‘Black Lives Matter’ Co-Founder Patrisse Cullors on Hair Tales: ‘There Has to be More Than My Hair’

"It was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel like my hair was a thing that I was leading with… and it changed me,” says Cullors.

Hair Tales debuts a new profile this week on Refinery 29. A series sharing the hair journeys of celebrities and influence, Hair Tales explores the magic in Black girl hair. Created by image activist Michaela Angela Davis, this third episode features the hair tale of Black Lives Matter Co-Founder, Patrisse Cullors.

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For Cullors, the magic of black girl hair lies in its versatility. “It can do literally everything," she says. "Our hair is like shape-shifters — we have the most resilient hair, ever."

Cullors explains that growing up, her family didn’t have much money. However despite their financial insecurities, her mother always made sure her hair was pressed. She recalls even being kept home until her mother could afford to get her hair done.

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“We were poor,” she explains. “And to be poor and black – and visibly poor and black – is taboo. For [my mother], if her black girls didn’t have that sort of ideal beauty standard, then it would reflect badly on her.  And I think she felt guilty and I think she felt bad.”

“I just remember feeling there has to be more than my hair,” Cullors asserts.

It was reading the works of authors Bell Hooks and Audre Lorde, as well as searching for other images of black women, that inspired Cullors to go to the barber shop and “shave it all off.”

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Cullors describes the experience as freeing and even life altering. In shaving her hair off, she liberated herself from the burden and maintenance of the “ideal beauty standard."

“It was definitely scary,” the courageous activist admits, “and it was also the most exciting feeling ever because it was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel like my hair was a thing that I was leading with… and it changed me.”

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