Breanna Cross is an LSA Junior double majoring in Communications and Spanish. Originally from Southfield, Mich., Cross has been doing hair ever since she was a young girl. She loved the creative agency that braiding gave her in how she chose to present herself. Presently, Cross has made a name for herself as one of the key stylists specializing in Black hair and braiding on campus.
Smiling, Cross reflected on the success of her business, Bre Natural Beauty, and her love for Black hair. However, she remembered a time when vehement love for her hair didn’t exist, and she isn’t alone in her experience.
“When I grew up, starting when I was really young, I lived in a predominantly white neighborhood,” Cross said. “All of my friends had straight hair, my mom had straight hair, even the Disney princesses had straight hair. They were the only girls that had influence on me. I hated my hair and I wanted my hair to be long and flowy like everyone else.”
Due to white supremacy and Eurocentric beauty standards, Black women from a young age are conditioned to internalize negative attitudes about their hair texture. Messages of unkemptness, unattractiveness and unprofessionalism permeate descriptions of Black hair. To assimilate, many Black women resorted to straightening or covering their natural hair.
Since the mid-2000s, Black women around the world have become advocates of the Natural Hair Movement, a movement for Black women to celebrate and to indulge in the uniqueness that comes with having kinky-curly hair. The natural hair movement is about more than hair; it’s a radical movement of self-love. It is is a movement to reclaim agency — to reclaim the lost love for yourself your hair, your roots, in a way that society historically has tried so hard to discourage.
Cross claimed that having a good relationship with your hair is crucial for its vitality. Through her business, she hopes to not only create a good hairstyle, but to also teach Black women how to healthily maintain, grow, treat and love their hair.
“If you don’t have a good relationship with your hair, you are going to do harmful things to it,” Cross explained. “It’s changing with the natural hair movement, thankfully. However, when I was younger, I didn’t know anything about my hair, and that’s why I hated it.”
The Natural Hair Movement is, in essence, a love story, and Cross’s work is a testament to the recovery process Black women around the globe are having with their hair. Styling hair gives Cross the agency to invest patience and care into Black hair, allowing her to fall in love with her own hair and to help others cultative that love for themselves.
“Some of the most rewarding things is being able to create relationships with my clients and to be able to constantly learn about different textures,” Cross continued. “Black hair is so amazing to me because you can do so many things with it, and everyone has a different texture. I love the people and I love learning more about Black hair.”
“I love talking to people and I love Black hair, and I love the Black community. That’s why I do what I do, and why I love it.”
Though Cross recognized the unique significance of hair for Black women, she warns about viewing Black hair as more than exactly that — hair. Just as some Black women choose to identify closely with their hair, Black women should also be afforded the same agency not to.
“I’m totally not attached to my hair. I would cut it off the next day with no worries,” she laughs.
Cross’s business is just beginning to pick up momentum, and she has no plans to stop any time soon.
In the future, she has plans to create a blog, a YouTube hair channel, natural hair workshops and a natural hair organization. She also wants to expand her hair services to include custom wigs and clip-ins. Cross remains optimistic about her business, and she looks forward to learning more about herself and the community through the process.
“I can control my own destiny, and I can control what I want to do, or how, when and with who I want to do it with. I have choice.”
Anyone interested in contacting Cross can do so via Instagram @bre.natural.beauty, the Black Umich or Black hair group chats, or email.