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Orberzen Starkey2

Orberzen Starkey

I am a Nappy Howard University Alumni.

I went Natural before I came to Howard University. The reason behind this decision? My scalp was just sick and tired of the burn and I couldn’t imagine going to Howard being a slave to the crack cream. I also had horrible visions of dating boys who would run their fingers through my relaxed hair and I would run away in fright.

I arrived on campus much like your typical ‘small town girl in a big city world’. I come from a small southwest Georgia Town and my hair was not the ideal at that time for a black country belle. Heck, even my skin color/nose size wasn’t the “ideal” and I was called an oreo by most of my classmates all of my life because of the way I talked.

I felt my only natural ally was my mother and while I was walking on campus for the first time as a student, an upperclassmen hit on me(and not an ugly one either). I was pretty much taken aback and wanted to ask him so many questions such as ‘why did you hit on me?” or “you don’t think I look like a boy with my big chop?”. I wanted to pick his mind about how he felt about natural girls but I never got the chance. 

I was too shy to even reciprocate his advances and we parted ways. As more upperclassmen came, I saw more and more examples of beautiful napptural styles. The yard looked like a napptural heaven with dreads, twas, afros, curls, and twists of all sizes, shapes, and colors. For the first time, I didn’t feel ugly or “different” because of how I naturally looked, talked, felt. I felt ugly because I wasn’t enhancing my own god-given beauty as much as the other girls. I felt in competition and I immediately wanted to go to the nearest napptural salon, get comb coil,. and a makeup tutorial.

I think a major thought that natural girls think of when they go to Howard is “How will boys/girls perceive me?” . It’s an honest thought because no girl wants to enroll in college and become a social pariah their freshman year. Every girl, especially at such a young age, has a need for acceptance especially as they embark on a life-changing experience such as "college".

My times at HU with my napptural hair have been varied from good to bad but I never came across a man who absolutely hated my hair. Actually, I felt more in demand by the type of man I was interested in. I’ve always been interested in the enlightened type that plays a guitar on campus , wears worn converses, and throws a good protest to save the whales. Apparently, this type of man adored me, as well as the thug guy, the corporate man, the skater punks, the engineering nerd, etc, etc, etc. My point is, at Howard, men of all types seemed to generally like my hair and the hair of my napptural friends as well. There will never be a man on campus who will deny you a dance because of your hair and if he does….well…there are plenty more during homecoming . Alas, I didn’t have negative dating experiences until I myself felt doubts about my own beauty. Imagine the look on a first date’s face when you give him a tirade about “how blind and self-hating our people are” because you had a bad hair day. Nice, Huh?


Orberzen Starkey


It took awhile for me to realize that HU is a clean slate and to not bring negativity from others to my campus experience or my relationships as well. Sometimes when we go napptural we do not realize the baggage we sometimes bring with us on our journey. We just have to realize that not everyone is against us when we make this decision.

A person that is smiling at you may not always be laughing at you. I’m not going to sit here and say every relationship has been “peachy” but my napptural hair was never the cause of an argument, but I know it was the cause for a few makeups. I do understand when you hear one thing about yourself from people you have known for 17-18 years and then arrive in a strange environment hearing something different, it can be a shock and simply unbelievable. But don’t let that shock hold you back. HU was my napptural oasis to help me grow, learn about myself and my people, and become the self-confident woman I am today and I’m so glad I went. Maybe I should change that to napptural “rehab”? However, I hope that every napptural person who reads this makes their own campus a napptural rehab and learn how to take a compliment and enjoy themselves!

Disclaimer: I hope I did not bore you about my dating drama or make you think that Howard is just about “boyz”. Howard is a fantastic educational environment that fosters some of the greatest African American Talent in the world. I have other lovely Napptural memories but I felt for right now this can help a girl hold her head high when she takes her first step on campus.


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