I hadn’t really considered my hair something to be ashamed of until my pre-teen years (shouts to my parents for making shit super normal and to my elementary classrooms for being predominantly Dominican and Puerto Rican). The community I came up in really made my early childhood trauma-free.
It wasn’t until middle school when I became friends with a lot of white girls — who either had, or wanted straight hair — that my curly confidence plunged.
I begged my mother for a relaxer.
I begged her for a weekly blowout at the Dominican spot up the block.
She told me my hair was beautiful, that people turned their heads walking down the street, that everyone was definitely insanely jealous of me, that I’d regret changing it.
I thought my mother was an cruel alien woman. Clearly she hadn’t gone to a single PG-13 movie, opened a single teen magazine or watched a single show on SNICK or TBS. Ninety-nine percent of those girls were white and the 1 percent who weren’t had locks that matched their stick straight-haired white sisters.
I had no brown curly-haired role models.
I saw no brown or black curly-haired models.
The one time I modeled the hair stylist combed all the curls out my hair.
It wasn’t until I got out of New York City and into college over a thousand miles away in the great and diverse state of Minnesota that I realized my curly hair was all things my mother said it was. And that only happened because I defied her and got it chemically straightened.
It was limp and sad. And instead of feeling hype to flip it, to run my fingers through its silky straight sheen, I longed for that tangled, uncontrolled headache. Some days I’d pray for rain just to get a little volume, something I’d have been loathe to do in my natural hair days.
I let the chemicals grow out.
All of the sudden the same white women who I used to want to emulate were asking me how I got my hair to look so “cool” and could they do the same.
No, they couldn’t. Like, physically impossible.
All of the sudden black and brown women were stopping me in the street to tell me how beautiful my hair was.
We’re in the midst of a natural hair revolution — and I’m so glad I can take part.