Lydia Forson is an unforgettable woman; on-screen and off it. Like many Ghanaians I first ‘knew’ her after seeing snippets of Perfect Picture and in Scorned all produced by Film Director & Producer Shirley Frimpong-Manso. Aside being an award-winning actress, she is also known to be an activist on social media and other traditional media with many following her blog LydiaForson.com and her recent natural hair blog KinkyMatters. Some call her controversial for sharing her opinions on political issues & figures in Ghana. Others admire her for being strong in upholding her beliefs and values which she shares through these two blogs (count me in).
I met up with #MissForson recently to learn more about her thoughts on the natural hair movement, it’s impact on her career, love life as well as the pertinent issue of girls made to cut their hair before being admitted to Primary and High School.
OQ: What inspired your change from perm to natural hair?
LF: Well..that’s going to be an interesting story. I have always loved natural hair from when I was as young as 10. I fell in love with Diana King’s hair style back in the 90’s It was magnificently simple but so hot. 😍
After Secondary School I didn’t relax my hair unlike my peers. But I faced a few challenges as I didn’t quite know how to handle it so I permed it a few months later. I had a friend in America who came down and her hair was so gorgeous! By the way, I feel like the natural hair movement started in USAwhich got down to us here. “How was I going to start over? How was I going to get my hair to grow fast?”, these were the questions plaguing me. I never liked perm and extensions. I started making excuses not to perm my hair like, not having enough money to buy perming cream etc. So on my 24th birthday I went to a salon to do something fantastic for my then boyfriend who was about to come down to Ghana. The first salon refused to do my hair because I didn’t have an appointment to do a perm-cut. So I go to another salon and it was also a terrible experience. In the end my best friend took a pair of scissors and gave me my first transition perm cut chop. It was actually what I used in Perfect Picture and everyone was in love with it! That’s how my natural hair journeybegan. This was in the year 2008.
OQ. What were people’s reactions to your full natural hair?
LF: Eventually when I cut it, there really wasn’t any kickbacks as most people were used to me in the permcut. When I was in the University, I showed up one time in class with my hair dyed blonde! My hair was my statement and most people were already used to that. I didn’t like fashion too much, I used very little jewelry but my hair was my golden egg. Once my perm-cut was eventually cut down to the natural state I sported a very short look which I often dyed to jazz it up.
OQ: How did the change affect your career life?
LF: By now my hair had formed part of my identity. The only challenge for me then was finding salons to handle my hair before going on set. I was always the one most salons saw as ‘Oh, boy! What do we do with her hair?’ If anything, the change affected my career life positively because if not for that I would have been just like any other actress. I didn’t mean to create this identity but through keeping my natural hair I gained my own unique identity. There are times when I wear straight weaves and people don’t even recognize me. Quite funny.
OQ: What about the men in your life?
LF: I wouldn’t lie to you, it, it was very difficult in the beginning. I had a man in my life one time, who actually told me he doesn’t want to wake up next to a boy. There was a very long time when my hair was very short, I texturized it at one point. But when you have men in your life who question whether you are pretty enough in short hair it can be an uncomfortable conversation. One time I asked a guy what he thought of my hair and he said its weird waking up and touching your head and there’s nothing there. Another man asked when I was going to do a long weave-on because your hair is almost not there. But there are also men out there who love the natural hair, who can’t wait to touch my afro and are actually turned on by the feeling. It feels really good. I think the positives far outweigh the negatives. When a man appreciates natural hair it says a lot about who he is. When you connect with a man who appreciates your hair and what you are bringing to the table it’s pretty much of an incredible feeling.
OQ: What Products did you start using in the beginning and now?
LF: I was like a fish out of water in the beginning. I didn’t know what I was doing. I texturized it thinking it was the only way to manage it. But now I totally love SheaButter cream for hair moisturizing and Alata Samina (Black Soap) shampoos are my go-to. I think I did my hair a disservice by not using them early enough. I owe my hair lots of apologies. I use olive oil in my spray bottle as well. I get a lot of products but I get wary over them. Many natural hair products promise you the world when it comes to hair growth but I love natural ingredients more. I have tried the onion treatment and yet to see how the garlic experience would also be like. When I do I will blog about it.
OQ: Do You Think There Should Be A Change in School Policies On Girls Cutting Their Natural Hair Before Being Admitted?
LF: Absolutely! I believe this is a subject a lot of people are afraid to talk about and when one person does you are immediately placed in a particular circle. This topic bothers me because when I was 9years old, I once wished on a dandelion for long silky black hair because that’s what was seen as beautiful. In Ghana, girls are made to cut their hair which they are already confused about. Its so dehumanizing and idiotic to think young girls will not learn because of their hair. Its something I want to advocate against but it’s hard to take on this when even people don’t take it serious enough. It is serious matter to take on because it does something to a woman’s confidence. For a long time women in Ghana would not go natural because as a young girl it was like circumcision with an end game of not making you attractive to the next man as a female student. Now as a young woman, you will feel like men will not be attracted to you if you cut your hair. Thankfully, more women are cutting their hair short of late and looking really amazing with all kinds of creative hairstyles.
When you take a woman’s hair away from her at a very young age you have broken her confidence. My Mom did my hair for a long time and as a parent you can learn how to twist your daughters hair which can last a month. There are women who feel it’s a rite of passage and therefore their daughters should go through it as well. Why shouldn’t we suffer the way they did? We don’t understand image as women. My father was angry when I was made to cut my hair. The amazing thing is half-caste & Caucasian female students are allowed to keep their hair with an explanation that they are of a different culture. It all boils down to our excuses for everything in this country. I will never forget the comments from the barber who cut my hair before I started school; “You are a small girl. In Ghana we don’t have this.” Snip. My mother was so pained. My Father was livid! How can you tell the difference between a boy and a girl? Do you know in the 60’s & 70’s women were not made to cut their hair like now? Yet we had some brilliant women coming out of that generation. So where did we go wrong?
OQ: What’s Your Final Word toAny Woman Out There Who Wants To Go Natural?
LF: Hair is a way of life. Its scary, exhausting but one day you will see the rewards of your hardwork and belike, Wow! This is me! So whether you want to Perm, go natural or wear a Weave, remember those are choices you choose for yourself . Prepare your mind because it’s a journey you will embark on. It will change your life in so many ways. Its not going to be easy but when you are prepared for the journey mentally you will enjoy it. You get to own a part of yourself that nobody can take from you.