Ayanda Borotho on learning to love and embrace her natural hair

Ayanda Borotho (PHOTO: Drum)
Ayanda Borotho (PHOTO: Drum)

This story was previously published in the print edition of Drum Hair.


Poised and glamorous, DRUM Hair cover star Ayanda Borotho radiates calm and confidence. She poses effortlessly for our photographer at our cover shoot, showing off her gorgeous, healthy and natural hair.

Read more | Thinking of making the big chop during lockdown? 3 women tell us why they decided to cut their hair

The actress (38), who plays Phumelele in Isibaya, is married to Tau, a medical doctor-turned-businessman. The couple has four children, two daughters and two sons. She’s also an inspirational speaker and regularly shares her views on her social media platforms. Recently she added author to her list of accomplishments, with the publication of her memoir, Unbecoming to Become: My Journey Back to Self.

Getting to know herself has been an important part of her life journey and she wants all women to know “just how beautiful and special they are too”. Cutting her hair short a few years ago, and getting a fresh start was the beginning of a life-changing journey for Ayanda, which she shares with us.

TALKING HAIR

What were some of your favourite hairstyles growing up?

I braided my hair a lot because it was easier to manage. It was also the easiest way to have long hair as we didn’t have weaves back then.

Did your mother ever give you advice on your hair?

No, not really hey, hahaha! She just insisted it should always be clean, but other than that, no.

Any embarrassing hair moments in your life?

Well, I once cut my braids too far up and eventually cut my own hair as well. I had to cut hair that I had been growing for such a long time, I was distraught! LOL! That was the most embarrassing experience, I guess, but I’m a person who generally has really tried different hairstyles on my hair.

Ayanda Borotho
Ayanda Borotho (PHOTO: Drum)

GOING NATURAL

Have you always had natural hair?

Not at all actually, for a very long time I went with the trends and did what everyone else did on their hair. So I did the whole relaxing my hair thing, then I wore my hair short for quite a while and then I did the weaves, but curly weaves because I realised I love big hair.

When and why did you decide to go natural?

Three years ago, I cut my hair and started afresh. You know, when I look at it in hindsight, I think that’s when the whole Unbecoming to Become journey for my book started. That’s when I started questioning things about my life, the decisions I’ve made and the things that influenced them, why I’m the way I am. Somewhere deep in my spirit there was a connect to my physical self, because I was trying to take better care of myself – I had just had my last baby who’s turning four soon, and so I wanted to focus more on myself. There was a connect between that yearning of my true self and what that would manifest like in my physical appearance. That’s where the hair decision came from, even though at the time, it wasn’t as thoroughly processed as I’m articulating it right now. Interestingly, my character Phumelele in Isibaya also has natural hair.

Do you have any hair goals?

Again, with the whole exploring thing, I think I really want to have long dreadlocks, hey.

Who’s your hair crush?

Definitely Nomzamo Mbatha, without a doubt.

What’s your favourite thing about your hair?

How versatile it is, and how much it grows when I treat it right. You know,

"I find it so sad when some ladies tell me they have challenges at their workplaces because their natural hair is deemed 'unprofessional'"
Ayanda Borotho

Those things are very upsetting because I cannot imagine it happening to me. I’m telling you, I sometimes go into meetings in big boardrooms with my hair out and in my sneakers because what’s needed there is my brain, not how I look. And anyone who thinks black hair isn’t professional has serious issues.

What would you say if you could write a letter to your hair?

Every chapter is a different journey. I understand how connected you are to my soul and your state speaks to my internal state. Thank you for being an outlet of expression for me.

What do you wish everyone with natural hair knew?

That your hair is beautiful, especially because it grows like that. No one should tell you how you should look, the only rules that apply are yours and that’s it. Learn to love yourself and all the things that make you unique, including your glorious hair. And if you want to change it, do that, it’s your hair.

What’s the one hairstyle you’d never try?

Like I said earlier, I really like exploring with my hair and doing whatever I want with it. But I’m not a huge fan of straight weaves, because I really love big hair, so maybe that. And I really like my hair natural, so I don’t think I’ll be relaxing it anytime soon, really. I’m so glad my daughters also chose the natural hair route. There’s nothing wrong with rocking your afro, nothing at all.

BEING A MOM

How would you describe yourself as a mother?

I think I’m a very open-minded mom, I used to be very strict, but I’ve learnt to communicate with my children and understand where they’re coming from. We need to teach children to understand cause and effect, and to be able to reason–not this “because I said so” thing, though I sometimes still do that as they need to understand that I’m a parent, not their friend. As parents, I think we need to be at a human level with our children, not necessarily friends.

What’s your favourite thing about being a mom?

It’s actually two-fold, in that in as much as I believe we are here to impart wisdom and guide our children to become good citizens and people, and it’s such a beautiful gift and honour, one of the things I cherish the most about being a parent is how much our children mirror us.

I find it’s the most profound experience seeing how my children mirror everything about me. I always say God sends you children that you need, not that need you, because children will show us our flaws, our weaknesses, our brokenness – in as much as they mirror the joy, love and the positive things. And in how I parent them, I’m able to see that maybe there’s a specific part of me that hasn’t healed yet.

What did your children think about your natural hair change?

Both my daughters (Amina and Ayaphiwa) are natural hair girls. Amina, whom I adopted in 2017, already had natural hair. She generally has good, long beautiful hair that’s never needed to be relaxed or anything. Ayaphiwa, on the other hand, has been relaxing hers, but when she saw me going the natural hair route, she said she wants to join me. But the girls are not allowed weaves or anything like that. They can braid their hair or add extensions to their natural hair, but they are not allowed anything a grown woman who’s working would buy herself–just like I wouldn’t buy them Louis Vuitton or anything that expensive.

LIFE LESSONS

What does being a woman in 2020 mean to you?

It means the centre of love, peace, joy and life. As women, we are the centre from where life comes from, without us, there would be no life. But I also think about how when I’m upset, the entire house takes on a different vibe, and so for me understanding that I’m the centre that holds it all together is important.

What’s the one thing you wish women knew?

Just how beautiful and special they are, and that they don’t have to try to be anything other than who they were created to be. You don’t have to follow trends just to fit in, be yourself and learn to question things – it’s okay.

Why did you write the book?

It was time. I almost want to say there’s nothing I could’ve done to prevent the book from being written now though I didn’t grow up thinking I was going to write a book. But it was time for the book, and there was mounting pressure for me to write it because of the things I was sharing on my social media platforms.

I also realised that writing has always been a part of me; my mother wrote the epilogue and one of the things she says is that I used to keep diaries growing up. I even wrote a life story about myself at only 14, imagine!

So that has always been a part of me, it was a creative aspect of me that I’d forgotten, and it was the unbecoming journey that unearthed it. When you go back to yourself, you begin to remember who you were or what you have just neglected because life happens.

This whole journey and the book actually inspired the Isibaya writers to tell a story about a different side of Phumelele, the character I play, showing that she’s not just Zungu’s wife, she’s a woman.

I also wanted to reach the women who go through the same or similar experiences I’ve gone through, because I can’t reach all of them through seminars. And when you read the book, you will find it very easy because it’s conversational – I  want every woman to be able to read and understand it and be touched by it (Unbecoming to Become: My Journey Back to Self sells for R279 at all major book distributors).