The Road to Hair Acceptance
Society told me that beautiful hair had to be sleek and straight or nearly straight, and my head of bouncy curls didn’t make the cut.
( Taesha Jones / Rowdy Magazine Staff Writer )
I’ve had voluminous, corkscrew curls sprouting out of my head for my entire life. My mom has told me more times than necessary that I was born with a full head of curly hair. And while the texture of my hair has remained constant my whole life, my relationship with my curls has definitely been a journey of acceptance and eventually genuine love and appreciation.
Growing up, I was usually one of, if not the only Black kid in my class. Consequently, I was usually the only person with curly hair, too. Other kids in my class would constantly ask me “Why is your hair all poofy like that?” or even try to pull my curls and straighten them out. I remember one time I was told I would make a good tree in a make-believe game we were playing because my skin was the same color as bark and my hair was shaped like the leaves.
Yes, this is all probably just the bluntness of little kids talking, those words did have an effect on me back then. Growing up, most of us just want to fit in and feel like we belong but I spent a lot of time as a kid feeling like a black sheep with especially puffy wool.
My lack of knowledge about how to care about my hair didn’t help, either. I love my mom to death, but being Japanese and Persian with silky smooth hair didn’t make her the most equipped to teach me how to hydrate, define, and tame my curls. And after her and my Black father got divorced and we moved away, I was pretty much on my own as far as figuring out what worked for my hair. I tried everything from brushing it out, straightening it, to copious amounts of hairspray and none of that was doing my hair any favors. So on top of already feeling insecure and resentful towards my curls, how I was caring for them was not letting them live up to their fullest, bounciest, most defined potential in the first place.
But my unhappiness with my hair wasn’t only internalized. Curly hair has historically been underappreciated and deemed unappealing by the Eurocentric beauty standards society and most media embrace.
My discontent with my hair was definitely not helped by the fact that none of the princesses in the movies I grew up watching had hair like mine or that most of the women in commercials for hair products had sleek straight or wavy hair. Society seemed to tell me that beautiful hair had to be sleek and straight or nearly straight, and my head of bouncy curls didn’t make the cut.
Now, it seems we’re moving in the right direction as far as embracing hair of all textures. Hair products for all types of hair are increasingly being sold at widely accessible stores, celebrities are rocking their natural hair, and supermodels can be seen rocking curly tresses on the runway. The California House of Representatives has even passed a law called the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair or CROWN Act. Inspired by cases like that of 11-year-old Faith Fennidy who left her Louisiana classroom in tears after school administrators deemed her braids in violation of the school’s dress code, the law bans race-based hair discrimination in schools and the workplace. Although the law has only passed the California House of Representatives and is awaiting Senate approval, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
Even though it was a journey, I’m at a place now where I love and embrace my curly hair. It is important to not get so caught up on what others are telling us is beautiful and to define beauty for ourselves. So love your curls! Even if it takes a little gel and curl cream to help you out.
Taesha Jones is an Editorial Print and Online Writer at Rowdy Magazine. She enjoys hanging out with her cat, reading fiction novels, applying lipgloss, and memorizing female rap verses. Her passions include combatting racial injustice, raising cultural awareness, and promoting a more diversified society. Dm her on Instagram @taeeesha or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.