Adventures in hair: My natural hairstory, style inspiration and how I went from hating my hair to loving it!

This is my hair story. It is a journey through trends, styles, major fails and finally learning to care for and love my natural hair.

Everyone has their own hair story and I would love to hear your experiences so please feel free to comment!

Abena at 5vintage

The beginning – relaxers and desires for European hair.

There I am at about five years old at home in a small town in England.  My favourite thing to do at this age was to wear a t-towel on my head (like a shepherd in the school nativity) because it gave me the feeling of having long, straight hair that moved.

In those days my mum did my hair, usually in cornrows, so I was not allowed to play with it. Mum used to say: “That hair on your head is mine so don’t touch it!”

As a result,  I played the girls’ hair at my school. Everyone was white. I wished I could fit in and have nice blonde flowing hair like theirs – it was easy to plait, comb and style. When it came to playing with each other’s hair my friends loved it when I plaited in French braids like a pro.

At 14 I got a perm. Mum took me to a home hairdresser who relaxed my hair once a month with a cream relaxer. It made my hair easy to manage so, for the first time in my life, I styled my own hair. This mostly consisted of lathering on tonnes of gel that weighed down my fine strands and felt greasy. I would never let anyone touch it.

Relaxers are dangerous. They have harsh toxic chemicals in them. I discovered how bad they are when my brother asked me to relax his hair at home. He went out bought the chemicals from a store. I read the instructions and went about relaxing his hair. My brother trusted me completely so when his head started burning and I said he had to keep the creme on for a few minutes longer he endured the pain. The relaxer burnt his scalp, patches of his hair fell out and I was in big trouble. He was lucky no permanent damage was done…

After relaxers came braids!


1934307_20143474858_979_n This is a memory clear as day – I was sitting in my bestfriend’s kitchen with my boyfriend. He was stroking my friend’s thick, dark and long caucasian hair marvelling at how gorgeous it was. He looked over at me (who was feeling left out, awkward and jealous) and said: “Don’t worry, you’ll have your braids put in tomorrow.”

I wore single braids for the first time when I was 18 and have continued to wear them at some point or another up until now. Those first braids gave me that feeling I was searching for at five years old: being able to feel my hair move.


Is an Afro socially acceptable?

I went to see my extended family in the north of England, wearing my natural hair in an afro. My auntie thought I was crazy.

She was going to plait braids into my hair and COULD NOT BELIEVE I would go outside amongst people with my nappy hair ‘out’. We drove to the hair shop to get braiding hair and I was pretty sure she was embarrassed to be seen with me.

I worked as a journalist for the local newspaper. My boss was intrigued by my natural hair and one day he asked me to write a feature about the afro hairstyle. I went out on the streets and took pictures of people who wore their hair in afros and included a picture of myself. After that more and more people in the town, black and white (but mostly white because hardly any black people lived there), sent in pictures of their afros. I had no idea there were so many! We ran another story featuring all the pictures. It became a celebration of natural hair and boosted my confidence.                 230549_6207301409_6939_n

I wore that style for a year until I suffered from bad breakage because I was not looking after my natural hair properly and using the right products. I used a hairdryer on high heat everyday! A big no no for kinky hair, which is super fragile.



Getting other people’s hair and sewing it in mine!

Crazy thing happened.  A black hairdesser opened up into my town! This was a big thing and meant I didn’t have to travel a minimum of 10 miles to get to the nearest hair salon that catered for natural hair. I decided to try a weave. I bought some expensive human hair (that probably originated from India where women shave their heads and donate it in a religious ceremony, unbeknown to them it ends up on the heads of black women who pay top dollar for it) and I had this hair sewn in. It went ALL THE WAY DOWN MY BACK! I felt so glamorous and got a lot of attention with my tumbling waves. People said they prefered it to other styles I had tried, some said: “You look so much better!”


After a while I didn’t appreciate the excitement because the weave wasn’t my real hair so not the real me. I started feeling disappointed when people told me how they prefered me with a weave – ‘but this is not how I really look’ I thought.


I did love wearing weaves. The versitility in colour and textures you can get from them is great. Also they can be good for your hair so the breakage I had suffered before this time grew back.



The ‘weave hawk’ was my last weave style. After that I fell back in love with my natural tresses.


Fierce natural styles

This time around I felt more on trend because more people were going natural. I saw the frohawk for the first time at the Afro Hair Show in London, in 2011, and rocked that style all the time. People always wanted to take photographs of me. These pictures (above and below) were done by street photographers.


Despite being completely natural one major problem was I still never did my own hair. I always went to a salon, as a result I had no idea how to look after my own hair.  No idea what shampoo was best, or any products for that matter, no idea about techniques to use, no idea what was good for my hair and what damaged it…I got to 30 and didn’t know how to care for my hair.


No self confidence = no Fro

When I moved to Thailand, I reverted back to my old ways of hiding my kinky hair and stuck to this one style for three years! It was cornrows in a pineapple and then I would add a synthetic hair ponytail. ALERT!!!The combs that kept the ponytail attached caused severe breakage! I had a bald patch on my crown 🙁

Get this though…I found black hairdressers in Bangkok!

Black hair salons in Bangkok


When a black woman has no hair salon to go to nearby, panic sets in. In Thailand some women approached me in the street, with desperation in their eyes, asking where I had got my hair done.

It just took a little out of the box thinking, which happens easily when one is desperate. I flew to Singapore for my first Asian hairdresser experience.

One day I read a magazine article about an African restaurant opening in a trendy part of Bangkok so I called them up asking if they knew anyone who could braid hair – I always trust that my African sistas can braid hair well.

I have never been wrong and wasn’t this time either. The African restaurant had a chef who braided hair! Genuis!

I also found a salon on Soi 17 opposite Central World shopping mall.

I thought the tame ponytail and braid style would increase my chances of getting a job. I felt like I would be the new kid on the block and needed to ‘fit in’ again.


This was my usual look for teaching. I could have worn an afro if I wanted to. There were three other black teachers; one wore dreadlocks and the other wore an afro.

A natural hair frohawk I did myself!

Love me, love my hair

I would love to say that I learnt how to take care of and style natural hair because I thought it was about time I did. This would be a lie. What really happened was, I moved to Germany, I couldn’t find a decent hair salon in the Frankfurt area, where I live. Yes there were salons but I found them so unprofessional it was a joke.

I learnt how to do my hair myself through Youtube bloggers Naptural85, LiveNaturallyLove Jessica Pettway, Nappy Fu, Protective Princess, Chizi Duru, Geraldine the Great and Living With Osa. These women are a part of the natural hair movement.

Natural Hair Movement? Yes, It turned out that I was not alone in my hair journey. Millions of black women around the world have ‘gone natural’ after having similar experiences to mine.

It is so liberating to hear that women now put aside weaves, relaxers and hot curlers to instead wear the natural hair they were born with: out loud and proud.

First attempt at natural hair heatless curls
Natural hair wig

My hair lived happily ever after

So now I give my hair a lot of love as well as simply loving it. I only use natural products in it so I make my own shampoos, conditioning treatments, gels and creams from raw ingredients in my kitchen! I love talking about it, playing with it and wearing it in a multitude of styles. Now when I choose to ‘fake it’ I tend to wear a wig that is just like my hair but a lot bigger and bolder!

Day out: Wiesbaden Museum

I decided to beat the rain and go for a day out at Wiesbaden Museum, which I found out exhibits some super cool pieces by popular contemporary artists.

They had works by Thomas Bayrle, Eva Hesse, Winston Roeth, Mark Rothko and Christian Boltanski and the museum is beautiful too.

Check out the video above and don’t forget to like, comment and share it with your friends!

eva hesse

Eva Hesse

art wies

Thomas Bayrle

inside wiesbaden museum

The museum’s private event room. Very posh!

inside wies museum

To find out more about Wiesbaden Museum. Click here


Perfect picnics in Paris

Picnics in Paris was my latest adventure.

See below for my Youtube video and anecdote about the delightful eats we had 🙂

I have to begin this story not in Paris but in Gran Canaria. I was in a cheap cafe with my beau Mario, who was enchanted by the good looking cakes, more because he was hungry than anything else and not because of the quality. I was adament that the mille feuille he was eyeing up was no good. The cream was brilliant white and the pastry was dry as a bone. But instead of taking my advice not to buy it, he listened to the rumble in his belly. Poor fool. It was so bad he decided that he didn’t like mille feuilles.

Fast forward three months and we were in a patisserie in Paris surrounded by artfully structures cakes. Colour combinations of pink and chocolate brown, gold sprinkled bombs and towers of cream stood before us in all their glory and there in the counter were perfect mille feuille with custard cream sandwiched between delicate melt-in-the-mouth pastry. Now this was the place to eat! But Mario screwed up his nose with the memory of Gran Canaria and tentively bought a cookie. A goddamed cookie! sigh.

“You have to try my mille feuille, ” I said.

“Nah,” he replied.

“But this is the real thing,” I explained.

I bit into it. Cream oozed out of the sides.

He stared.

I groaned with pleasure: “Mmm!”

He agreed to taste it.

I think his words were: “OMG that is awesome taste!” (He’s German but I didn’t correct his English for not wanting to ruin his sugar high, or mine).

And so the love affair with food in Paris began.

I prised my mille feuille from Mario’s fingers and sat on a bench staring at the Arc de Triomphe, eating it slowly.

He fished around in his bag and took out his silly little cookie. I couldn’t help but laugh.

The city of lights is magnificent. In my opinion the quality of food, art and clothing cannot be surpassed.

All of this comes at a price so we were careful to choose only the best foods, cafes and retsaurants within our budget. Quality bio produce, such as wine, cheese and meat, from marche de Raspail (5th Arrondissiment) and the rotisserie chicken, pates and fruit juices at Marche Bastille (11th Arrondissiment) were awesome.

We stopped at many patisseires along the way: Maison Landemaine in Oberkampt and Valentina Boulangerie on Rue de Voltaire became our regulars – I mean we went to these places daily.

Another highlight was chocolatier Chapon, on Rue Du Bac. It was a very posh experience indeed! Mario did mousse tastings as the chocolate expert gave him intricate details – in the same way a sommelier would with wine. It’s a memory that has imprinted on Mario’s mind.

On the last night, he woke me up saying: “The chocolate mousse in very fluffy.”

I wondered why he felt the need to tell me this at 3am and turned around in bed to find him fast asleep.

My German boyfriend was sleep talking in English about French food. Only in Paris! C’est la vie!



Cycling Bavaria with the boyfriend

Cycling Bavaria, in Germany with the boyfriend. The lowest point went something like this:

“I’m tired!”

“No don’t stop!

“But I’m tired…”

“You can stop when we get to the top of this hill. You have to deserve your rests.”

“I can’t see the top! That’s it I’m taking a break.”

“Baby! No!”

“Erm, there’s no need to shout. You’re scaring the birds…”

Usually my super fit boyfriend, Mario, goes on these epic cycle tours with his father. The two men love to pump iron on their bikes puffing up steep hills and speeding down again. A 45km ride in one morning is nothing to them. They go by the theory that, you work hard and then you can really enjoy your achievement with a massive German beer in the countryside somehwhere.

So when Mario suggested we head out to one of his favourte spots in Bavaria, he made the typical man mistake of forgetting who he was with.

A cycle ride to me is a slow amble on the straight and exciting descents down hills until I find a pretty spot for a picnic or a bite to eat. I stop to photograph the landscapes, stare at the flowers and sunbathe. I like to pet horses, baa at sheep and investigate abandoned little huts in the woods.

You can see where I’m going with this…

Day one of our cycle tour, we did it his way. I was trussed up in about three pairs of padded underwear as well as all the cycle gear and multiple layers of clothes to keep me warm and thus, I sweating like a sinner in church. The sun was on hiatus leaving behind a greyish landscape, so this was not the romantic wanderlust journey I had imagined. In fact I was pretty pissed off. It wasn’t fun. He was gunning along like he was in a race and he wouldn’t allow us to slow down because that would mean we had failed the war against our inner-selves or some kind of crap like that. The picnic was a baked snack shared on a bench and I was starting to see that the Kindle, I had packed for that moment where he snoozed in the sun and I read Jodi Picoult, was going to remain firmly at the bottom of my rucksac. Fuck.

You see girls this is the point in your relationship where you have to pull away from being his ‘mate’ and remind him that you are a ‘lady’ or a ‘girl’ or whatever. I’m a feminist, as in a belive in equality, but I am no fool. I know there is a difference between men and women and in this case, the way we enjoy things is poles aparts.

This video is what happened on day two when we decided not to go on a cycle tour but to just explore the area on bicycles, but what really happened was we took Bikewald Spessart route 2 around Frammersbach. We did it slowly, we parked up at nice spots to chillout and enjoy the view. We felt warm and fuzzy, rather than out of breath and, yes, we still deserved a beer afterwards.


The ulitmate tip in budget dining in Germany

Germany can be an expensive place to eat out in, especially Frankfurt, which is multicultural bussiness city with high-priced restaurants and wine bars.

I love to head off the beaten track into the nearby Rheingau region where local wine producers open their doors to the public to offer their wine and hearty meals for rock bottom prices.

Wine taverns or straußvirtschafts are where it’s at! ……Check out my video where I visit one in Wicker and give you all the details you need to find one when you’re next in the area of Hessen. 🙂 Enjoy! You can also head to my Youtube channel click here to see more travel videos.


Must-do in Germany: Buying wine and liqueur at the fruit farm :)

Hey guys.

I have been trying out video productions of my adventures!

I thought you might like to see a German fruit farm. It’s called an obsthof and it’s a really great way to experience German culture and local specialities on your travels because the obsthof sells not only local fruit but also products, such as schnapps, liqueur, sparkling wine, wine, juice and jams.

I went to this one in Hessen. It’s called Osthof Am Berg but if you Google obsthof and your location I am sure you will be able to find the nearest one to you.


If you think ‘mmm that wasn’t so bad, I’d like to see more’ check out my YouTube channel. Click here



Songkran water festival in Thailand is just one month away!


Check out my feature on how to survive Songkran – one of the world’s craziest parties.

I wrote this one for Jetstar Asia inflight magazine for all those people heading to the festival and in need of travel hacks to make sure they have the most bodacious time ever! 🙂 Go to the feature by clicking below.

Click here

I’m all excited about the Luminale 2016 light exhibition all over Frankfurt this week

Abena at the bar

I only heard about this light/art at night event while I was scrolling through checking out who and what was happening in Frankfurt. I saw a photography group were meeting up at Luminale 2016 and as always were ready to welcome newbies so I signed up and charged my cam.

When I checked out the website (click here) for the event I was pretty overwhelmed with the sheer amount of exhibits around the city. The programme was over 100 pages!

The event kicked off on march 14 and, as is happens I had to send my apologies to the photography lot because (Lord only knows how this happened) the train was late and then cancelled! For those of you who know Germans and Germany, lateness is just not an option so I was totally baffled while standing, freezing me bits off at the station.

I was also meeting some new buddies, who were very understanding. One was also running late… Obviously this friend was not German 😉

I digress! ..The light show.

Luminale 2016 is a city-wide light exhibition, on until March 18, when as soon as it gets dark the whole city comes alive with light and sound art installations, projections and interactive art at various different venues.


I made another video! I think this is a slight improvement on the last one but still, I have a long way to go….. 😉

We wondered into the Trianon Light Show near Taunusanlage S-bahn.


In the S-bahn station we found a hologram of grafitti and artistic lighting.


After a while I was mesmorized by all of the city lights. There was something magical in the air.

Em and Varun1

Red light district

Even the red light district became art.

Snow picnics and frolics – embrace the winter in Germany

First of all I feel I must apologise for not having an awesome picture of a snow picnic! 🙁

You see guys, it happened like this. We were on our way to the zoo – we were stuck for something to do and thought, why not – but there was a traffic jam on the highway into Frankfurt so we got off at the B8 to Königstein in search for a place to stop for coffee.

We went towards Große Feldberg, which is the highest of the Taunus Mountains at 878m, and as we drove higher up into the mountain we noticed the snow get thicker on the ground until 15 minutes later we were surrounded by this magical winter wonderland!

Mario in the snow

We took a walk. The snow was the deepest I (who has never done a ski season) had ever experienced. It was up to my shins. Awesome. The animals had to wait. Frolicking in the snow became the flavour of the day. I even made a video. Check it out 🙂

deep snow

view from the feldberg

top of feldberg


A snow picnic spot…or what?!

What shall we do today?

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