenly. From then, I continued to grow it and styled my hair in extensions because I didn’t know what else to do.

It grew long enough for me to wear in a ponytail but recently, I decided to cut it because I prefer natural hair and knew I wouldn’t loc it again. I didn’t discuss this with anyone. I went to the salon, sat there looking in the mirror and just decided to go for a TWA with a little colour.

What were other people’s reactions to your short hair? How did they make you feel?

The day of my TWA cut, I turned up at my daughter’s birthday party and everyone absolutely loved it. The responses I’ve had from everyone else have been really positive, including my youngest daughter, now 12. When I first lost my hair, she found it really difficult and encouraged me to wear a wig which I never have. My mum says it suits me and one of my brothers says it looks fantastic. 

What’s the best thing about short hair?

The best part of having short hair or being bald is the freedom. I’m free from wasting time thinking about what style to wear today and spending hours in a salon. I’m also a regular swimmer, so this style is perfect for that and now a regular sized swim cap fits.

Likely to grow your hair out again?

I can’t imagine growing my hair back. The thought gives me anxiety in my stomach. The only thing I need to think about is going to the salon for a trim and what colour I fancy if I want to dye it. I truly love it and experimenting with colour is a fun bonus.

What would you say to women having to reinvent themselves due to circumstances outside of their control?

My advice to anyone undergoing cancer treatment with the prospect of losing their hair is to take charge and empower themselves by cutting it before it falls, and then rocking the hell out of it.

The anxiety and stress around waiting for the inevitable to happen isn’t worth it.

Follow Venessa Taylor on Instagram


Hycinth Taylor, Counselling psychotherapist

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Hycinth Taylor

What inspired or prompted your short cut?

I grew incredibly long locs down to my knees that I wore for 19 years, but I became frustrated at the regular grooming and maintenance they required so I decided to investigate other style options. I’d also said to myself many years ago should I ever cut my locs, I’d go bald. However, having discussed this with my husband and daughter, they were completely against this.

My daughter took me to a hair convention where I met a stylist. I told him what my dilemma was. He looked me straight in the eye and told me to shave it all off. I was shocked at his response because that was exactly what I’d always wanted to do – have complete hair freedom. He became my stylist for the next ten years and it was him that eventually shaved it all off.

What were other people’s reactions to your short hair? How did they make you feel?

I’ve always been quite radical but have always been held back by my daughter and husband’s opinions. In 2013, I took the decision to cut off my locs but decided to do it after my daughter’s wedding and just settled for short hair for about four or five years when I experimented with an array of colours. Blonde was my preferred option.

My daughter had said to me that when the time came for me to cut my locs, she would want to be the one to do it and she did. At that time, I’d also become self-employed so I wasn’t answerable to anyone, which enabled me to experiment with colour.

Then in 2016, when my sister Venessa (see above) was diagnosed with leukaemia, I wanted to show her solidarity and for her to feel that hair wasn’t important, so this was my catalyst for going bald. When I raised the subject again with my family, my daughter was more open to it, but my husband was still a little resistant.

One morning, in 2018, I had an appointment for my usual cut and colour. However, when I sat in front of the mirror, I looked into my own eyes and decided it was my time and my decision.

My daughter just accepted it but it took my husband about a week to come round. There was a mixed reaction from others. Some would say it suited me and others would say it “looked good”. I wasn’t sure of the difference in the comments. No-one has ever said they don’t like it.

What’s the best thing about being bald?

The best part of being bald is the freedom, flexibility and no longer needing to conform. It felt like being free from bondage. Wearing a TWA and being bald has saved me hundreds of pounds at the salon and I can now just wash and go. People often express their admiration of my “bravery” and “courage” to go bald.

Likely to grow your hair out again?

I have no intention to ever have more than a TWA, although bald is my preference.

What would you say to women thinking of reinventing themselves with a bald or short hairstyle?

My advice to anyone wanting to go for the chop would be not to think too much about it. Just do it.


Marcia Hylton

Marcia Hylton

What inspired or prompted your short cut?

I’m 57 and up until about two years ago, I was sporting locs, which I’d had for 15 years and absolutely loved them. Then menopause hit and I found my locs were thinning and snapping off and I wasn’t enjoying them anymore, yet I struggled to cut them. They were part of who I was for so long. I felt the circumstances were forcing my hand, but I didn’t want bad-looking locs either as much as I didn’t want to cut them.

I decided to unpick them and retain some length. I watched YouTube videos on how to do it, but I got frustrated and just decided it was a case of needs must. I cut them all off to the new growth at home and then went to the hairdressers.

What were other people’s reactions to your short hair? How did they make you feel?

When I said I was going to cut my locs, the response was unanimous – “Yes! You’ve had them a long time so do something different.”

How short did you go initially?

When I cut my locs, I went from mid-back length to very short. It was drastic but also freeing in an odd way. Not only that, I put colour on it too. I absolutely loved my hair but after a few months, I started to almost mourn my locs. I decided to grow my hair and locs once more, but the texture of my hair had changed, I think due to the menopause, so I went very short again.

What’s the best thing about short hair?

I feel like it’s taken years off me and it’s so liberating.

Likely to grow your hair out again?

I really love my hair short now so I won’t grow it too long. It’s easier to manage.

What would you say to women having to reinvent themselves due to circumstances outside of their control?

My advice is to embrace it, experiment with colour, be brave and bold and go for it! I feel now was the right time. It was a transition for me. I moved into a different stage of my life and my locs represented a part of my life that was no longer serving me, so I reinvented myself and continue to do so. Now, I’m free to be me.


Sonia Greyson-Newman, Life coach and writer

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Sonia Greyson-Newman

What inspired or prompted your short cut?

I first wore my natural hair short for a couple of years back in the 90s, but this time around, I’ve worn it short since 2017. Our hair is so versatile. I wanted to try something new, easy and edgy, and try another way to express my natural hair. Did I have reservations? Not really. I just thought the worst that could happen is ‘I’ don’t like it and would have to invest in some decent wigs until it grows back!

What were other people’s reactions to your short hair? How did they make you feel?

To be honest, both times I considered really short natural hair, I didn’t discuss it with many people. I’m strong-willed and impulsive when it comes to my style. This time around, I told my husband, my daughter and my friend Yemisi.

As a Black or mixed-race woman, how did cultural attitudes play on your mind about cutting your hair off?

I’m a Black woman of Jamaican heritage and generally speaking, long hair is a thing in Jamaican culture. But again, I didn’t take that on board. Funnily enough though, shortly after cutting my hair I visited Jamaica. It was amazing to see many women were embracing their natural hair and short cuts were very popular.

How short did you go initially?

My hair was very short – my barber used levels one and two on the clippers to create my style. In an attempt to switch things up a little, I did go slightly longer a couple of times, but would soon return to rocking my very short cut. I’d sit in the chair looking in the mirror and my barber and I would both be laughing and saying, “She’s back!”

Were there any celebrities, friends or family you looked at for inspiration?

Yes, Tahirah (@mrs_tahirah) on Instagram was my inspo for my cut in 2017. But slightly off point here, in 2018 I was at the cinema watching Black Panther. A Black family with young girls, approximately eight years old, were sat beside me and kept looking at the Dora Milaje women on screen then would look at me. I hope that I inspired them to see themselves and the versatility of our hair.

What’s the best thing about short hair?

I love the freedom and ease of my style. I live an active lifestyle, including exercise, swimming and regular visits to the steam and sauna rooms. I loved the fact that after a session, I can just wash my hair and go.

Likely to grow your hair out again?

I was actually thinking of growing my hair for some time, but I loved how my short hair matched my lifestyle so I kept putting it off. Then COVID-19 happened and I’d decided just prior to lockdown that I didn’t feel comfortable with the idea of going to the barber anymore, so I decided this would be the opportune time to grow my hair out. It’s worked out well because I was at home during the awkward phase you go through when you actually don’t have a style anymore.

What would you say to women having to reinvent themselves due to circumstances outside of their control?

Go for it. Most of the time what holds us back in life are the opinions of others. I believe life is for living and you should express yourself in any way you see fit.

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