I distinctly remember the first day I wore my hair. My natural hair. Perhaps I should backtrack a bit. Growing up, my natural hair had always been a sensitive topic for me. I was constantly surrounded by either white girls with pin-straight hair, or black girls frying their beautiful curls, trying their best to get their hair the same way. My perception of beauty was, for a long time, someone with skin, hair, and features that were incomparable to mine. It’s disheartening growing up and not seeing people that look like you portrayed as beautiful in magazines, movies, and on TV.
Every day when I’d wake up for school, I’d grab my flat iron before I even got a chance to rub the sleep from my eyes. It was as if it physically pained me to see my hair in its natural state. I’d coat my hair in a layer of grease and pass the sizzling metal over my strands again and again until they laid straight and stiff. Eventually pieces of my hair began to fall out, and I subjected my hair to irreversible heat damage. After cutting off the large amounts of dead hair all over my head, I began trying to nurture and style my natural hair, which wouldn’t be a skill I mastered for years. Living every day feeling uncomfortable and not beautiful in your own body is a crushing feeling, and I carried it with me throughout the trial and error process of learning to care for my curls.
One day I was talking to my mother about my lack of self-love, and I broke down. My words seemed to spill from my mouth faster than my brain could keep up, tattling off every aspect of myself I felt I hated as she held me. To that, she told me my curls stood up because they were reaching to God, and that they were just one of the beautiful features he mixed together to make me, me. As silly as it sounded then, that conversation with my mother is one of my fondest memories with her now, and is something I find myself referencing in times of doubt within myself.
The beginning of this year was the first time I’d ever worn my hair natural and felt comfortable in my own skin. Not yet beautiful, as I yearned for my curls to be, but I was content with them, and this was a huge step towards where I am now, which is being absolutely in love with my curly Afro. This journey toward self-love and appreciation was, and continues to be rocky, but despite that I’m beyond proud of the strides I’ve made toward improvement in these aspects of myself.
By Gabrielle Bolton, Freshman, Howard University
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