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“She Made Me Feel Ugly:” Teen at Center of #Supportthepuff Movement Speaks Out

Tayjha Deleveaux says she’s not getting rid of her natural puff anytime soon.

She’s the 16-year-old high school student at the center of the natural hair controversy in The Bahamas that’s now gone viral. The #supportthepuff movement has grown by leaps and bounds since Tayjha and other naturalistas at the C R Walker Senior High School were threatened with school suspensions, allegedly for wearing their natural hair. But in a time when more black women are embracing their natural beauty, cherishing their puffs, coils and curls and celebrating the ‘fro, supporters of the natural hair movement went HAM!

I woke up early Wednesday morning to catch Tayjha and her mom Turkessa before they headed out for school and work. It was just after 7 a.m. and via a phone call, we chatted about hairstyles, perms, #supportthepuff and being an eternal naturalista.

MY HAIRSTYLE HAS NOT CHANGED, EVEN THROUGH ALL OF THIS

“I didn’t expect this kind of support, I didn’t expect for the story to get so far out into the world or even get this big in little Nassau,” Tayjha says. “From this whole experience I would love to talk to other girls about natural beauty. No one can tell me anything about my natural hair, I know my hair is pretty but for me to help other girls to see that too is something I would love to do now because I want to show them that their hair is beautiful, you don’t have to be permed to be beautiful.”

Tayjha says, in fact, her taking the natural hair journey had little to do with trends or making a fashion statement, but more about her health and following her doctor’s orders.

“I’ve had my hair permed and texturized since I was about three or four-years-old and I went natural when I was 13,” she adds. “I went to the doctor one day for what I thought was a dandruff problem but I was told that I needed to stop perming my hair because not only was it burning my scalp, but it was also burning my face as well. The areas around my nose and eyes would peel so badly when I permed my hair. The doctor told me I had to cut it out, so I had no choice but to go natural.”

Coupled with the fact that her doctor gave strict orders to lay off of the creamy crack due to an apparent allergic reaction, something more magical happened. Tayjha says she got her #blackgirlmagic on one day.

“One morning I was just looking in the mirror and I put some gel in my hair and it was so curly and crimpy and I fell in love with my natural hair and decided I definitely had to keep it.”

Tayjha says she decided to grow out her hair naturally over the past three years, but apparently her school administrators aren’t having it.

Tayjha said one day in school a number of senior administrators came to her classroom and one of them called her to the side to scold her about her hairstyle, which used a band to keep the puff centered. The conversation that happened next has been the headline of many news stories both locally and internationally and yes, the catalyst to #supporthepuff.

“She called me over and asked why my hair was fixed that way, I told her I just put it in one that morning,” Tayjha explains. “She said it didn’t look that way and that it looked untidy. She told me the same way that schoolboys have schoolboy haircuts, schoolgirls need to have schoolgirl hairstyles. She then told me that I needed to braid it or put it in one and she walked away.

“I was humiliated because the whole class heard her tell me that I looked untidy and unprofessional. I cried that day. My friend had to take me to the bathroom to wash my face because I was crying so much and was so angry. I was embarrassed, I was humiliated and I didn’t know how to feel about myself anymore after she said that. But deep down I didn’t let it get to me. She made me feel ugly, she made me feel less than beautiful because of natural my hair. She wanted to embarrass me and make everyone feel like I was ugly, like my natural hair was ugly.”

ONE MORNING I FELL IN LOVE WITH MY NATURAL HAIR

Tayjha says after her story got out, she and other student naturalistas were threatened with school suspensions.

“My hairstyle has not changed even through all of this. This is my hair, this is how I fix it, there are no school infractions about it, I still have my puff at the top of my head. I am not getting rid of my puff anytime soon.”

Tayjha’s mother Turkessa Deleveaux was the one who sounded the alarm on what was taking place at her daughter’s school.

“It’s a lot to process and even though I was feeling the love, it’s been a lot to deal with,” she says.  “It’s rough to be honest, because at the end of the day, we have to deal with possible victimization. It is a movement now and I’m with that, but my biggest fear is people victimizing her and shying away from her.

The biggest lesson in all of this is to always tell your children to not let anyone tell them any garbage or foolishness that could ruin their self esteem or confidence. Don’t let the negativity win. She’s a child, she doesn’t need me to tell her that her hair is beautiful, that’s something that I instilled in her since she was a child.”

SHE MADE ME FEEL LIKE I WAS UGLY, LIKE MY NATURAL HAIR WAS UGLY…I CRIED THAT DAY

Turkessa says she encourages and is proud of her daughter’s natural hair journey.

“I am a poster child for damaged hair because of perm, so my hair is 40% natural,” she adds. “What’s great for me is that theres 99% support and it makes the situation a lot better. A handful of people are trying to make it about me when really and truly it’s not about me. This isn’t about fame, anyone who knows me especially on Facebook, they know that I’m always raising issues about what takes place in this country. This isn’t something new, they should’ve expected this from me because this is my daughter.”

Through all of this, the mother-daughter duo says they will forever #supportthepuff! 

**Speaking of school and weird school rules, read about the 5 things I wish my teachers taught me instead of worrying about the length of my skirt

I’M NOT GETTING RID OF MY PUFF ANYTIME SOON

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8 Responses
  • Blac Velvet
    April 1, 2016

    I think Tayjha’s hair is not the issue with the principal. I think she is intimidated by her strength and personality (without knowing either). She is obviously not comfortable in her own skin and with her own natural look. Good for you Tayjha!!! I’m very proud of you for standing.

    Natural = True Beauty
    #supportthepuff

  • upstanding natural bahamian
    February 19, 2016

    I believe that the issue is not with you having natural hair. As I looked at the pictures you have posted in this article, the one in your uniform to receive an award id nicely groomed compared to the other photos. You clearly noted that to receive an award warranted a ‘tamed down’ look. It is all how you present yourself, as messy or not, as dignified or not. There is a time and place for all things. The way you may look at home is not necessarily the way you should present yourself at school.

    We need to teach children to have self respect about how they present themselves. “Everything that is lawfull is not needful”

  • Shanthia
    February 18, 2016

    Excellent post!

    • ianthia
      February 18, 2016

      Thank you so much for reading! I appreciate the comment!

      • Denise McMinns
        February 18, 2016

        I know how you feel I too was made to feel ashamed of my hair and this was years ago I can not believe people at still raciest and cant see the wrong the do. it’s people like Ms. McKay who are ashamed of who they are and don’t have the courage to love what they see in the mirror.

        You are Beautiful and wonderfully made.

        Maybe the principal was ashamed of her nappy head as a child.
        she needs to retire if ya ask me.

        I support the puff/Natural Beauty