I’m sitting in my mother’s salon chair, gazing into the mirror as she shaves all my hair, off of my head. I had finally had enough! Years of hatred and oppression are falling to the ground as I finally gain the courage in my freshman year of college, to come face-to-face with one of my biggest insecurities—my hair. With a hairstylist for a mother, I grew up being very aware of my curly tresses. But, who knew that my hair and I would have such a love-hate relationship.
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“Your hair is nappy.” “If my hair were longer, then maybe I would feel beautiful.”
These are the thoughts that ran through my head, as a little girl who was trying to make sense out of why my hair didn’t look like that of any of the popular women on television that I idolized, or even my most sacred Barbie doll that I played with every day. As a little girl who was naïve and impressionable, I fell victim to the false standards of beauty that were constantly being portrayed in the media.
As if it weren’t bad enough that there weren’t many women on television or in magazines who looked like me, the ones who did wore a lot of make-up, and they had long, straight hair. It was as if they were camouflaging their “blackness,” and I felt that I had to do the same to be considered beautiful.
For years, I have sacrificed the health of my hair and scalp, all in the fight for what I believed was beautiful. But, I quickly realized that even though my hair was silky straight, I still felt terrible on the inside because I felt as if I wasn’t being my true self. It wasn’t until my freshman year of college, when I went off on a rebellious rage and cut off all of my hair, that I began the journey of accepting my kinks.
When I first shaved all of my hair off, I thought that I made the biggest mistake of my life. I remember crying for days, and hiding my hair with hats, just so I could walk around school without being stared at.
As my hair grew, I grew, and I learned how to accept my hair and myself for all that I am worth. For years, I had been so bogged down with false perceptions of how my hair was supposed to look that I never took the chance to appreciate how beautiful it is. My natural hair is a part of who I am, and I wear it proudly to show that it is just as beautiful as any other texture.
Malia Brown (@iammaliatyler) is an ESSENCE College Ambassador, writer and on-air personality. She attends the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and majors in Political Science and Journalism. She reports on beauty, pop culture, and lifestyle news.