You may have heard about Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair, the book Essence Magazine calls “Your Natural Hair Bible” and that has gotten the internet buzzing.   Thank God I’m Natural is without a doubt the most comprehensive resource on natural hair and has something for everyone whether you’re thinking about transitioning, already natural, or sporting locks. The book covers everything from the dangers of relaxers to product reviews, and even has over 50 homemade recipes for making your own hair care products at home.  Best-selling author and Harvard graduate was kind enough to share a personal excerpt from the book, in which she describes the highs and lows of coming to grips with natural hair.

You can purchase copies of her book online at   or at your local Barnes & Noble Bookstore. For more information, visit her website at or her blog at

 Excerpt reprinted here with express permission from the author

It was Saturday night and my place was packed!!!  As This Christmas played loudly in the background, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief — knowing that for once everything was going exactly according to plan.  This year, I decided to make things easy on myself. Instead of doing all of the cooking as usual, I simply picked up a shrimp platter, a veggie tray, and a few desserts from Costco’s.  All I had to do was take the teriyaki wings out of the oven.  What could be simpler, right? Wrong!

No amount of preparation could have prepared me for what happened next. As I bent down and leaned my head towards the broiler, I could feel 475° of intense heat sweep across my face and over my forehead, instantly transforming my wig’s soft, flowing bangs into hard, melted plastic. It didn’t take long for the unmistakable stench of burnt hair to permeate throughout my apartment and overpower the smell of everything  — even the sweet aroma of my Glade Christmas-Cookie plug-ins!  There I stood, melted plastic bangs glued to my shiny, sweaty forehead — and my friends waiting in the very next room . . . still hungry. 

Fortunately, not all was lost; I had a collection of thirty different wigs in my closet. Yes, I could look like Beyonce, Ashanti, or any girl in a rap video for a mere $24.99. But with that terrific flexibility and variety came a hefty price — paranoia.  What if my wig was on crooked or if, heaven forbid, a mighty gust of Chicago wind came and carried my precious hairpiece right down Michigan Avenue?  Even worse was wearing a wig while dating!  Let me tell you, while I had mastered the art of keeping men’s hands out of “my hair”, it was a constant challenge (and emotionally quite stressful) to maintain my dirty little secret.   Extensions are one thing to most men — but wearing a wig involved a whole new layer of deception that inevitably lead to the “Honey, there is something I have to tell you.  This isn’t my hair…” conversation.         
As I searched through my closet frantically looking for a suitable replacement — I sat down amidst the strewn clothes, shoes and hair pieces, and broke down in tears. Then, it hit me: I was happy wearing hair in every color, texture, and length – but not my own.  Seeing my charred wig lying on the dresser that night forced me to come to grips with my kinky tresses. Like most black women, I had an unhealthy and sometimes negative perceptions of my hair. I knew I needed to let go and stop wearing a wig — but after two years of waking up every morning and putting one on, I couldn’t stand the sight of myself without my synthetic tresses.    

You see, I had recently decided to go natural, and although my hair was quite long, my hair looked dry and dull — like week-old cotton candy, because I had kept it covered for so long. After getting a perm for twenty-plus years, I didn’t know the first thing about caring for my natural texture. I had no clue what products or styling tools to use or how to work with the tight, spongy curls sitting atop my head. Learning to do my hair was like teaching myself Swahili. I simply didn’t know where to begin. This episode forced me to come to the realization that me and my hair would be together until death do us part and was  also the inspiration for my new book Thank God I’m Natural: The Ultimate Guide to Caring for and Maintaining Natural Hair.              

Although going natural  was a long, difficult and sometimes, painful journey, it’s one that I will never regret. My natural journey, which has been fraught with many difficult moments, has taught me many lessons (including not to retrieve appetizers from an oven while wearing synthetic hair) — but most importantly, that we, as black woman, must learn to love our hair, embrace our unique differences and no longer be ashamed of who we truly are.  Today, I love my hair now more than ever before and have just as many styling options, if not more (minus the paranoia) as when I was wearing a wig.  While it has taken me close to twenty-five years to accept my kinky mane for what it is, I can now finally say, THANK GOD I’M NATURAL!


Best-selling author and Harvard graduate, Chris-Tia Donaldson’s personal story is inspiring legions of black women from Chicago, IL to Pretoria, South Africa to break free of wigs, weaves and relaxers,  after she learned the hard way, that she had to love herself (and her hair) in order to be successful in corporate America.

© 2015, Shalena D.I.V.A. – Personal Branding| Content Marketing| Product Creation. All rights reserved.


  1. Isha Cogborn on August 10, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    This is a great book…going natural was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

    • ShalenaD.I.V.A on August 11, 2010 at 4:58 pm

      Isha, thank you for visiting my site! I have to look into this natural hair thing a little more. I haven’t had a perm in several years, but I get my hair pressed out because I liekthe straight look. I’m not into twists or anything like that so I’m scared about going totally natural. Who knows…

      Thanks for visiting!

  2. Friendly Christian on September 30, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    I agree with the natural concept but you have to study your hair like you study your body. Your hair will repsond to tender loving care like your skin and for some people your your plants. Your hair is your glory and you have to see the glory in it to appreciate it. It’s like seeing the glory of God in you to embrace it. It’s no wonder some of us can’t embrace that yet, we’re still on the journey and that hasn’t yet become a priority nor do we see a correlation. I stopped using perms years ago. I went for a long time with my hair wrapped. I noticed the lack of chemicals caused my hair to be naturally healthy to the look and the touch, well I’M TENDER headed so it hurts to comb my own hair,but I learned to use the hair brush more and to slow down to take time with my hair although I kept it covered. I went from that phase to blow dry and curl, short lived because I learned that my hair responds to moisture. So I started using water and lot od gel. This means I had to wash it daily and condition it to. I’m still trying different shampoos out, but I like pepperment soap. I use cholestral for conditioner. The different gels make my hair to hard. There is one out there that I do prefer, it has a hair polisher in it. It’s not a perfect scenerio but it’s managable for me. My hair doesn’t blow in the wind. It doesn’t get in my face, both of which I hated about my hair when I grew it long and had a blow dry curl style. I’m older, I’ve always been conservative so since I turned 50 I decided I will live with a short manageable hair style for now. I am looking for products that a natural to use and I need the time to experiment with it because that’s what it will require for me to be good to my hair-time, short or long. The food that will cause your body to be nurtured may vey well benefit your skin and hair too. Think about it. That’s what I’m discovering. Chemicals alter things drastically and it takes time to recover, why not take time to rediscover, naturally. Thank you for sharing the article.

    Friendly Christain

  3. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 11:55 am

    To each his own, but I’m not rocking an afro or wearing locks to become “blacker.” I don’t perm my hair or use harsh chemicals, but I flat iron my hair and no, I ‘m trying to be white or someone else I’m not. In Corporate America, I went through a phase where I was “finding myself” so I rocked all kinds of hairstyles. My boss told me, “I wish it was culturally acceptable for me to change my hair like that.” I cut my eye at her like Whhaaaatttt…

  4. Christine McCracken Payne via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I think nobody should be discriminated against b/c of hair.. However some jobs require a more professional look.. so do your hair and make it “You”.. Own it ladies… As 4 myself… i chopped about a foot off of my hair and b/c i have naturally curly hair i straighten it cuz it’s easier to brush N go…

  5. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Christine–I’m all about manageability, too. I don’t have time to tussle with my hair in the morning.

  6. Pretty As Apicture Lilly via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I do get a lot of eyes from natural sistas when they see me with my relaxed woman said why do u get relaxers I said simply because I want to don’t get me wrong ppl should be free to wear their hair how ever they like. However, I see some ladies with rainbow hair colors come in my office looking for work and I’ve seen them get turned down for the job.

  7. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    bout the job– I think braids, locks, and afros can look professional. IT’s just a matter of upkeep. I just don’t like when people who are natural try to make other who aren’t feel like they aren’t real or balck enough. IJS…

  8. Christine McCracken Payne via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    besides being manageable.. keeping your hair curly and not frizzy costs some money to manage it.. .. im not trying to waist my time mon-fri trying to do it… i will do it if im gonna go out or some special occasion but i keep it simple;)

  9. Pretty As Apicture Lilly via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:08 pm

    I know that’s being very judgemental and I compliment sistas who are natural all the time when I see nice fro’s or pretty dreads but its not for me.

  10. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    @Pretty—Yes, I know what you mean about the crazy colors. The shop owner next door sells these colorful streak extensions and they look crazy—something little girls should wear. But the grown women come in there requesting them. I’m sorry, in a conservative corporate environment, your neon pink streaks will scream for the wrong attention and that’s not good. My sister tried to go without a perm for a while, but she couldn’t hack it. But I did and my hair is much nicer. But to look at me, you’d think I have a perm, but I don’t.

  11. MsDebbie MsEdmonson Boyd via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I can only Relax my hair because I would look like A frizzy Head fool. And The dying Brown Look Nice for me.I Saw The Locks and if the are Neat there nothing wrong with them.

  12. Nkoro Bari via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    thank god am a nigerian in nigeria. Over here either natural or permed doesn’t matter, just look good.

  13. Lanna Mcd via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    i usually shave it all off & sport the brush look! Because of convenience but have to maintain its tidyness by having to cut it @least once a week! since im back from an overseas trip im growing a fro! yeahh i use relaxer to maintain my curls so i can look descent in the conservative corporate enviroment& trust me its getting on my own nerves & i am growing it just to see how long i will stay away from the clippers! Like india ari sings….. I am not my hair

  14. Rochelle Bacon Henriene via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    I wear locks n this day…i done got to old for all that fuffn and puffn…i keep them clean…body and bath lotions and body sprays keep them smelln good…i can wash and wear and not worry bout my “kitchens”…lmbo…girl they free if u maintain ur own…and IF i wantd to cheat…who gonna know????…they can get all mussed up and fall right back n place…HAHAHAHAHA….thinkn mayb i shudna told my husband that!!!!!….LMBO

  15. Pretty As Apicture Lilly via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    @shalendadiva yea I know what you mean and if you know how to maintain hair natural or permed it will be healthy and long….

  16. Karen L. Jasper via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    I love wearing my Hair, Kinky & Curly!!

  17. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    @Rochelle, I really like locks that are enat and SMELL good! I tried the curly look like the founder of Curl’s Daughter, but it doesn’t quite work for me. The Dominican hairdressers burned my hair out. Now I’m trying to get my hair back to being healthy. My hair is my glory. ‘ve been putting tracks in my hair lately and they do soemthing for me. I feel soooo sexy with them in–LOL! I be whipping my hair back and forth–LOL!

  18. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    @All, did any of you used to get your hair pulled out with the dreaded straightening comb? I hated it! My mother used to slap the crap out of me when I would wince in pain because she burned ME. She used to say it’s not her burning me, it’s the grease. WHAT! No, Mom– it was YOU!!!!!!!

    • Lanna on May 10, 2011 at 3:27 pm

      ‎@ shalena hahahaha those wicked straightening comb & spunge rollers lol & yeah it was never them who burned our ears but the grease! & girl if it rained u knew not to go outside lol

      • Shalena D.I.V.A. on May 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

        Lanna– I guess women are women no matter where you go and we will do anything to look good–LOL!

        • Lanna on May 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm

          shalena & the price we will pay & some women work the weave u have to look twice & make sure it aint the real thing
          but whats important bold head or the 25inch brazilin weave as long as u r comfy & feel good about you whatever whoever think about you & if they feel that you are de-blacking by using relaxers or paying for a weave dnt pay it no mind!

          • ShalenaD.I.V.A on May 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

            @Lanna- Preach! But one time, this girl came into the weave store the day after she got into a fight and someone pulle dout her weave. She was like, “Aw man! Now when I get undressed at night, my man gone be like, what happened to your hair. LOL! I had to hold in my laugh!!!!!

            • Lanna on May 10, 2011 at 4:35 pm

              shalena lmbo but i would have burst out laughing! well i hope damage control was done lol i can just picture the weave less the pulled out strands! Shame

            • Rochelle on May 10, 2011 at 4:36 pm

              Omgosh….somma dese comments is off da chain…thats y i am all for my locks…they hecka cool free…and if i ever get in a fite…they will b pulln out my natural hair…they keeps me outta fite…lmbo…i dont care what u do to ur hair AS LONG AS U DO SOMETHING TO IT… bout dat????

    • Webb on May 10, 2011 at 11:35 pm

      Hold your ear, sizzle of grease. Too familiar..

  19. Caroline Banda via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I agree with Nkoro. In Zambia it doesn’t matter whether your hair is natural or not. We just like to look good.

  20. Pretty As Apicture Lilly via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Omg my mom use to and still says it was the

  21. Caroline Banda via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm

    @Shalena – I remember that comb. I hated it with a passion.

  22. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    @Caroline or Nkoro—Do you think it has something to do with us being in the States and Western culture?

  23. MsDebbie MsEdmonson Boyd via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    Oh there are Great Looking Wigs to I’ve Saw them where you don’t know are they Real or Fake. Shoot I Have A Few. Look my Girls. That’s what I Call Them. My Husband didn’t know. My Sistas ask why because I Have Alot of Hair. I Just Say For Bad hair Days.

    • Lanna on May 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      msdebbie lol u are as young as u feel & i think u counted 2 too many grey hairs lol! Besides i love the salt & pepper look!

  24. Caroline Banda via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    @Shalena – I think we don’t have anything to prove in Africa. We know we’re black. So if we want a weave we’ll have it done. If I want kinky hair then I’ll stay natural. The bottom line is… if I know I look good with a certain hairdo (natural or not) then I will make sure I get it done.

  25. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm

    @sDebbie–I love the short weave cap. I have long hair and I love to wear it short, but not my real hair. I look sexy with the short do, too. Ooww!!!

  26. Tracey Davis via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Im natural meaning no perm but i do straigtn my hair and i do were weave. I believe do whats best for u..Cus my black is beautiful and urs are too.

  27. via Facebook on May 10, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    @Tracey–I had to leave that death in a box alone. I hate perms for me, but I don’t knock anyone for using them.

  28. Shalena D.I.V.A. on May 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    think some styles need to be outlawed like the muchroom. Back in the 80’s, you were doing it if you had a freshly pressed mushroom. I also think Jeri Curls need to be outlawed, too. oes anyone remember that family off of Coming to America with those greasy jeri curls who left stains on everyone’s furniture–LOL!

    • Debbie on May 10, 2011 at 4:29 pm

      OMG. I Had The Mushroom and The Curl too I Thought I Was Cute Lmbo. On Iam getting My Short Wig for the Summer. Ya’ll may Laugh but Iam going to get the Short Grey Wig. Iam 53 with maybe 5 or 6 Grey Hairs.

  29. Lanna on May 10, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    shalena im from south africa & africa as a whole is not the jungle people think it to be, especially in sa our black sisters has adopted to the western culture! Pay rediculous prices for weaves, wigs but its their choice! & going or staying natural thats i choice too, weekends id wash it & not comb it & whoever looks @ me funny welll thats their problem lol! We let society dictate what we should look like

  30. Bill on May 10, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    i guess i may b out of place giving a comment because first i am a man, and second because i don’t have any hair. but defining blackness relevant to ones hair, eye color, or skin color is crazy. there u many many blacks who cannot have naturals because their hair is too fine and straight. blacks r brothers and sisters no matter what color the skin or eyes, or type of hair. we critisiz]e white for

  31. Bill on May 10, 2011 at 3:29 pm

    we criticize whites for their subtle statements of racism. aren’t we doing the same thing? before we as a nation can put a dent in racism, we have to start with ourselves

    • Lanna on May 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm

      bill u are bold! & we can go back into black history to the 1800’s! & sad but true there are many black people who go through torture with hair straightening & skin whiteners in an attempt to fit into the white society, some still believe o…nce u go white ur whole world turns right! i said earlier that it comes down to choice, & sad but true because women/people wanna fit into society & live by societys rule they tend to go for the add ons, lashes nails hair etc. Why most of us do it because we dont know who we are & will b influenced! I dnt think shalena’s comment was racial @ all! Yeah our white sisters go for extensions & that doesnt make them less white!

  32. Janice on May 10, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I wear my hair many different ways! But haven’t done the natural look. Probably never will. But if it works for you – go for it

  33. Shalena D.I.V.A. on May 10, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    I’m really enjoying this conversation. You never know what other people think of things until you put them out there. Has anyone ever cut your bangs too short and you wanted to cry and kill them? LOL! Have you ever cut your own bangs too short as a little girl? One time I did and I looked like Moe from The Three Stooges– Not a good look at all! LOL!

    • Debbie on May 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm

      LOL.Diva. Shoot I Cut My Bangs Since I’ve been Grown.and that was the only time I Had To Do The Weave. And my hair won’t Do Salt and Pepper. And people Ask Why do I Want Grey I think it is So Lovely.oh no the Curl has been Long gone. Lol.

  34. Christina on May 10, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    no, as long as your hair looks neat…….and in place..

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