As someone who has been natural for 10 years, I love my hair, but I have been through many ups and downs with my kinks and coils. There was the time I decided I wanted balayage haircolor (a big mistake). And the time I took Rihanna's photo with me to the salon to inspire my haircut even though her hair was straight and mine is curly (yeah, that did not work, either). And recently, a hot comb experience that left me with serious heat damage.

It was the last one that had me Googling wigs.

My first time wearing a wig , I was nervous. Did my hair look fake? Would everyone know this was not my real hair? Would it fall off in public? But after several compliments on my new style, I was hooked. The kicker: When Sunday wrapped around, instead of the six hours I generally spend on my hair, I had time to meal-prep for the next week, go to the gym, and fold laundry. A wig frees up my time and lets me to live the life I want without being a slave to my hair routine. All I have to do is wash my hair every two weeks and braid it back down.

A wig is also a great protective style to help my natural hair thrive, maintain length , and be healthier in general. It gives my hair a breather from the constant styling. That includes twisting it every week and slicking it back in the mornings before work. While I'm wearing my wigs, my hair is safely braided away, and I've actually found that my hair requires less. trimming during the months I have it covered because I'm not always combing, tugging, and fiddling with my coils.

Now I've bought a couple of wigs (Sheila, Monique, and Lisa-yes, I named them) and kinky clip-ins that I can throw into my hair routine at any time. Most of the time I still wear my natural hair, but inevitably I get tired of styling it and the wig comes back out.

Here was my first wig attempt. I actually made this curly hairpiece myself with the help of YouTube. It was the perfect summer protective style.

Since I started my adventure in hairpieces, I've been asked, "Are you still natural if you wear a wig?" My answer: "Hell, yes!"

But there are some purists in the natural hair of the community who believe that they are wearing anything other than your natural coils. Those women would have you believe that it was covered or straightening your God-given kinks. It's a hairstyle. Wearing my hair is not my way of doing things .

If you ask me, really that’s just making it too deep. It’s a hairstyle. Wearing my hair natural is not my way of making a statement about my blackness and, in turn, wearing a wig doesn’t negate my love for my natural hair in any way.

I get where they're coming from , though. As black women, there is a lot of emotion and negativity that has come with our hair. My mom gave me a permit at 4 years old because my Afro hair was "too hard to manage." At the time Afro hair was mired in bad connotations. It was too coarse, unruly, and unkempt. Growing up in South Georgia in the early '90s, I did not see many women wearing their natural hair unless they were under the age of 12. Otherwise, it was a lot of weaves, wigs, and perms. Long, straight hair was the ideal at the time, in part because that aligned with the women we saw in magazines and in the media (who happened to be predominantly white) .

Then, in the early 2000s, the natural hair movement took off. Women began to chop off their straight hair, grow out their perms, and style their natural hair. It felt like a return to the time in the '60s and' 70s when activists like Angela Davis wore Afros as a symbol of black pride and black beauty. Today, I see more and more women rocking their natural texture. Some people still see it as a political statement for black women. There is a pervasive representation of black women with natural hair as the ultimate black queen, earth goddesses, mothers of the race.

And that’s great. But I don’t think we need to put all that pressure on our hair at all times. Everything doesn't have to be for the culture. If you want to wear your hair natural as a statement, that’s your prerogative. Do you, honey! But I don’t think it’s fair to judge women for not making that choice—natural ain’t for everybody, and no woman should have to defend her blackness just because she has a perm—or to assume that any woman who’s natural is trying to prove a point.

Amber Venerable

Here I am with my natural Afro. The coils and curls have a mind of their own, but I love them all the same.

Personally, I do not feel the need to present my hair as a badge of honor.

One of the things I enjoy most about wearing my hair natural is that it is so versatile. I can wear it braided, curly, straightened, picked out, and, you guessed it, under a wig. I love my hair, and I love being a natural black woman, but sometimes I’m lazy and I want to wear a wig, and I don’t think that makes me any less natural or any less proud than someone who doesn't.

Cases in point: Oprah wore a wig through most of the '90s, and when she was revealed her natural hair from under there, it was luscious and amazing and everything I want my hair to be in life. The same goes for Beyoncé, who is known for her amazing wig collection. Her hairstylist recently shared a photo of her natural hair, and let me tell you, I have major curl envy. You'd never question their black queenness, would you? Did not think so.

This weekend I bought my third wig. It's-wait for it-a bob with big-barrel curls and I adore how it makes me look. Yes, even though it makes me look like I got my hair straightened. So what?

Going natural years ago made me feel free in a lot of ways. I no longer had to spend hours in a salon getting my hair permed and set. It also made me care less about what other people thought of my looks (curls are so unpredictable, and it’s impossible to look flawless EVERY day). But wearing a wig gives me a type of freedom, too. Freedom from the same ol' hairstyle I wear every day. Freedom from my weekly, six-hour hair routine. Freedom from having to hold the weight of my culture on my curls and always present myself as the soul sister/dope black girl ideal. No matter how I wear my hair, or whether you can see my hair at all, I know that I am a proud black woman. My wigs don’t cover up who I am—they help me love who I am even more.