Starting your natural hair journey can feel overwhelming but Jamila, founder of Girl Free the Fro, is here to change that.
Alongside various content creators and websites throwing endless streams of information and product recommendations at you, it’s difficult to narrow it down to what works for you and your specific hair type. This is what happened to Jamila, the brains and mysterious persona (she doesn’t show her face) behind our new favourite Instagram account Girl Free the Fro.
Education lies at the core of everything she does. We spoke to Jamila about her own natural hair journey, what inspired her to create Girl Free the Fro and how you can get involved with her Go Fund Me initiative.
What made you decide to start Girl Free the Fro?
“I started the Girl Free the Fro page because I wanted to start my own natural hair journey. I had braids and weaves for so much of my life when I was younger and then, from the age of 18, I didn’t have anything but weave. I always wanted longer and healthier hair and to wear it out all the time but it was frustrating and the process felt time-consuming.
“So, I did a lot of research on what I needed to do. There’s a natural hair movement at the moment but I found the information online really overwhelming. It felt like it was product after product and hairstyle-focused. For my journey, I needed to back to basics from point number one.
“Interestingly, there’s so many things that my mum, aunt and grandma have told me throughout my life that I now see are not good for hair. You don’t need to grease your scalp or brush your hair every day but you do need to wash your hair every week. I worked through eliminating all these fads like leaving a hair mask on overnight. It’s actually really bad for your hair. I also started paying more attention to my diet and lifestyle as this had a big effect for me. There’s a lot that goes into it.
“I realised that when I put all of my findings down in one place, it became easier to be consistent and achieve my hair goals. I started getting confident about my hair and wanted to inspire others. I don’t post too much because I want it to be useful – if somebody comes across my account, I want them to be able to start from post number one.
“I also don’t post too many products. It can be too expensive and also, product overload is not very good for your hair. Starting a natural hair journey can be hard to get your head around and I wanted to make the process feel less overwhelming. I also don’t put my face in any of my photos. As soon as you show your face alongside something, you automatically begin to see it revolve around that person. But it’s the hair that is the focus.”
What has your personal journey with your hair been like?
“I grew up in Hastings, so I didn’t have much access to products and education apart from my family. I started doing my hair myself at the age of 11 but I wanted to do what my friends were doing. I went to an all girls school so it was a really girly group. We would read magazines and copy the hairstyles and whatever my friends did, I wanted to do it as well but it wasn’t the best thing for my hair. At the age of 12, I started getting my hair relaxed and when my friends were dyeing their hair pink and purple, I was trying it too.
“At 14, I started getting braids and weaves and once I got weave, it went on from there. I didn’t ever really have my natural hair out from then. It wasn’t an embarrassment but I was aware that when I went to school (or now, work) with my hair down to my neck one day and then a little puff the next, it felt like it drew too much attention. So I kept getting weaves. I would be up until 1am taking it out and then at the hairdressers for 8am to get a new weave and nobody saw my natural hair in-between.
“The biggest part of my journey has been breaking out of that. I’d always liked my hair – it’s light in colour and texture so it’s not that hard to manage. But when you would spend Sundays having your hair pulled into plaits when you were younger it did give me, not a resentment, but a want for it to be the same as my friends and an easier life. With a weave, I could wake up and go, but with afro hair, it requires moisturising and looking after it.”
What have been the most useful tools for you during your natural hair journey?
“Instagram has been really helpful. I’ve discovered a lot of hair coaches on there – either people who help with hair loss or people who have taken the time to educate themselves on afro hair. One person I’ve found particularly helpful is Enitan Hair Coach. She supports helping you to get your hair to your goal in a healthy way that isn’t too overwhelming either. She even has a few products – I have everything.
“The best thing I’ve learned from her is about combing. I used to make sure I would brush out every knot in my hair but it’s so coily that if I brush it out, it won’t stay like that. So now I give it a proper brush once a week after washing and moisturising. I use her handcrafted wooden comb, £10.50, which is wide-toothed. The difference is crazy. I still have my other brushes but I now have a better relationship with them and know when to use them. I have friends who brush their hair twice a day and sometimes I do that as well but when you want to grow your hair, it’s so fragile. In doing that, you’re taking away any new growth.”
What has the biggest lesson you’ve learnt when it comes to your relationship with your hair?
“Patience. It’s a process and my goal is to have healthy, long hair but for so long, I wasted so much time looking for a quick fix. I was looking for a product out there that can make me grow my hair and even extensions, which are another quick fix. But now, I’ve learnt to just really love it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t get the same results I’m getting now.
“I’m also better at listening to what products are good for my hair. I love beauty products, which doesn’t work in my favour as I want to try product after product. But now I know to just stick with a few. Even if somebody is raving about the next big hair product, I need to take my time, look at the ingredients and think about whether it’ll be beneficial for me instead of looking a trend and thinking, ‘oh wow, everyone is using it, let me try it’.”
If you could share one piece of advice to anybody on their own hair journey, what would it be?
“Partly what my biggest lesson was – trusting the process and being patient. It’s hard but leaving it alone as much as possible does make a difference. Also, opting for low-maintenance hairstyles like twists, plaits and canerows. It’s also key to keep your hair hydrated.
“The most important thing though is to not give up. It’s easy to do when you aren’t seeing quick results. When I do hair workshops with girls, it’s almost about unlearning what you’ve already been told and re-educating yourself on all these new things and embracing your hair as it is.
“When you get close to your goal, you appreciate it more but instead of loving your hair when it’s longer, it’s so important to love it now and let it do its thing.”
You set up a Girl Free The Fro Go Fund Me Page. Can you explain the aims and goals for the initiative?
“I often get a lot of questions from people of all ages and one thing that kept coming up was that hair products are always really expensive. It’s especially hard for young girls who can’t afford it. I looked in Boots and the cheapest shampoo for Caucasian shampoo is £1 but for afro hair, it’s about £5. When you don’t have that much money, that is a lot to spend on one product.
“I started looking at organisations that support girls with hygiene products and realised that these packs don’t necessarily cater for Black families and don’t have any afro hair products in them. One girl I spoke to was using bar soap in her hair because she didn’t have shampoo and it became really matted. So, I started looking into creating hair packs.
“In the packs, there’s a shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner and oil – the fundamental products. I started getting donations from family and friends and then brands. Sometimes, we need more shampoos and oils but donations via the Go Fund Me Page helps to fill the gaps in products that we’re missing.
“I want these hair packs to go to young Black girls who can benefit. I started to reach out to youth organisations in my local area, too, and also do workshops on top of it to teach them how to use the packs and how to achieve healthy hair. It’s about education as well as just the products. It’s been great as it builds conversations around what is working and what isn’t for individual people.”
Main image: Girl Free The Fro